B is for Burnout: recipes, remedies, rituals and resources for dealing with Burnout

Welcome to the Alphabet series! Every other week we will be tackling a letter of the alphabet and connecting that letter with a physical, emotional and/or spiritual ailment that impacts us individually and as a community. We will gather as many recipes, rituals, remedies and resources as we can to support the healing of these ailments.  This is not by any means a comprehensive list, but a working list of possible things that can reinforce and engage healing. Please be sure to consult your doctor/practitioner/spiritual guide/intuition before using and as you use any of these therapies. We are all different and respond uniquely to various healing methods. Its important to only use what is meant for you specifically. We started of the series with A is for Anger…Lets continue with the letter B. B is for Burnout. 

“Caring for myself is not self indulgence. It is self preservation-that is an act of political warfare.” 
― Audre Lorde

Regardless of whether you are smart, rich, experienced, naiive, supported by tons of people, a lone strong warrior, young, old,  Buddha-like, a strategiest, an activist, unemployed, or in your dream job, YOU CAN EXPERIENCE BURNOUT!!!! Burnout syndrome affects people across race, age, class, gender, sexuality, and work industry. Ofcourse certain jobs, practices, lifestyles are more prone to burnout. But it is important to recognize that burnout is something that impacts us all. Recognizing this truth allows us to be more conscious of signs when they arise in us or around us.

Burnout is often confused with stress. Unlike stress, burnout is a consistent and prolonged state of physical, emotional, mental and spiritual exhaustion caused by constant exposure to stressful demands. It is the result of persistent stress over a long period of time.

Stress vs. Burnout
Characterized by overengagement Characterized by disengagement
Emotions are overreactive Emotions are blunted
Produces urgency and hyperactivity Produces helplessness and hopelessness
Loss of energy Loss of motivation, ideals, and hope
Leads to anxiety disorders Leads to detachment and depression
Primary damage is physical Primary damage is emotional
May kill you prematurely May make life seem not worth living
Source:Stress and Burnout in Ministry

Burnout is a disease!! and like a lot of diseases, it is contagious!! If you are someone who does not prioritize healing in your life and burnout has become a default mode of functioning, think about all the spaces you occupy on a daily basis and how these spaces are impacted by your burnout state. Think about your friends, family members, children, parents, colleagues, neighbors, partners, and community members. How you are feeling impacts them. On the flip side, if you are in stressful environments, jobs and/or relationships that are prone to burnout breakouts, you could easily be a bystander caught in the fire.

Sadly, we have not been given adequate tools to recognize the signs and symptoms and practice prevention and sustainable and intentional healing. Even sadder, burnout has become a badge of honor to legitimize people and prove that  folks are doing “good work”. These unhealthy beliefs build dangerous and unhealthy patterns,  clouding our ability to lead full, healthy, fulfilling, and nourishing lives. Luckily, burnout does not have to be a  barrier, it can be a blessing, helping you to listen to parts of your self that need to speak.


  • Prolonged physical, mental, emotional and spiritual exhaustion
  • Stressful jobs with unclear and/or unrealistic job expectations, dysfunctional power dynamics, lack of control, disconnect in values
  • Stressful relationships that are co-dependent, abusive, unfulfilling, unreciprocal
  • Not knowing how to listen to or name your needs
  • Trauma
  • Oppression
  • Self judgment and rejection, feeling like nothing is ever good enough, you are never good enough
  • Cultural, societal and generational messages about burnout
  • Abuse
  • Taking on too many responsibilities
  • Perfectionist tendencies
Physically: People may experience physical exhaustion that is prolonged over time. Feeling incredibly tired and not having the will to get up or move through the day, inability to sleep, getting sick a lot, muscle aches, headaches, migraines, loss of appetite, weight gain.
Emotionally: Folks may feel a loss in motivation, internalized oppression, pessimism about everything, decreased sense of accomplisment, detachment, cynicism, helplessness.
Spiritually: People may show withdrawal from relationship to oneself and/or source of power, isolation,  inability to connect to oneself and to others.
Here are a few Burnout self-tests to see where you are on the spectrum
  • Use clary sage and lavendar essential oils over a prolonged period of time. You can apply it on your body or burn it on an aromatherapy vessel.
  • Daily doses of the flower remedy Walnut has been shown to decrease stress and in turn help heal burnout.
  • Ingesting siberian ginseng in tablet form or tincture form.
  • Acupressure and acupuncture
  • Use reflexology to locate major points on the hands and feet that support relaxation and stress reduction.
  • Healing baths with epson salt and lavendar
  • Relaxing breathing exercises
  • Sleep at least 6-8 hours a day
  • Yoga
  • Eliminate any stressors in your life
  • Take yourself out on a healing date
  • “Just say ‘no’. Setting boundaries early with others should not be considered walls, but paths to your sanity.”
  • Adopt healthy eating habits
If you are in a job that has high burnout factor, here are some helpful tips from the ACLU 
  1. Create a group culture / ethos that supports self-care, balance and sustainable work loads and patterns.
  2. Take a long-term perspective of planning and working for the long haul, to keep experienced / skilled group members for as long as possible
  3. Balance task focus with process and relationship / maintenance focus – in meetings, in daily work, in planning, and in evaluation
  4. Provide workshops / training in stress management and burnout prevention – can be as part of conferences, gatherings or ongoing training / orientation.
  5. Use regular planning and evaluation as a tool to reduce stress
  6. Build stress level checks into reviews and evaluations – how stressed do people feel? What is contributing? What do we need to do about these?
  7. Put stress prevention strategies on the agenda for meetings.
  8. Allow people to express feelings of distress, grief and loss and frustration – regard them as normal and healthy responses to unhealthy situations and state of the world.
  9. Provide individual or group debriefing after critical incidents or high stress campaigns. Keep an eye open for vulnerable individuals and see intervention as valid.
  10. Create support structures, eg supervision, mentoring, support / affinity groups, larger group workshops.
  11. Put value on socialising, fun, humour, relaxation time as a group.


  • Begin and end your day with relaxing breathing exercises and meditation.
  • Write down positive affirmations for yourself and place them in spaces where you will see them on a regular basis.
  • Create a vision board that clearly defines what you want your life to look like.
  • Do a letting go ritual to release anything in your life that is causing you burnout.
  • Connect or reconnect with a spiritual practice that nourishes you



Shields, Katrina (1991) In the Tiger’s Mouth: An Empowerment Guide For Social Action, Millenium Books, Newtown, NSW

Oriented to social change activists, and contains worksheets and exercises that can be done individually or used to create workshops for groups. Deals with personal and organisational aspects of burnout prevention and recovering from burnout. Also other aspects of working well together.

Green, T & Woodrow, P (1993) Insight & Action – How to Discover & Support a Life of Integrity and Commitment to Change, New Society Publishers, Philadelphia

Good ideas for creating support groups; how to create a “Clearness Process” for personal decision-making. And other useful tools.

Covey, S (1989) The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, The Business Library, Information Australia, Melbourne

Covey, S & Merrill, A (1994) First Things First Simon & Schuster NY

Glouberman, Dina (2007) The Joy of Burnout: How Burning Out Unlocks the Way to a Better Brighter Future, Skyros Books

Both the above provide good strategies for prioritising and working more effectively in all aspects of your life.

Ryan, R & Travis, J (1981) Wellness Workbook – Creating Vibrant Health, Alternatives to Illness and Burnout, Ten Speed Press, Berkeley Ca.

Encouraging self-responsibility for long-term wellbeing.

Jaffe, D & Scott, C (1984) From Burnout to Balance – a Workbook for Peak Performance and Self-Renewal, McGraw Hill, New York


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