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The 3 Types of Burn-out -- and How to Combat Them
Burnout woman
Emotional Health

The 3 Types of Burn-out -- and How to Combat Them

It's official: Burn-out is real. The World Health Organization has defined "burn-out" as a syndrome "resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed."

It can result from a variety of factors, but regardless of the cause, the fallout can mean poor performance at work, a negative attitude, as well as other effects that spill out into our personal life, like exhaustion.

The first step to combatting your burn-out is to identify what kind you're experiencing so you can better learn how to resolve it.

Here are the 3 main types of burn-out:

1. Neglect burn-out

“Negative social work environments include high levels of competitiveness, rude behavior, and a lack of confidants. If a person feels that they are in a hostile work environment for any of these reasons, they should alert HR to the situation,” said Adina Mahalli (MSW), a certified mental health expert and family care professional who works with Maple Holistics.

Those suffering from neglect burn-out feel helpless over the demands at work, either because they're overworked or unable to perform tasks required of them.

“This can lead to ever-increasing physical and emotional stress, which can cause some to simply give up,” said Hall.

2. Overload burn-out

“This can happen if a person is constantly getting new tasks and deadlines before the older ones have passed and it’s simply unreasonable to expect that they’d be able to keep up with the work,” said Mahalli.

In this case, you might feel overwhelmed and maybe even paralyzed, like "any efforts [you] make are pointless since they’re merely a drop in the bucket,” said Mahalli.

Studies indicate that overload burn-out is increasingly common, and shouldn't be ignored as it can lead to very serious health issues.

3. Underchallenged burn-out

“When a person is not mentally stimulated for forty hours a week every week, they are likely to go crazy and have no motivation to continue in their roll,” said Mahalli.

If someone is suffering from under-challenged burn-out, they are bored, disinterested, and disengaged with their work. “They require new opportunities that have meaning for them so they can feel invested and engaged again,” said Hall.

This is why companies should give employees a variety of different projects or include them on more than one team. It breaks up the monotony and keeps them energized so that they can give their all at work.

Burn-out is shockingly common

Managing Work Related Stress and Burnout

Just because something is the norm in our culture, doesn't mean it has to be your norm

“Chronic stress can literally shorten our lives, so take some advice from the Europeans and honor your time and yourself by setting boundaries around your working hours. You may find that you are more productive in a tighter timeframe,” said Nicole Sartini-Cprek, M.Ed., LPCC; Cofounder/Clinical Director at Bridge Counseling and Wellness.

Why is having a work-life balance important?

"Imbalance in anyone’s life leads to becoming a victim at work," said Scott Miller, author of Management Mess to Leadership Success. You begin to resent those who do have a life and that quickly breeds jealousy and frustration. "All of us have seasons of imbalance – that’s fine as long as it’s intentional and just that – a season. Seasons change. Twelve months of summer is exactly why I moved from Orlando to Park City, UT," said Miller.

Personal renewal allows us to stay relevant, engage all of our passions and nurtures our creativity, arguably one of the most important competencies most organizations value, and need from their associates to stay competitive. "If you’re insulated, inside your job all the time, you can’t possibly bring new experiences and perspectives and challenge the current state," said Miller.

What are some easy ways to check yourself and set a positive examples for your family, friends and colleagues?

"All things in moderation," said Miller. "It’s some of the best advice I’ve ever heard. Ask yourself if you are consistently renewing in four dimensions: social/emotional, mental, physical and spiritual. Take stock of your balance every month. Are you addressing each of these areas in ways that are right for you?" said Miller. The four realms might be different for each of us.

Combatting burn-out


1. Take stock

Write down how many hours you want to spend doing a particular thing in a week. How many hours would you like to spend with your children and spouse, with friends, exercising, on technology, pursuing a hobby, working, etc. You can divide up between specific tasks, if preferred.

"Don't just write down what you think is possible, write down what you would really like to do,” said Sartini-Cprek.

Track the number of hours you actually spend doing each thing for one week (or even a few days if a week sounds daunting) and see how they compare.  This is a way of better understanding where we need to focus to help ourselves move closer to the life we most want.

Those experiencing neglect burn-out should make sure that you have strong social support outside of work, and even possibly consider switching jobs if this burn-out persists. Learning to outsource, delegate and set better boundaries can help.

2. Talk to your boss

"I think that when you are talking about burn-out, it is better to lead with something positive, i.e., 'I really like the way the office is running,” or 'I’m excited about the upcoming project.' After that point, just be honest. “I’ve noticed that I haven’t been taking the time that I need for self care, and before I get over-stressed and unproductive, I’d like to be able to take a day off.' You want to make this a proactive, positive-seeming request - you have been pacing yourself and are now taking responsibility for looking after your needs," said Dr. Kathryn Smerling, a psychotherapist.

If you're suffering from you could speak with your supervisor about lightening the load. Whether that means hiring a new employee to divide the work or outsourcing some of it, an overworked employee is not an efficient one.

3. Take a day for self-care

“Those suffering from overload burn-out should implement basic self-love, caregiving techniques into their lives, like taking frequent breaks, getting outdoors, engaging in stress-reducing hobbies and finding a more sustainable schedule,” said sex expert and author Antonia Hall.

"Really make sure you actually take that day for self-care - and reflect on ways that you can practice self care daily, in order to better pace yourself. Effective forms of self care include meditation, exercise (especially trying something new), spending time in nature, socializing with friends (without drinking to excess), having a mental health checkup, getting a facial or manicure, visiting with an old friend who makes you feel good about yourself, treating yourself to a new hairstyle, or taking care of something you’ve been putting off," said Smerling.

4. Unplug occasionally

“Research has demonstrated we are more productive when we are interrupted less,” said Sartini-Cprek.

Consider choosing 2-4 times a day that you always check your email and respond to all messages, instead of checking them all throughout the day.

“We often aren't able to respond to our emails the moment we check them and carry the mental burden longer than necessary, which could distract us from whatever the task is at hand,” said Sartini-Cprek.

You could even add an auto-responder with the times you check email if you decide to do it less frequently than people generally expect from you.

5. Remember: you're in control

“You always have some authority in your life even though it can feel like life is dragging us around sometimes,” said Sartini-Cprek.

If you are feeling that way, look for the areas you can take back some control such as starting a morning routine or adding physical activity into your day. Be honest with yourself about what you must actually do and what you want to do! If you are trying to climb the ladder in your career, remind yourself that is something you want to do-- you don't have to do it.

“This reframe can help us feel more in control of how we are spending our time even when we are working hard,” said Sartini-Cprek.

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