Burnout: a safety guide



Did you ever hear about that?

According to wikipedia it’s:
“the experience of long-term exhaustion and diminished interest”

If you’re more visual, just picture a fly banging its head on the window for 12 hours.
When it ends on its back you can call it a case of burnout.

A Burnout is a form of depression that affects overachievers, idealists, and in general all those who set very high expectations on themselves.
It’s the final collapse that occurs after you’ve tried too hard to carry out unrealistic goals.

When you’re  burned-out you feel totally isolated, empty, cynical and indifferent. You can’t find the juice or the strength to do anything.

Recovery is tough. I’ve known people who didn’t make it.

I did recover, several times, the last one was not pretty.

Burning out taught me the art of being softer with myself, even if I was taught the hard way.

If you’re interested in acquiring more balance in this hysterical era and not end-up as another fried bug you may find some value in the following.

First, check this list to see if you’re a good candidate for burnout:


How do you burn out?

If you’re a goal oriented person, you’re more likely to burn out, here are some common risk factors:

#1 Your objectives become an obsession

You don’t even think of anything else. All other parts of your life can be sacrified.

#2 You overwork for months

You dig for years if you can, like a maniac, without a break ever, just to make your projects happen.

#3 You take your distances from your friends and family

You just don’t want them to lure you into unproductive activities such as sharing a good time together.

#4 You dismiss your physical needs

Skipping meals, sleeping 3 hours a night (trying polyphasic sleep for instance). You consider anything that’s pleasurable or rewarding like a waste of time.

#Result: a collapse…Mental and physical


You realize that your objective/mission was far beyond your capacities (maybe you just raised the bar too high?).

Now, here are some useful life habits that kill the virus of burnout before it spreads.


A common mistake that leads to burnout is setting goals that can’t be achieved.

Bad goals are typically:

– Goals that are way beyond your current capacities

– Goals that are so vague you always feel you need to do more to complete them.

Those type of objectives put you on the treadmill of exhaustion, especially if you have a tendency to overdo yourself.

I dealt with that for around 15 years, this “Go Big” mindset fueled me to high accomplishments at first, then I usually collapsed and sometimes totally lost interest in what I was doing.

I solve that by chunking up big projects into smaller, reasonable bits.
I also define them CLEARLY: it’s not enough to say that I want a raise next year, I try to define exactly how much and at what date I want that done.



Taking extra care of your body is a pain in the butt…In the beginning.

If you’re like me, you probably don’t like it.

Things like:

Eating the right food (that includes Broccoli, yes, it does.)
Going to the bathroom when your body gives you the signal
Sleeping enough

Maybe you’d rather be a cyborg, that way you’d only have to reload your nuclear battery once a decade? We’re no cyborgs, or super-heroes, these are the icons of a speed-oriented culture. We’re humans.

If we don’t slow down and make our body a priority, we’ll be pushed to a red-bull flavored exhaustion.

That means we need to go to the bathroom when needed, sleep more and take things one step at a time. There’s no way around it.

I call that the organic path, it’s not a highway, it’s a path of going slower and listening to what your body tells you, it feels right in the long run :)

Since a few years, I train myself to follow my inner clock, to live at a pace that’s right for me. It has improved my life a lot, it’s worth it, you should try if you don’t want to dry out.


“Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans”- John Lennon

Here’s another bug affecting the minds of over-achievers: they believe they need to meet their goals in order to be happy, and they don’t enjoy anything before reaching the finish line.

I’ve struggled with this tendency for years, I found out I’m not alone: that thinking pattern is deeply rooted in many people’s minds as well.

We’re conditioned to postpone happiness, everyday.
Take ads for instance: they’re designed to convince us that life will be better ONCE we get a new car, or an electric barbecue, aren’t they?

A carrot is constantly waved before our eyes to keep us running and consuming, while our life passes by.
If we don’t take breaks and appreciate moment of happiness as they occur, we’re sure to burnout, no matter how strong we think we are.

BUT ANYWAY, it’s so easy to change that.

We just need to enjoy whatever is there, often free of charge:

A walk on the beach
Whatever you can do with your partner…

Animals are a good role model, I like cats: I find it pretty amazing how they impose their rules and don’t miss A MINUTE of obscene, indecent sensuality.


A ray of sunlight, at the end of a stormy day.
Your cat, wanting attention as he purrs on your desk.

Or pending email that never ceases to jam your inbox.

That shouldn’t be such a tough choice, I trust you’ll make the right decision.