In Pursuit of Balance: Confronting the Reality of Burnout

I first learned about Burnout in 2017 when I was working for a large advertising agency in Brussels. Several young women in their mid-20s to early 30s were taking extended leaves—doctor’s orders. Diagnosis: Burnout.

Insert American head-scratching. Wait, what? You’re taking 90-days paid leave because you’re feeling stressed? Overwhelmed? Anxious? I thought that was part of any agency job description. I had clearly drank the American work-culture Kool-Aid for too long.

Now I know better. Burnout is a real thing and looking back, I can identify two times in my career where I’m pretty sure I suffered from a burnout but pushed through—or single-malted and Marlboro Lighted my way through—because that’s what we did back then. Pushing through back then, no matter the cost to our mental, emotional, and physical health, was normalized.

Luckily, times have changed and mental health is now prioritized, not stigmatized. In honor of World Mental Health Day I thought it might be helpful to share some common burnout symptoms that might be overlooked as just part of life, but deserve closer attention. 

MAKING CARELESS MISTAKES Like leaving your keys in a restaurant or getting the date wrong for an event.

LOSING YOUR VOICE It’s like your word-box is empty and you’ve got nothing worth saying or sharing.

FEELING LIKE YOU’RE FAILING Like, at everything—work, relationships, life. You’re feeling just a shell of yourself.

TAKING THINGS PERSONALLY Like everything. A look. A gesture. A remark. The littlest things send you spiraling.

UNEXPLAINED EXHAUSTION Having no- to low-energy even though you've clocked 7 to 8 hours of sleep.

BEING HATEFUL TO OTHERS It happens. And as it happens you feel awful about it but you can’t help yourself.

DIFFICULTY CONCENTRATING It’s hard to find focus today. It’s even harder when we’re feeling overwhelmed by life.

BOREDOM Despite having a laundry list of to-dos. This is the time to sit and think about what brings you joy.

The key to being able to identify with any one of these signs is being present with how you’re feeling. One way to do this is by checking in with yourself at least once a day. Just sit, close your eyes, and ask yourself “How am I feeling? Right now. In this moment.” And listen.

Need Help Coping With Burnout?

If you think you’re struggling with a burnout, there’s a good chance you are. It’s real, and it can be debilitating. Seek help and find a professional to help you navigate the overwhelm.

Our Sit in the City: LA deck is a tool that encourages you to unplug and step away from stress triggers before you hit the tipping point. The “Breath” practice brings you back into your body. The “Release and Relax” practice guides you let go of stress you may not even be aware you’re holding onto. The “Writing” practice encourages you to get thoughts out of your head and onto the page. Explore each of the 18 practices and find which one is right for you. Maybe they all are!