depression · happiness · Self improvement

Rising from the ashes: surviving work burnout.


I’ve had a bit of time out from writing to re-group a little bit after a really tough few weeks.  My husband has been unwell; my daughter has had croup resulting in a lot of worry and sleepless nights.  I was simultaneously pounded with enormous volumes of work that spilled into my evenings, weekends and days off and led to me feeling in a constant state of stress and unable to switch off at night.

I realised how frequently I’ve felt that way over the years and again am brought back to – what am I doing in this job?

I’ve been working in a really emotionally demanding and tough profession for 12 years and it’s definitely taken its toll.  As someone who sometimes struggles with keeping my head above water, emotionally speaking, it was maybe a bit of an error to forge a career working with other people’s trauma and dysfunction!

Toker and Biron (2012) point to the clear link between depression and job burnout (which unsurprisingly, they add, is found to be ameliorated by physical activity – time to get out the yoga mat).

The two for me are inextricably linked.  My wellbeing is so hugely affected by my frustration with work and my frustration with work is exacerbated by feeling overwhelmed, sad and angry with life in general.

The Health and Safety executive website reports that 12.5 million working days were lost due to work-related stress, depression or anxiety in 2016/17.  In human health and social work services, 192,000 people are suffering from work-related illness each year.

That’s a lot of unhappiness in our society. ( I could use this as a platform to talk about the correlation between these statistics and our current Conservative government’s dismantling  of the afore-mentioned health and social work services but that’s a rant for another day…)

One of my best friends is a psychologist.  She’s spent about 10 years navigating the minds of some of the most dangerous and disturbed people in our society.  She has an incredible way of seeing the person behind the behaviour and attempting to understand their story.  The trade-off: to some extent, her happiness.

She was once one of the most content, brave and optimistic people I knew and while her bravery remains intact, I can’t help but think the other two have been hugely compromised.  When you spend a long time looking into the darkness, it’s hard to see the light.

I’ve seen an anger that bubbles up in conversation that wasn’t there before.  She sometimes suffers from night terrors.  She is incredibly bright and has always loved a debate but recently they’ve become emotional, personal.

It’s hard work delving into other people’s pain every day.  It can rob you of your joy.  It’s definitely taken more than its fair share of mine.

I’ve become less able to give of myself to other people.  I used to volunteer. I used to spend a lot of time “rescuing” people I knew who were in crisis (not that I advise anyone do this – people are the masters of their own happiness and destiny).

I simply do not have the energy.  I’m a mum, I’m a wife, I’m a friend to an increasingly small but hugely valued group of people.  I don’t have enough reserves to do it all.

Sherrie Bourg Carter offers some advice aimed at women experiencing burnout in the workplace that resonated with me in my current situation.  She talks about the importance of delegation, reducing stress and pressure, unplugging, and saying no.  Say no, allow yourself time to recover.  (I’ve included the link to her article below).

And she also talks about finding your passion.

My job is not my passion.  This is not so much a dawning realisation as a well-cemented fact.

It is time.  I need to start to make a move into a new career.  I have more than 30 years of working life ahead of me (all being well) and I can’t stay in a job that makes me unhappy for 30 years.  What a waste of a life that would be, and what a poor example to my daughter of what she can aspire to.

I long more and more for a creative outlet, somewhere where I feel a sense of purpose and passion.

And so: I’ve started some online writing courses.  I’ve started to speak to people who write for a living, in various forms, to work out where I might be able to fit.

If this strikes a chord with you, consider this a kick up the backside to look at your situation again.

What are your next steps going to be?

I’d be really interested to hear your thoughts on work burnout and how you’ve addressed or plan to address it so please leave a comment if you’ve stopped by to read this post.




Bourg Carter, S (2011) Accessed at on 01/12/2017

Health and Safety Executive (2017) Accessed at on 01/12/2017

Toker, S., & Biron, M. (2012). Job burnout and depression: Unraveling their temporal relationship and considering the role of physical activity. Journal of Applied Psychology, 97(3), 699-710.

2 thoughts on “Rising from the ashes: surviving work burnout.

  1. I think these days it’s more a mental burnout than physical. And for that, over the last few years I have found many ways to deal with.

    1) First is, don’t think about work all the time. This is very hard to do but what helps is taking 15-30 min breaks during your work day and doing something different whether it be stretching, reading, talking, whatever works. I have a set time for breaks and at that time, i drop everything which brings me to my second point.

    2) Learn to drop everything instantly; don’t wait till it’s over, you have the whole day to do the rest. I used to never be able to leave something in between. With practice and having exact times for my break and lunch, I make it my business to drop everything exactly where it is: mid-way. And then pick it up right where I left it later on. This helps SO much you have no idea. You will be thinking about work even when you drop it when you first began to do it but after a few months, it becomes a habit to break free from it. It’s basically a matter of replacing one habit with another.

    3) Think of things that made you smile throughout your day rather than the work itself. By shifting your mind to something other than work, you’ll feel less exhausted.

    I think overall, it’s a matter of balancing how much you think about work all day and how much you think about other things. Once you have it at 50-50, you’ll be good. If it’s always work, work, work on your mind, there’s no space for anything else and your brain will naturally feel overwhelmed.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks very much for taking the time out to respond, and for the ideas.

      I’m definitely not very good at leaving something halfway through but maybe it’s a challenge to set myself next week to see if it helps me be more productive after some time out.

      I did leave my desk for a very quick walk the other week-only 10 minutes- but it was great to have some head space.

      Good luck with continuing to build in your time out. X

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s