How not to burn out at work and what to do if you still burn out

Vera Manevich, HR-director of the service, told how to distinguish true burnout from physical fatigue and which will help to save energy during the work. We publish an article following the results of her speech at the conference ProductSense.

Burnout in the 21st century is the most common cause of job changes. It’s convenient to say “I burned out”, there is even a certain trend in this. But so far, many people misunderstand this term and confuse it with different conditions – from ordinary fatigue to depression. Therefore, self-medication and various tools do not always help.

Three types of burnout

First type of burnout – when the event occurs for the first time. For example, a child was born, ahead of the exam, deadline or any other first experience. We do not yet know how to work with him. There is tension: it seems that we are being pressured, and the forces are already running out. But as soon as the situation changes: a child with a grandmother, the exam is behind, the deadline is not missed, everything normalizes. We get enough sleep, exercise and come to our senses. Often in such situations, people do not realize that they were on the verge of emotional burnout. This is a relatively easy case.

Second type of burnout more complicated: it is associated with the monotony of work that does not end there. For example, a sales manager makes the same type of calls, and a product manager looks for hypotheses, sets tasks for designers. This is a routine that can be compared to unloading an endless freight train. One can unload it 40 hours a week, another – 80, and Elon Musk – all 120. At some point, a person thinks: “I like my work, now I’m going to jump a little bit.” But then the boss comes and says: “Unload better.” And this remark lays an additional weight on top. A man continues to unload the train, and the weights are accumulating. Then the internal tension begins to go through the roof, but you still need to move. I think every working person knows this.

The third type is pseudo-burning. This is a situation where it seems to a person that he is burned out, but in fact – he lost his motivation and became disappointed. Twenty-year junior-plus developers who come running to me and say: “Faith, I burned out!” Fall into this category. A team lead runs after them and laments: “My developer, Vera, has burned out, he will die now! Give him an urgent day off and a week off! ” The “burned out” guys write on Facebook and immediately receive a shock portion of empathy and support. And that’s all, they are happy with themselves.

Burnout is a disease

In conventional medicine, we no longer use self-medication, but in the field of psychology – please. Yoga, meditation, time management, and now we are well done, we are fighting with burnout.

Burnout is actually a disease. First disease status burnout received at the World Health Assembly in Geneva in 2019. If a person has a real burnout, only a psychiatrist can help him. No domestic methods or business practices will help here. Moreover, people often confuse professional and emotional burnout.

Professional and emotional burnout

Burnout – This is a process of personality deformation due to stress and stress. For the first time, such a condition was recorded by doctors. Medicine is an area in which professionals must develop daily to save people. But mortality and incurability at the same time do not disappear. Doctors improve their qualifications, increase their expertise, and people die anyway. As a result, this leads to disappointment in the profession. Study 2019 showed that one doctor committed suicide every day in the United States. This figure is higher than in any other profession.

Emotional burnout not related to work. It applies to all areas of life and is characterized by the fact that a person does not want anything, is deprived of energy. I suppose that in the field of IT, emotional burnout occurs more often than professional. Because developers do not do administrative routines, do not write code “to the table” and do not receive three pennies.

How to identify and treat burnout

There is good news: burnout can be treated. First of all, you need to understand the internal state, which is not always associated with burnout. It often happens that the energy that a person spends and receives is not equivalent. And this is the key demotivating moment.

To cure burnout, you need to understand that it is stress. It arises from physical overload and extends to the psyche. Stress manifests itself in different ways: the appetite disappears, the bad sleep torments, the tone falls, weakness appears. To determine burnout, you can go free smart test. But with the results it is better to contact a psychiatrist.

Burnout should not be confused with depression. Depression is a disease with similar symptoms, in which the psyche first suffers, and then the physical condition. For self-assessment of depression, you can go free test.

The table shows the differences between burnout, depression, and pseudo-burnout. Click onto enlarge.

How to be treated

If you are concerned about the symptoms described in the table, you should start by visiting a psychiatrist. He will help determine what is happening to you.

If the burnout phase is deep, medication is indispensable. They can only be prescribed by a psychiatrist. You may also need to consult a psychologist or coach to learn how to manage stress and personal effectiveness.

For depression, most likely, you will be prescribed therapy, but a psychologist and a coach alone will not help.

Types of energy

For an ordinary person, the terms are not so important. Burnout or pseudo-burnout does not matter. The point is that a person feels bad: there is not enough energy, there is no mood, tension does not pass.

It is believed that a person has different types of energy. They are depicted in different ways, for example, in the form of a pyramid. The basic level is the physical energy needed by the body. Emotional energy is drawn from different emotions: both positive and negative. Of course, emotions with a plus sign make us happy. Intelligent energy is the power of the mind. The highest level is spiritual energy, and this is not about religion, but about the meaning of life. If not, other levels of the pyramid can easily collapse.

To diagnose the internal state, first you need to ask yourself a question: how do I feel? .. Write down the answer in the form of 3-5 sentences. The next question is: do I live a full life on a 10-point scale? The answer to the second question must be sought in those very few sentences. Perhaps you are not pursuing your goals, but someone planted. Or, for example, spend too much energy to defend yourself from an annoying client or stubborn leader. It is necessary to maintain a balance of energy and spend a sufficient amount on yourself, and not on neighbors and relatives.

To globally monitor your condition, use a diary and be honest with yourself. Learn how to define action items: what charges and devastates you. If you do this exercise constantly, it will be easier to achieve a balance of energy.

Why burnout occurs

I think that the underlying causes of burnout lie in the educational system. In the Soviet Union, we were taught that the “fives” is good, and the “deuces” are bad. Be sure to compare students with each other. At the end of the quarter, the class teacher said: “Excellent students, stand up. Let’s pat them. ” “Not excellent students” could only think what was wrong with them. They also crushed with authority: if you fly, then like Gagarin, if you study, then like Lomonosov. We took to the rails of this system and lost ourselves in it. In the summer of 2019, she went to Forbes article about the causes of burnout of a whole generation.

The second point that provokes burnout is associated with interpersonal communications. Everyone knows that feedback is an important thing. For example, I spend one-on-one on Mondays. Sometimes, if the situation is stable, I want to skip this conversation. And then it turns out that the person is severely lacking in communication. Here is the main principle: in communication you need to feel comfortable.

We, managers, seem to be constantly learning, but recent studies have shown that we most often use the primitive method of carrot and stick. While there are models like situational management. It allows you to approach the task in terms of human resources: is he ready or not.

The third point is balance. If you develop very quickly, in a short time, absorb a large amount of knowledge and perform new tasks, this can lead to burnout. At the same time, there are top managers who have been sitting in the same company for eight years and say: “Everything is fine with me, but it seems that I am“ burning up ”.” Each person has a comfortable middle, it can only be determined empirically, periodically “burning” from one side or the other. It should be understood that stability is the opposite of development. If you want to grow and maintain a balance, you will have to “burn” a little, but try to do it consciously.

How to deal with burnout

The problem of energy shortages is especially relevant in the field of IT. Everything is developing so rapidly here that it is appropriate to recall a quote from “Alice through the Looking Glass”: “You need to run as fast just to stay in place, but to get somewhere, you must run at least twice as fast!” Therefore, the lack of energy now is the evolution we have come to. Talking about it is very fashionable.

I’ll tell you about the methods of combating burnout, which I practice myself.

First method – Do not chase multitasking. There was a period when this quality was necessarily indicated in vacancies. I believe that one or two tasks should be taken into work, immersed in them and enjoy the process. This allows you to save energy at the right level.

Second method – monitor the hygiene of communications. I avoid communication that does not lead to comfort and development. Vyacheslav Polunin has an excellent expression: “Communicate only with those whom you want to hug.” This means that you need to create a comfortable atmosphere around you. For example, sometimes you can have dinner at your favorite place or buy some things, because they contain the necessary energy. But here it is important not to run after trends, but to focus on yourself.

Third method – ask yourself the question: if I have to live a day, and I can do anything, what will I spend them on? The answer to this question allows us to understand whether I am moving in the right direction. Sometimes I ask myself this question every day, and I like to answer it. This is the awareness that I have come to just now: you need to think first of all about yourself. Because only I can feel my own happiness.

Energy can become a new pattern of efficiency. If we reflect and determine how much we are in the resource here and now, this will positively affect work. We must be responsible for ourselves, because no one else will do this in our place. Just take a break from life and be happy.


  1. There are three types of burnout: professional, emotional, and pseudo-burnout associated with loss of motivation and frustration.
  2. True burnout is a disease and needs to be diagnosed in time. At the same time, burnout should not be confused with depression. If you are concerned about the symptoms described in the table (“How to Determine Burnout” section), you should start by visiting a psychiatrist. He will help determine what is happening to you.
  3. The causes of burnout are often hidden in children’s complexes, uncomfortable communication or a violation of personal balance.
  4. To combat burnout, you must first spend a sufficient amount of energy on yourself. Ways I can advise: not to chase multitasking, monitor the hygiene of communications and often think about your needs and desires.

Conference ProductSense product management – one of the projects ProductSense teams. We make transcripts of reports from our conferences and write articles on them.

Thank you for preparing the editorial article, Elena Yegina.

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