You may be a business piranha; a top performer, the most dedicated and hard-working person on your team, but at the end of the day, you’re just a human. As a member of the human race, there will be times you feel crispy around the edges.

Burnout happens to most people who are working in an intensive environment.

It doesn’t mean you’re incompetent or losing your edge. It simply means your life has fallen out of balance and it’s time to hit reset.

Corporate burnout is an important condition to pay attention to. In the corporate world, it may feel even more risky to experience burnout than in other professions.

The competitive nature of the work may drive you to keep going and ignore warning signs that you truly should be paying attention to. In competitive situations, there is so much at stake. Income, reputation and ego are all at the top of that list. These pressures may keep you pushing yourself when you should be stepping back and observing your needs.

Recognizing Burnout

We can only attend to what we acknowledge. It can be hard to face our own vulnerabilities, particularly for those who have been at the top of their game for a long time. What does burnout look like?

Excessive fatigue:

If you’re noticing that you are mentally, emotionally and physically exhausted, it’s probably not going to be solved by another cup of coffee. Fatigue can be a sign of burnout. Be sure to see a doctor to rule out physical issues.

Seeking unhealthy escape:

Have you noticed that you are more tempted to have an extra drink or two, or look for other ways to escape from your mind? (Excessive gaming, sleeping all weekend, etc.)? Burnout can creep up on us.

Our daily behaviors often reflect coping mechanisms that, in small proportions, are harmless. When we resort to these coping strategies in excess, it is a sign that we are trying to mask feelings that are just under the surface.

Brittle mood:

If you notice that your moods flip quickly, that may be a sign of burnout. Often when we are working hard to maintain status quo in our emotional state, the effort it takes creates fragility. You’re not losing your mind, perhaps you’ve just been trying too hard to pretend it’s all ok.

Numb or disconnected:

On the flip side of moodiness is numbness or disconnection from self or others. Burnout can manifest as a drift in level of consciousness. When overwhelmed, some retreat into disconnection as opposed to feeling overly stressed or moody.

Spark is gone:

You may notice that your interest in work is severely diminished. Maybe you are still showing up but feel like you’re just filling a position rather than feeling engaged in the work. Perhaps you are taking more sick days or dread having to go into work.

All of these symptoms can indicate burnout, and they can also be indicators of depression. Depression and burnout are not the same thing, but they can overlap. The difference is that burnout is more specific to a work setting.

Depression tends to be more widespread across a person’s experience and shows up in more than one aspect of life.

Managing Burnout with Finesse

When burnout happens, it is often accompanied by a fear that “this is the new me.” In any situation that we feel compromised emotionally and physically, it can feel dangerously permanent. Try some of these ideas for managing burnout with finesse.

Admit it:

So maybe you don’t feel compelled to announce your feelings of burnout to your competitors at work. At least acknowledge it to yourself and to trusted loved ones. There is power in acknowledging problems aloud.

It becomes less of a burden when you’re not carrying the knowledge of your struggle on your own.

Reassess what’s important:

In order to stay connected to the real you, challenge yourself to look at your life with complete honesty. Do you feel good about the direction of your life? Are you abiding by your values at work and at home?

Create balance:

Life balance doesn’t just create itself. We have to work for it. How many hours do you spend at work per day? Do you make time for self-care, time with friends and family? Creativity? Health?

It may be that you’re treating yourself and your needs like an “option” instead of a priority. Make time for the rest of your life that happens outside of work.

Keep your ego in check:

If you hesitate to take time for self-care because you don’t want to lose status, power or reputation at work, it may be time to examine your ego. It is normal and healthy to care about your responsibilities.

If your entire identity is wrapped up in your corporate role, that is a major red flag. Ask yourself, why has it become so important for me to be this powerful? What does it mean to me personally if I lose my status in this role? Who am I outside of my work role?

Delegate, prioritize and say no when needed:

You cannot be the fixer of all things. Delegate tasks to co-workers where you can. Allowing others to take responsibility for aspects of the business creates a team energy that can only help everyone in the long run.

If you can’t say no to a new project, project your start date out a few weeks or even months, if possible.

Giving yourself time to complete the tasks at hand before taking on more responsibilities may help save you from burnout. When something is not feasible, say no. Admitting that you cannot take something on is not a weakness.

It is mature and responsible to acknowledge your needs. If anything, saying no when you need to, is a good way to model self-care and commitment to longevity for people on your team.

Corporate burnout doesn’t mean you will never get your game back. It just means that you are in need of something beyond what your work role is offering you. Get back in touch with all aspects of yourself, you are more than just a worker bee.

Managing burnout with finesse is easier than one would think, it just requires a bit of self-compassion and release of control. 


  • Dr. Teyhou Smyth

    Performance Coach, Adjunct Professor of Psychology, Keynote Speaker, Licensed Therapist (#115137)

    Living with Finesse

    • Do you want to live life with finesse?
    • Do you want to be the best version of yourself?
    • Do you want to reach your full potential?
    • Do you want better work/life balance?
    Discovering the diversity of human existence can be the catalyst you need to begin transforming your life. Many of us have found mental and emotional wellness through self-awareness and unconditional self-love. However, self-discovery can be a challenging process. This is especially true among individuals who feel pressured to conform to perceived expectations regarding job performance, cultural background, or gender identity. Even the highest functioning people can struggle to maintain the self-care necessary for overall well being. Living with Finesse series will help you work on: - Developing emotional intelligence and resilience; - Strengthening professional and personal identity; - Avoiding performance anxiety and fatigue; - Coping with high expectations, personal and professional; - Stress Management and avoid corporate burnout; - Addiction issues and impulse control; - Understanding one’s own gender and cultural identity; - Depression/Anxiety; - Life Transitions. - Relationship Issues