Battling Burnout: There Is No Magic. It’s Simply Resilience

We all get overly preoccupied and busy trying to meet deadlines and schedules, the demands of work, being present to take care of our family among other activities, and forget to draw the line when we begin to experience emotional drain due to the high level of concentration and absorption they require. This is just to let you know that burnout does not happen overnight. It is a gradual process with no observable signs at first but becomes worse as time goes on. According to the WHO, burnout is a syndrome resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed. It is characterized by the feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion, increased mental distance from one’s job or feelings of negativity related to one’s job and reduced professional efficacy. It occurs when you are emotionally exhausted, overburdened and unable to keep up with life’s constant demands which can affect your physical and mental health if you do not acknowledge and manage it.      

Do you find it difficult to stay productive? Do you feel you are under unhealthy pressure? Do you get tired easily? Do you dread going to work? Are you overwhelmed? Do you flare up out of proportion at the slightest provocation? There is a probability that you are close to or already suffering from burnout if you find yourself answering “yes” to many of these questions. Burnout is always difficult to spot or may be confused with the symptoms of stress, hence the need to know when to walk away, shift your perspective, and prioritize self care. 


The field of neuroscience has shown that our brains possess a kind of radar that can identify possible dangers and trigger the fight-or-flight response in our bodies, which allows us to protect ourselves. This stimulus illuminates the choices our ancestors had to make when determining how to respond to the perceived threat to their survival. It is called the amygdala. The amygdala was able to perceive the possible threat posed by a tiger assault some three thousand years ago and transmit a warning signal to the human brain, telling it to either fight or flee. Today, the amygdala can now interpret external stressors as possible dangers to life, triggering the brain to activate a survival mechanism. For instance, the amygdala may interpret a negative email, over demanding job expectations, chaotic environment, work life imbalance or even a toxic environment as a tiger attack, resulting in the brain’s natural defense mechanism. 


When the amygdala is triggered, the prefrontal cortex is off balance. Our prefrontal cortex, sometimes known as the “commander in chief,” is the brain’s reasoning center and the location where we make important decisions. The result of this trigger makes us impulsive and leads to making bad choices, thereby affecting our relationships with people. However, the good news is that if we are in the practice of keeping our heart and brain connected, we can swiftly recover from a hijack. As a result, developing routines and healthy habits can help you better control your emotions and lessen the stressors that can cause burnout.


When experiencing emotional exhaustion and energy depletion, resilience should be viewed as a valuable asset for reducing burnout. The American Psychological Association (APA) defines resilience as the process of successfully adapting to difficult or challenging life experiences, particularly through mental, emotional, and behavioral flexibility and adjustment to external and internal demands. While tackling the issues that arise on a daily basis, we should also hold ourselves accountable for the actions we take and keep the promises we make. The occurrence of highly stressful events is not something that can be altered, but how we understand and react to these occurrences is something that we can control. When things do not go as planned, resilience is the capacity to adapt and recover.


Resilience is a key factor in preventing burnout. To be resilient, you need to build it even before you need it. Below are practical steps to building resilience.


  1. Self-Care: Focusing on self-care is one of the most important ways to develop resilience. Foster wellness by taking care of your body, nurture yourself, promote a healthy lifestyle by eating a regular and well balanced meal, be self aware and know when to say no, maintain a good sleep routine and make out time for activities that you enjoy. Engage yourself with activities that will make you deliberately attend to your own needs and feelings.
  2. Practice Presence: Asides external stressors that can lead to burnout, we also have internal stressors like being overwhelmed with the inability to meet up with too high expectations we set for ourselves, exhaustion from unrealistic goals and deadlines, e.t.c. You need to understand that work is not life but just a part of it. See every set back as a lesson and another opportunity to do things right rather than soaking yourself with regrets. Being present opens you up to Joy which boosts your overall health and well being.
  3. Be Optimistic: Optimism is displayed by people who frequently anticipate positive outcomes in the future. Train yourself into positive self talking to see opportunities rather than a dead end. Pessimism which is the opposite of optimism is an attitude of hopelessness towards life or a negative mental attitude to situations which leads to lower resilience. The more you believe in things working out for the best, the likely you are to see results.
  4. Adaptability: To thrive in this ever changing world, you must build adaptability. The difference between Adaptability and Resilience is that while resilience is bouncing back from difficulties, adaptability is adjusting and creating something positive from the difficulty. So, it is Adaptability and Resilience not Adaptability or Resilience. Hence, intentionally integrating these two by keeping an open mind, learning to embrace change and pushing yourself out of your comfort zone will prevent you from getting drowned in the pressures of life. 
  5. Seeking Help: It is okay to get stuck and seek help on your way to building resilience. Developing resilience takes time and you should consider speaking to a coach if you feel you are not making progress or if you are not sure on how to begin. See here to get the right assistance needed to build resilience in order to navigate the day to day challenges of life.


Considering these practical steps to building resilience as a key factor in tackling burnout, it is crucial to ensure that we consciously integrate them into our daily life. Positive mental health and an improved overall well being is enhanced by a resilient mindset.