The 6 Types of Burnout and How to Overcome ThemSep 02, 2022
Burnout is real. If you have experienced persistent fatigue, lack of motivation, and "feeling off" at work or life in general, surprise — you might be burned out.
You are not lazy, lacking drive, or making things up. You are exhausted from the daily grind. You have been running a sprint for ages, and your inner wisdom is telling you that your routine is no longer sustainable.
Not all burnout is created equal.
Once you acknowledge the truth about your burnout, the next logical step is to find the root cause. What is causing the energy leakage? What part of your routine or your relationships has become burdensome?
Depending on your circumstances, here are the six types of burnout we have observed from over 20 years of supporting and coaching heart-centered leaders.
Identity Isolation Burnout
This burnout comes from having a social identity — like race, ability, or gender — that has historically and/or is currently underrepresented In your industry. The strain in this case is caused by microaggressions, being tokenized, being unfairly treated when it comes to opportunities for development, and just generally feeling isolated and invalidated at work.
This burnout comes from feeling helpless, overlooked, and unappreciated at work. You may feel like your skill or knowledge gaps are making it difficult to keep up with the demands of your job without support from mentors or teammates. When faced with stress or the absence of gratification you're likely to withdraw, self-isolate, or disengage. It can feel like it's impossible to change things and so you say “Why should I even bother?”
This happens when you take on a volume and pace of work that is ever-more frantic as you search for success or try to keep up with circumstances beyond your capacity. You are willing to (or choose to) risk your health and personal life in pursuit of your ambition. There is no end in sight to the increasing intensity of your workload and/or the stressors you are experiencing.
This comes from boredom, lack of meaning, and a lack of learning opportunities. You struggle to find passion or enjoyment in your work, you cope by creating distance between yourself and your work. The more indifferent you become the more likely you are to be cynical, avoid responsibility, and be overall disengaged. You might work on things in a superficial way leading you to feel your work is not meaningful.
Often experienced by anyone whose work-life requires prolonged exposure to the trauma of others. This type of burnout includes all typical symptoms of burnout in addition to the secondary trauma experienced from taking on the trauma of others. The additional symptoms might look like nightmares, difficulty sleeping, and flashes of intrusive images and/or thoughts due to secondary exposure to extremely or traumatically stressful events.
Rather than having no energy at first, this burnout results from the feeling of "being taken over" by inspiration and the need to generate. While the feeling is exhilarating at first it can quickly turn to leave you feeling depleted, used up, and like you're body is fried. This burnout is characterized by self-doubt, perfectionism, and feeling unoriginal or like you are going through the motions.
Ways to cope and repair
Since burnout can be caused by a variety of factors and can manifest in a spectrum of levels, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to come out of it. We recommend approaching this work with a combination of solutions that treat symptoms of burnout (this will help create the clarity needed to do deeper work), get to tap root causes, and proactively prevent conditions from leading to burnout in the future at an individual and group level.
The goal is not to "cope with it" like it has become a part of you. Strategies to cope, endure, or just live with burnout may help you become highly functioning, but you could also implode anytime. When that happens, your body (mind or spirit) will force you to retreat — to step away from work, take a vacation, and focus on your healing, whether you like it or not.
Your goal is regeneration while in motion — healing and repairing while functioning.
If burnout is a wound, you do not want to just apply salve onto it by infusing new habits into your routine. Society has long glorified and encouraged systems of overwhelm and burnout, so without deep inner work, we could fall into the same patterns even if we don't intend to.
When your inner blocks are re-aligned and corrected with principles of restoration, you get to build systems, strategies, and practices that fuel your aliveness and allow you to thrive.
So then, you're not "just functioning" — you're flourishing.
And you deserve that.
Imagine feeling fully alive, powerful, and on purpose in your work — every day— while prospering and enjoying your life...
If you're called to step into the most vibrant version of yourself, check out Vital Leadership.
Join the Wayfinding Community
Sign up for insights about wisdom-based leadership and systems healing at work