Myth: burnout is an extreme condition

Extreme burnout

I was recently speaking with a friend who is on sick leave from her job. She’s been through a lot in her personal life and finally her doctor decided she needed to take time off. When we met, she started asking me questions about my burnouts. I could sense she was curious and trying to understand more, perhaps trying to decide if she herself was burned out. And in this conversation several times she said to me “yeah but you were never on sick leave, right”? Or “yes but you never reached the stage where you couldn’t get out of bed, right”? And then it occurred to me: she was trying to check if I’d had a “real burnout”, where real burnout equated with an extreme condition in which you literally can’t get out of bed any more and have to take sick leave.

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Real life mental health stories: totally burnt out

Totally burnt out

Who are you, and why did you decide to share your story?

I am a woman in my mid-thirties and I work in the humanitarian sector. During a recent long-term field assignment, I experienced what I later discovered to be burnout. At the time I had little knowledge about this mental health issue, so for a long time I simply ignored the signals my mind and my body were sending me. 

By sharing my experience, I’d like to shed light on burnout, its symptoms and its consequences. In my sector there is still a lot of stigma around it, so I think that reading about others’ stories may be of help to those going through (or suspecting they are going through) the same experience. 

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Is “me time” selfish? taking care of your mental health

Is me-time selfish? Taking care of your mental health
On top of the dune du pilat

When it comes to good mental health, hopefully by now you know the importance of looking after yourself. This will look different for everyone, but I believe it’s a key element to staying on top of your sanity and being able to give your best in all areas of life. But as I was having conversations with friends and family over Christmas the question dawned upon me: is me-time selfish? Spoiler alert! In my opinion: absolutely not. Me-time is of utmost importance and is practically sacred.

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What is burnout trying to tell us?

What is burnout trying to tell us

There’s a lot of information out there about burnout, but have you ever stopped to think about what it really means? What is the message being sent to you from your mind and body when you burn out?

We can talk a lot about the circumstances that lead to burnout and in fact it’s easy to blame others, particularly employers. They overwork us, they don’t see us for who we are, etc. etc. But let’s take a step back and ask ourselves what the burnout was trying to tell us. This is something we don’t talk about so often, and yet it’s crucial if we want to be better able to understand and prevent burnout.

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A decade of mental health

A decade of mental health

With the ushering in of a new decade, naturally I started thinking about what I had accomplished in the past 10 years. There were many different things and it seemed more sensible to break it down into categories, which is when I thought of the last decade purely in terms of mental health.

What happened, and what has it represented to me? I wanted to take the time to reflect and put “pen to paper”. After all, “That’s mental” wasn’t born out of thin air.

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My last burnout

Image by Lattice

Or should I say, the last time I burnt out. I really hope it was the last but you never know, these things creep up on you… Nevertheless, I’d like to share the story with you and I took to video again to do so.

Once again, it was the the usual “end of year breakdown”. Sad that’s actually a thing, but it was. And I’m sure many of you can relate, in most industries Q4 is pretty intense.

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Being busy as a badge of honor – perceptions of work and how it affects our mental health

Busy as a badge of honour

In a previous blog post I talked about how we define success at work, and the impact this can have on our mental health. It’s a long and complex topic which could be debated for hours, but I think it’s super important to take a closer look at it and ask ourselves some hard questions.

The truth is, burnout and other mental health issues can be induced by toxic workplaces and other problems that stem from the employer, but sometimes we also bring it upon ourselves. That’s why today I want to take a closer look at the concept of being “busy as a badge of honor”, and what this does for our mental health.

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How we define success at work, and what this means for our mental health

How we define success at work

A topic that’s been on my mind for a while is our definition of success, particularly when it comes to our professional lives. Ultimately, I believe it’s the source of a lot of stress, and can end up being the cause of burnout and other mental health issues we experience at work.

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Real life mental health stories: burnout was the catalyst


This blog post is part of an interview series for mental health awareness week. In this series, different people give their perspective on living with a mental health condition.

In certain cases as with the interview below, people have had the courage to reveal their identity. This is brave, as it can be difficult and daunting. Congratulations to them!

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What happens when your trust is broken at work

In my previous blog post, I wrote about the importance of trust in the workplace. I did so because I wanted to explain how challenging it can be to not have trust at work.

In fact, I’m not sure I really expressed how dire the consequences can be if an employee’s trust in their employer is broken. Of course, if an employee breaks their employer’s trust it’s not good either, but that’s not the focus of this article.

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The end of year breakdown

Originally this blog post was going to be tongue in cheek – recounting funny experiences of end of year breakdowns. But since no one answered my call for stories – I decided to turn this into something that I hope is more meaningful and helpful.

In my experience, the end of the year at work is madness. You’re rushing to finish off the last projects, leave no loose ends before you go on holiday, but you’re also desperate to finally have a break! Meanwhile you may be reflecting on everything you’ve done this year, thinking about the performance review and conversations you want to have, and wondering what you’ve achieved. Or you may be – as I have in the past – ridiculously overworked and racing against the clock.

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Letting work encroach on life

Today I’d like to talk about what happens when work takes over your life. By that I mean more than working long hours, I’m talking about when work starts to ruin your social life, your relationships and your health. When it changes you, to a point where you’re not who you used to be. What can we do about this, and how can we prevent it?

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How to change workplace cultures that lead to mental health issues?

How to change workplace cultures that lead to mental health issues?

I’ve been addressing mental health in the workplace for a while, but one cannot talk about burnout (or other issues) if one doesn’t talk about what leads to it…

A lot of my articles focus on the individual and knowing oneself, which I continue to believe is of utmost importance. But is undeniable that certain environments create a burnout culture and are not favourable to employees’ wellbeing.

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Stressed by work? How to relax

Stressed by work? How to relax

When it comes to mental health and the workplace, another great topic suggested to me was “how to relax”. I particularly like this one because even though it may seem mundane, I think it’s quite interesting to address.

The internet is rife with articles on how to relax. Type it into google (I just tried) and you’ll find any number of suggestions from mindfulness, to yoga, meditation, sleep… Don’t get me wrong all of those are perfectly adequate solutions, but I actually believe there’s more to it than that.

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