9 to Fizzle

July 12, 2019  | 2 min read

Research shows that more than half of working professionals will experience symptoms of burnout, defined as continual exposure to stress that leads to physical and emotional exhaustion, lack of achievement, and overall feelings of pessimism and detachment. Burnout recently crossed the threshold from nuisance to a diagnosable condition—one that you, according to the World Health Organization, can now justify with a doctor’s note.

Ilona Salmons (MA ’11, EdD ’17), a Los Angeles-based licensed therapist and leadership consultant, works with individuals and companies to create healthy workplaces to reduce and even prevent employee burnout. Here, she shares the seven research-backed habits of highly burned-out people.

1. YOU ARE A HIGH ACHIEVER

High achievers are at highest risk for burnout because they constantly push themselves to go above and beyond—not just at work, but in all areas of their lives. Excelling in all they do is just their typical way of functioning. The term “high achiever” is not necessarily tied to external achievements as much as it is related to psychological processes, such as drive.

2. YOU CAN’T SAY NO

In 2008 Jim Carrey starred in a film called Yes Man, in which he played a character who said yes to everything in hopes of living a more fulfilling life. The reality is that if you go around saying yes to everything and everyone, you are more likely to be burned out than fulfilled. If you struggle with setting boundaries with people or otherwise asserting yourself, you will regularly overcommit yourself, resulting in a never-ending to-do list and an increased level of stress.

3. YOU DON’T ASK FOR HELP

Perhaps you are afraid of being rejected, you don’t want to trouble your colleagues, or you like to have control of everything. No matter the reason, this can be a dangerous habit, especially when coupled with number 2.

4. YOU (REGULARLY) PROCRASTINATE

We all procrastinate from time to time, but if procrastination is more of a lifestyle than an exception, you may be causing yourself unnecessary stress. If you regularly struggle to manage your time, your workload is likely to pile up, causing you to feel overwhelmed and, eventually, burned out.

5. YOU ARE A PERFECTIONIST

You have high standards, and that standard is perfection. You constantly worry about making mistakes or failing, and hold yourself to this standard in all areas of your life. Moreover, you hold others to this standard and may find yourself redoing their work.

6. YOU ARE CRITICAL OF YOURSELF OR YOUR WORK

You have a difficult time accepting a compliment. In fact, you are critical of yourself and your work and are regularly unsatisfied with your work product. You may find that you frequently measure yourself against your colleagues or compete with others to see how you match up.

7. YOU FAIL TO ENGAGE IN SELF-CARE PRACTICES

Perhaps you regularly don’t get enough sleep, exercise, eat a healthy diet, or—like most Americans—take your allotted vacation days. Without these (and other) healthy habits, your scales will quickly tip toward burnout.