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3 Keys to Managing Career Burnout

By Ann Ronan

I recently gave a presentation on this topic at an Annual Conference of Human Resource Professionals. The room was full! So I thought the information might be timely for some of you.

What is burnout? What are the symptoms and causes? And if you're experiencing it, what can you do?

The dictionary states that burnout is "exhaustion of physical or emotional strength or motivation usually as a result of prolonged stress or frustration." I put usually in italics because even when you love your work like I do, you can overdo and find yourself burned out.

Symptoms of burn out can be physical, behavioral and spiritual. Here are some signs that you're heading for burn out:


muscle tension



not keeping commitments

lack of effectiveness



sense of emptiness-nothing left to give

lack of joy

not able to laugh

Causes of burnout can come from within ourselves or from our organizations. Some common causes are high expectations of ourselves, denial of our basic needs like food and sleep, poor time management skills, inability to set boundaries or to say no.

Organizational causes can be a culture of competitiveness, or one in which being constantly busy and overworked is prized with email and phone calls taken along on "vacations." Insufficient training in new job roles or cramped, noisy environments can also contribute to burnout.

Here are 3 ways to manage burnout: change the stressful situation, reduce your vulnerability to stress and/or change the way you react to stress that cannot be changed:

1. Change the stressful situation if you can. If there are some high stress aspects of your job, see if you can rotate this task with others. Limit the number of hours you are under stress. Spend some time on career/life planning. Set your priorities and live by them.

2. You can reduce your vulnerability to stress by taking care of your physical self with good nutrition, exercise and enough sleep. Avoid nicotine and don't overdo caffeine and alcohol. Surround yourself with supportive people, work with a coach who will listen to you deeply and help you to create a good balance of work and other aspects of your life.

3. Finally, change the way you react to stress. You can do this by modifying your self-talk and self-criticism. Learn techniques to calm yourself - a few deep breaths can bring you right back to a centered place, able to face whatever stress is in front of you. Become a self-care expert and have some fun.

Copyright 2005 Ann Ronan

About The Author

Ann Ronan

Join Ann for a weekly study group by telephone that will "Change Your Thinking, Change Your Life. Register here:

Ann helps others to acknowledge what they love to do and to do more of it. As a Religious Science Practitioner, she provides spiritual coaching to help others disarm their worries, doubts and fears.


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