#WisdomWednesday: Burnout

Asking EPSP:  How do you prevent, or minimize the effects of, burnout? What steps do you take to maintain a healthy work/life balance?

Edited by Kate Potter Leary (@astoldbywater) and Claire Masteller (@ccmasteller)

(Read more #WisdomWednesday posts heredownload this blog post as a PDF)

Why can’t I get this mundane stuff done?

Because I’m burned out.

Why am I burned out?

Because I’ve internalized the idea that I should be working all the time.

Why have I internalized that idea?

Because everything and everyone in my life has reinforced it…”  

Our jobs as academics are busy.  We juggle a lot of different responsibilities at work and at home, and sometimes, it all becomes too much.  At the same time, prevalent in academic culture is the idea that we should be working all the time.  That pressure, paired with the mounting responsibilities as you advance in both your career and your personal life is a recipe for burning out.

So what do we mean by burnout?

Burnout is a state of emotional or physical exhaustion caused by prolonged stress.  As the stress continues, you can lose interest and motivation to complete tasks. Burnout can reduce productivity, sap your energy, induce anxiety and frustration, and even have physical symptoms, including tension and fatigue,  These effects can leave us feeling powerless, making it hard to complete even the simplest tasks.

So how can we prevent these feelings of burnout and balance our work life with the rest of our life in an effective and healthy way?

1. Identify the signs of burnout for you

The best way to combat burnout is to first recognize when you have it. Burnout can look at feel different for everyone, so self reflection is important to identifying when you’re experiencing burnout.

2. Prioritize recovery and set limits for yourself

Be realistic about what you can accomplish and where you’re out mentally and emotionally.

3. Self-reflection and changing your mindset

Burnout can be a vicious cycle. The more burned out you are, the less productive you are during your work hours.  The less you get done, the more pressure you put on yourself to spend even more time at work, feeding the burnout you’re already experiencing.

4. Normalize a more forgiving (and realistic!) academic culture

This one’s a doozy, and a community effort.  

The role of social media here is huge.  Sharing your experiences and the realities of an academic career can be helpful to others and combat the “you must be working all the time” mentality.  At the same time, it helps to commiserate with others that in the same place. Trust me, almost everyone hits a burnout point at some time in their careers – it’s inevitable.

Some strategies to combat burnout

The EPSP twitter community graciously shared some strategies for combating burnout but this is not an exhaustive list! These are just some ideas, if you have other strategies that work, you do you. And of course feel free to @ us on twitter with your burnout combatting strategies!


  • Laughter

  • Scheduling time away from your job
  • Take care of yourself while at work

Always remember…

You are not alone in this. We all suffer from burnout at one point or another. If you are struggling, take the time to treat yourself and recover. Need some extra love? Tweet at us (@AGU_EPSP) and we’ll give you some virtual twitter hugs!

This blog post was borne out of AGU EPSP’s new #WisdomWednesday initiative on Twitter. See the full tweet thread here and look out for future #WisdomWednesday posts!