Burnout: Are we there yet?

At his time of the year, many of us are in the “Are we there yet?” phase. I’d say the majority of my recent therapy referrals are affected in some way or another by burnout. A large percentage of my therapy practice are employee wellness referrals and I often wonder how the HR Managers are doing themselves when referring employees often in crisis, with family and work stress impacting on their work attendance and productivity. It’s a heavy load for them to carry.

I was thrilled to see the work of Arianna Huffington (co-founder of Huffington Post) hitting our South African media last week after she spoke at the Discovery Leadership Summit in Johannesburg. As a past sufferer of burnout, Arianna is advocating for lifestyle changes in the crisis of stress and burnout. Her sleep revolution first gained recognition in her TEDWomen 2010 talk. Arianna believes that burnout leads people to walk through life like “zombies,” missing out on creativity and opportunities, and failing to realise the meaning and purpose of life. Arianna says that multitasking is a myth, “You’re either doing emails or listening to me. You can’t do both.” She encourages us to get more sleep and to have periods where we switch off from technology (especially at night). Essentially, we need to practice more mindfulness.

I recently saw a patient for burnout. When I initially suggested a week off and a complete digital detox, she was fearful of how her team would react and cope with her absence. I told her that if your appendix was about to burst, would you tell the surgeon to hold off until Christmas to do the operation?! We never take our mental health as seriously as our physical health. They are so interlinked, you cannot ignore the one without the other being affected. Guess what – her team did cope without her. I’m sure she was missed and that they were relieved when she returned to work, but it taught my patient valuable lessons of the importance of self-care and reaching out for help.


  • You are not indispensable. Life will carry on when you take your much-needed break.
  • You cannot help others if you can’t help yourself.
  • If you ignore the signs of burnout, it can lead to further psychological and physical problems.

Read Psychology Today’s article on the signs of burnout and consider what small changes you can make now to prevent burnout and seek professional help if many of the symptoms resonate with you. If you have a history of depression and anxiety (or previous episodes of burnout) you’re particularly vulnerable at this time of year.

And remember, WE’RE ALMOST THERE!