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Highlights: Let’s Talk About Burnout

Rachel Allman
25 July 2023

Welcome to Psychology Tools Highlights 

Psychology Tools Highlights brings you curated insights, tools, and suggestions in bitesize form each month. You can browse, use and share however you choose, and you don’t need to be a member; these highlights are for everyone.

1. Burnout – A Comprehensive Overview 

Burnout in healthcare - the case for organisational change

This BMJ paper gives a brief but comprehensive overview of burnout since the ICD-11 inclusion. It discusses practical steps that move towards viewing burnout at a systems level, rather than from an individual perspective. Whilst it is focused on healthcare, this paper has very useful observations generally.

Read Full Paper

2. Stress Vs Burnout – Important Differences  

Burnout is often confused with other difficulties, particularly workplace stress. While prolonged stress can result in a state of burnout, there are key differences between the two:

Central to the experience of burnout is depletion – feeling emotionally worn-out and exhausted, often to the point that the individual is past caring about their work. The opposite is frequently true for stress – individuals feel ‘full’ and overwhelmed with tension and anxiety, which makes it difficult to disengage from what they are doing.

This free burnout psychoeducation can be given to clients to explain more about the condition and symptoms, so they can begin to understand more about their experiences and why they feel the way they do.

3. What Keeps Burnout From Getting Better? 

CBT models of burnout suggest that several factors can act to maintain burnout. If we can help clients to understand more about why their burnout isn’t going away, we can begin to identify how the maintenance cycle can be broken. This vicious flower handout can be used as a discussion starter to explore your client’s experience and what factors might be involved in maintaining their symptoms.

(If you have a trial account, you can download this resource as one of your 5 free downloads).

What Keeps Burnout Going (Featured Image)

What might keep burnout going?

  • Workplace: working in an environment that continues to be stressful.
  • Recovery: not having enough opportunity to recharge.
  • Coping techniques: coping with your burnout experience in unhelpful ways.
  • Thoughts: having negative thoughts about yourself and work.


What Keeps Burnout Going Handout

4. Challenging Negative Thoughts To Address Burnout 

Cognitive restructuring is a mainstay of CBT, and the same is true of CBT for burnout. Help your client identify and re-evaluate the negative thoughts and cognitive distortions that contribute to their exhaustion. They might include:

  • Work-related worries, including the implications of being burnt-out.
  • Self-criticism for reduced performance or feeling depleted and disinterested.
  • Ruminating on unpleasant interactions with colleagues and customers.
  • Unfair and unhelpful comparisons with other team members.

This free article on cognitive bias explores common unhelpful thinking in depth, looking at different theoretical approaches, treatment suggestions, and practical strategies.