How to Do a Burnout: The Complete Guide

By | 13/05/2022

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stress woman

Burnout Symptoms and Treatment

Elizabeth Scott, PhD is an author, workshop leader, educator, and award-winning blogger on stress management, positive psychology, relationships, and emotional wellbeing.

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Amy Morin, LCSW, is the Editor-in-Chief of Verywell Mind. She’s also a psychotherapist, the author of the bestselling book "13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do," and the host of The Verywell Mind Podcast.

People who are struggling to cope with workplace stress may place themselves at high risk of burnout. Burnout can leave people feeling exhausted, empty, and unable to cope with the demands of life.

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Burnout may be accompanied by a variety of mental and physical health symptoms as well. If left unaddressed, burnout can make it difficult for an individual to function well in their daily life.

signs of burnout

Performing a Great Burnout

You’ve likely seen drivers performing burnouts in two scenarios — either to warm up their tires on the start line of the drag race or just for the sake of showing off a bit. If you aren’t a professional or amateur drag racer, you likely fall in the latter category, and the main focus for you will be on how to do a burnout safely. There is no doubt that in both scenarios there will be big smiles and increased heart rate. First, know that it is not legal to perform a burnout on a public road or highway. We recommend finding a safe and legal place to do your burnout. This way you can learn in a controlled environment.

Ensure Your Car Is Suitable

yellow ford Mustang

Some models of cars are more suitable to do burnouts than others. Factors to take into consideration include if your car is automatic or manual (or has a DCT) and whether it is rear-wheel, front-wheel, or all-wheel drive. Also, you will need to be familiar with your traction control settings and how to turn them on/off. Generally, rear-wheel-drive cars with higher horsepower and street tires will be the best combo for a showy, smokey burnout.

Also, make sure to look over your car for general condition and any signs of wear or tear (especially if you have an older car) and inspect the condition of your tires. A burnout puts a lot of stress on a car, so you’ll want to make sure your car is in good working condition to begin with. There have certainly been instances of burnouts gone wrong, and you don’t want to put yourself, car, or anyone else in a dangerous situation.

Though we focus primarily on how to do a burnout with an automatic transmission equipped car, manual transmission burnouts can also be tons of fun. We suggest starting to get the feel for burnouts in an automatic vehicle first, as a manual transmission burnout is a bit more complicated.

The difference between stress and burnout

Burnout may be the result of unrelenting stress, but it isn’t the same as too much stress. Stress, by and large, involves too much: too many pressures that demand too much of you physically and mentally. However, stressed people can still imagine that if they can just get everything under control, they’ll feel better.

Burnout, on the other hand, is about not enough. Being burned out means feeling empty and mentally exhausted, devoid of motivation, and beyond caring. People experiencing burnout often don’t see any hope of positive change in their situations. If excessive stress feels like you’re drowning in responsibilities, burnout is a sense of being all dried up. And while you’re usually aware of being under a lot of stress, you don’t always notice burnout when it happens.

Identifying the Causes

Burnout usually is related to work or caregiving roles but it can happen to anyone who is experiencing a build-up of stress or finds themselves in a situation where their resources are depleting quickly, especially if they are not getting outside support.

Some of the individuals most prone to burnout include nurses, doctors, teachers, and social workers, but anyone who works in a job rife with responsibilities and pressure is vulnerable to burnout. People who are part of marginalized communities, and social justice activists may be prone to signs of burnout as well.

How to avoid burnout in the future

Although it can feel overwhelming in the moment, Dr. Borland reassures that you can recover from burnout. “It takes work,” he says. “It comes down to establishing a meaningful daily routine, and creating and maintaining boundaries so you can attend to your health and well-being while also attending to the responsibilities of your job or your personal life.”

Once you recognize your burnout symptoms, you’re better able to take a break and recalibrate your actions if you do feel your life becoming out of sync. “You can say, ‘You know what, I know how bad this felt last time I dealt with this. I need to do a better job of maintaining that balance and attending to my self-care and those boundaries. I don’t want to get to the point I did last time.’”

Keeping the lines of communication open with your support systems can also help ward off burnout. “That’s another aspect of therapy — you often learn how to communicate,” Dr. Borland notes. “You’re not internalizing these emotions perhaps like you once did.”

At the end of the day, it all comes down to balance. “We often misconstrue the idea of attending to our self-care as somehow being selfish,” Dr. Borland says. “And it’s really not. I often remind my patients that in order to be the best friend, spouse, parent or child, you have to attend to your self-care. If your tank is empty, you can’t be the type of person you want to be to these others in your life.”

To learn more from Dr. Borland about how to identify and recover from burnout, listen to our Health Essentials podcast episode, “How to Deal with Burnout.” New episodes of the Health Essentials podcast publish every Wednesday.