What is Burnout?

Many people who work in Healthcare, Social Work, Education and Human Services sectors, join because they want to make a difference and help others. While common for those in these industries, it’s still not uncommon for those with disabilities to feel the effects of this phenomenon. Often those who experience this ‘give it their all’ until they reach a point where they just don’t have anything left to give. The word that commonly describes the resulting effect is ‘burnout’.

Burnout tends to leave those affected feeling unappreciated and ignoring the signs can lead to emotional exhaustion. The way these feelings build up over time means that it is important for you to be able to recognise the signs of burnout and to take the time to care for yourself before it becomes more serious, as recovery from burnout can take months or even years.

Today, we want to talk to you about what burnout is, and in future articles, we will be discussing the impacts and strategies to prevent burnout and recovery.

Common traits that can lead to Burnout

While not an exhaustive list of traits that lead to burnout, we often see that a number of common traits in tandem with each other, lead to burnout. These traits are not all bad but should be balanced out with other traits and strategies that help reduce burnout.


A perfectionist is one’s own worst enemy; they set up high and sometimes unrealistic expectations of themselves. This can manifest in striving for perfection in all aspects of their life; which can include work, education, appearance, hobbies, how they come across to people, and even more. They live in a constant cycle of fearing failure, self-criticism, dissatisfaction, and failure to reach their imposed expectations. This cycle is exhausting and can lead to low self-esteem and other mental health issues, on top of Burnout.


When a person over-commits, they overwhelm their mental and physical load in a way that leaves them little time to care for themselves.  Unrealistic timelines and the desire to prove themselves leads one towards increased stress and a constant feeling of being overwhelmed. People often feel like they are the only ones able to take on the responsibility or that they lack the ability to manage their time properly. One can find themselves over committing as they try to juggle self-care activities in conjunction with work and family commitments.

Work-Life balance

As mentioned before, many of these traits can be found in conjunction with each other, and one that often pairs with over-commitment and perfectionism, is when Work and Life get out of balance. Add in the constant ability to access emails, messages and social media, and the problem gets worse.  People who don’t have a strong Work/Life balance can find themselves blurring the lines of what is work and what is personal, or can even dedicate too much of their time to work commitments.  Ignoring breaks, relaxation and self-care leads to physical and mental exhaustion.

Misalignment of values

Personal values and external values often find themselves in conflict with each other. A misalignment of values can come in many shapes. Often, this can lead to feelings of dissatisfaction and disconnection from those around you, which can also lead to a feeling of not being fulfilled. It makes people feel a lack of motivation and enthusiasm when there is a conflict between personal values and external values.

Just because you do not relate to any of these traits or examples, does not mean you cannot be experiencing or on your way to burnout. The increasing feeling of exhaustion and lack of personal care come about in different ways, but ultimately lead to burnout.

While we talked about Burnout in general today, our next article will be handling the specifics of what burnout does to you and the world outside of yourself.

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