How to Avoid Burnout (and still be productive)

I am the definition of a Type-A personality. I’m well aware that I am high strung, but I’ve always thought that anxiety was a fair exchange for how productive I can be, and figured stress was just a byproduct of success. The problem with this way of thinking is that I can often begin to feel burnt out and sometimes even depressed. I’ve become a very light sleeper and often don’t get the 8 hours I know I need, and mid-day I find myself having a very difficult time resisting that muffin or cookie with the coffee that is necessary to get through the day. All of this and I don’t even have kids to take care of or dinner to make, so I can’t imagine how other people with full time jobs and families avoid meltdowns. It’s great to be driven, but understanding how to manage stress before it becomes a full blown burnout is critical for your health and well being.

5 Levels of Burnout (from the book Tired of Being Tired):

  1. Driven: You’re working like crazy and getting things done and feeling really good about yourself and all that you can accomplish.
  2. Dragging: You’re sucking down espressos and sugary foods – taking sleep aids at night and gaining weight.
  3. Losing it: You’re always tired, have gained or lost a visible amount of weight, and you hate everyone.
  4. Hitting a wall: Your body is aching, you’re emotional and forgetful.
  5. Burned out: Your body is breaking down – maybe it’s heart disease or you’re constantly sick – or maybe you’re on antidepressants.

Learn how to listen to your body to avoid burnout:

Eat more often: When you’re feeling stressed and also gaining weight as a result, your instinct may be to eat less. This leads to being hangry, which is even more stressful and also sends signals to your body that you’re starving so it goes into emergency mode and starts storing fat. No bueno. Be sure to keep a huge bottle of water with you that can be refilled throughout the day so that you stay hydrated and don’t confuse being thirsty with being hungry. When you do get hungry between meals, instead of reaching for the junk that your tired brain is asking for, keep things like nuts and apples around that feed your body the nutrients it needs to power through your days and won’t cause you to crash like other sugary snacks.

Start getting real sleep: We tend to underestimate the power of getting a good night’s rest, sacrificing it to stay up late working or socializing since that seems to be more valuable use of our time. Unfortunately sleep deprivation over time can literally kill you. You need that 6-8 hours a night if you’re in the “driven stage” of burn out, and if you’re “losing it” or worse, you need over 8 hours plus relaxation breaks during the day (sitting somewhere quiet for 10-15 minutes). I’ve invested in blackout blinds for my bedroom, as well as a white noise machine to help me get enough sleep. I also aim to get to bed around the same time every night, making a to-do list for the next day. I also switched from sleep aids to taking melatonin if I haven’t gotten a good night’s rest for a few nights in a row.

Don’t make workouts stressful too: This is a hard lesson for me to follow, since missing a workout can make me feel awful about myself (clearly I have issues). If you’re feeling burned out and tired, though, it’s better not to force workouts when your body really needs rest. Especially if you do conditioning exercises with weights, you risk hurting yourself when you’re fatigued, and you don’t need that after eating the full bag of m&m’s during your meeting. If you know that you need to get your body moving, yoga is perfect to reset your brain and stretch your body out so that you get those good endorphins running again. If you have the energy, take group fitness classes that help keep you motivated but also allow you to blend in so that you can go at a pace that feels comfortable for you.

Learn to Meditate: This has been my priority the last couple of weeks. I downloaded the Headspace app which offers 10 free meditation sessions that are 10 minutes each, with videos along the way that help you to understand the power of meditation on your stressed out brain. Starting my day with this short little 10 minutes has been as difficult as it is rewarding. It’s almost like my brain will come up with every excuse in the book to not slow down and focus for 10 measly minutes, but when I do take the time, I truly feel like it makes a difference in my day. Learning how to quiet the mind and be truly present is an exercise that can have serious long-term affects, especially for those who are high strung and anxious like me.


You can be a productive and successful without letting stress take you to a breaking point. Taking the time to take care of your mind and body, despite how busy your days get, will only help you to perform even better in all areas of your life. Do you have any de-stressing tips?? Please share!





  1. It’s so hard to focus for me on less than six hours of sleep. It really affects your performance at work too. So glad to be off the treadmill working on writing instead

  2. I agree, taking the necessary steps not to get burnt out, i learned that lesson dealing with a client she would take every job. Unfortunately it leaded to her not wanting to do so much of what she longed to do.

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