Burnout is a slow erosion of resilience due to a build-up of relentless workplace stress. It shows up as emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and feelings of ineffectiveness. Its deeper roots are  in our mainstream cultural and societal expectations, in economic pressures.

Then there’s that self-critical voice most of us have internalized. You’ve probably know it as your inner critic. Our inner critic incorporates all those external pressures and feeds them back to us, telling us that we’re not good enough unless we are constantly striving, constantly doing more, constantly proving our worth.

I’m all for hard work, persistence and accomplishment, so long as we can remember to alternate that with time to slow down, reflect, celebrate and renew. This is a necessity, not a luxury. It’s what allows us to keep going, doing our best work.

Ten Tips. Spoiler Alert –  They’re Not Quick!

There are no quick tips for preventing burnout. But there are changes we can incorporate into our lives, one step at a time, so that we’re less burnout-prone.These are some that I’ve culled from my own experiences, input from clients, and professional literature:

    1. Cultivate self-compassion, meaning treat yourself with the same kindness and care you offer to others.
    2. Shift your mindset from “productivity at all costs” to “investment in self-care is essential.”
    3. Set and hold boundaries about your availability and the workload you can productively carry.
    4. Allow yourself to take time away from work. Play, visit, explore and relax on vacations and days off.
    5. Create a daily 4-item to-do list. It can include 1–2 “must do” things, 1–2 “have-to” things that are important but not yet urgent, and 1 item that is something you want to do – something that is just for you.
    6. When entering meetings into your calendar, schedule in a buffer zone before and after each one. That prevents days of back-to-back meetings.
    7. Turn off the “yes reflex” that has you accepting every request, assignment and opportunity that comes your way. Instead, say, “Let me think about that,” and consider carefully if this is something you want to and can take on.
    8. Alternate times of peak activity and effort with times for rest, renewal, and celebration.
    9. Tap into your Inner Encourager’s realistic support and affirmation.
    10. Recognize that workplace and societal conditions can contribute to burnout. Advocate for change.

A Way of Being

Burnout prevention isn’t an occasional activity or grand self-care gesture. It’s an ongoing shift in ways of thinking and acting that values you as a human being, not a human doing. It’s a choice to shift into a different way of thinking and acting, moving you from reacting to external pressures to attuning to your true inner voice. At first it might mean sitting with some feelings of guilt, fear and anxiety. There might be some backsliding when stressed and under pressure. That’s normal – and you can learn to catch it faster and get yourself back on track before burnout sets in.

Living your life in ways that help to prevent burnout takes patience and practice. Stay with it and over time you’ll find yourself more joyful, energetic and productive, and far less likely to become burned out.


Meyers, L. (2015). Stumbling blocks to counselor self-care. Counseling Today,57(9), pp. 30-37.

Richardson, C. (2009). The art of extreme self care. Transform your life one month at a time. Carlsbad, CA: Hay House.

Photo by Miguel Perales on Unsplash

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