The Risks of Burnout in a Culture of Productivity

Deanne Fernandez, MHC

Given how much society obsesses over and rewards productivity, we’re often juggling demanding schedules with endless to-dos and not enough rest. Common signs or symptoms of burnout can include: agitation, mental and physical exhaustion, impaired concentration/attention, and restlessness. Sure, recognizing when you’re running low on fuel can be helpful in preventing burnout as it signals for us to pause or slow down. Yet many times we take a moment to pause, slow down, or step away, we’re often confronted with two burdens: guilt and shame. We may feel:

·      Guilty for stepping back  
·      Guilty for saying no
·      Guilty for not prioritizing something others feel we should
·      Shame for taking a mental health day
·      Shame for prioritizing personal life

First and foremost, recognizing these emotions and understanding the differences between guilt and shame can be extremely helpful in separating the behavior (guilt) from character (shame). Dr. Brene Brown has done extensive research on both guilt and shame that you can learn about here: . Understanding your relationship with these emotions can also be helpful – Do you feel guilty for saying no to your supervisor? Do you feel shame in rotating your priorities? 

After taking an honest look at your schedule, priorities/duties, and non-negotiables, pay attention to physical and mental signals. If you find yourself still struggling with guilt and shame, you may benefit from speaking with a therapist who can help you process underlying emotions and concerns.