Two Kinds of Burnout & What To Do About It

Two Kinds of Burnout & What To Do About It

 You might be surprised to know that many of my coaching conversations involve the question ‘how are you going to make time to look after yourself?’

The topic of burnout is all around us. Almost everywhere you turn there’s articles, social media posts and books around the topic. Here are some articles I found just today:

“How to deal with Workplace Burnout”
“Burnout Prevention and Treatment”
“4 Steps to Beating Burnout”
“Burnout and Stress are Everywhere”

We might also know people personally who are suffering from burnout or it might be ourselves.

In my work, what I’ve discovered is that there are 2 different kinds of burnout and in this article I’m going to share what you can do about it. 


  1. Circumstantial Burnout
  2. Self-Burnout

Circumstantial Burnout

circumstantial burnout

Circumstantial Burnout is when there are circumstances and situations that lead to burnout that are mostly out of our control such as:


  • Toxic workplaces
  • High pressure and demanding work cultures
  • Challenging personal circumstances involving:
    • illness
    • loss of a loved one
    • financial hardship
    • conflict in the workplace
    • unfair / inequitable treatment
    • workplace harassment

These situations require a unique approach to burnout typically relying on external tools, resources and people to support us and help shift our mindset. Examples of these are mindfulness meditation, breathing techniques, mindset shift exercises and professionals such as coaches, therapists and mediators.

The goal with this approach is to find ways to cope and deal with the stress and difficult emotions that come with these situations and effectively navigate the challenging circumstance.

Self Burnout

self burnout

Self-Burnout is the second type of burnout.

This is the burnout we do to ourselves when we unknowingly create situations and circumstances that drive our own burnout.

This is where I focus most of my coaching when the topic comes up. What most people discover is that they are the ones driving their own burnout.

They’re saying yes to things when they could be saying no. They’re taking on workloads that are too much. They’re fixing other people’s problems. They’re staying up late and responding to emails. They’re sacrificing themselves, their personal time, their health and their time with loved ones willingly.

They think that by working hard in this way, it shows that they’re committed and people can count on them. They think that it’s what’s expected of someone at their level. They think that if they say no or don’t work like this they won’t be eligible for the better opportunities.

Under all of these thoughts I always find one common thought pattern:

“If I don’t do this or work in this way or get these results, it won’t be enoughI won’t be enough.”

The approach for self-burnout is first, understanding what’s driving you to create circumstances that contribute to your burnout. Part of this involves a deeper conversation with yourself around naming your ‘not enough’ statement and creating a new supportive statement instead. The second part of the approach is to create a new strategy for avoiding burnout and creating new situations and circumstances that support you in being your best self instead.

This involves:


  • saying no to things that will overload you
  • establishing healthy boundaries with colleagues around work and personal hours
  • leading and coaching more and fixing other people’s problems less
  • making time for healthy lifestyle habits, exercise, time with friends and family
Self-burnout requires a bit more personal development than circumstantial burnout.
In order to hop off your own burnout train, it will take some effort for sure! It’ll take doing some personal reflection, taking responsibility and a willingness to let go of habits and thought patterns that you’ve held onto for a long time.

Both types of burnout will take work to navigate AND the work is always worth it. Because whether a situation is within our control or not, when we take personal responsibility in our lives and take action, we take one step closer to creating the life we want and the outcomes we seek.