Is it possible to fix burnout? This new book says yes

May 3, 2022 - 9 min read

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Insight earned the hard way

Why don’t traditional fixes work?

Addressing burnout takes a team approach

How do I avoid burnout?

We've been hearing a lot about burnout lately. Coming off the first year of pandemic disruption, more than half of American workers reported experiencing burn out.

That number hasn't gone down. It has been cited as one cause of the vast number of job leavers. It is high among working parents, mothers especially. The increased workload, blurred boundaries, and monotonous sameness of workdays without workplaces contributes as well.

Is it possible to “fix” burnout? When most people think of a quick fix, they imagine a bandage slapped over the issue, magically making it go away. Burnout doesn't work that way.

In The Burnout Fix, Dr. Jacinta Jiménez provides an accessible, sensible roadmap to fixing the burn without covering it over. It’s less of a magic pill and more of a mindset shift.

Burnout occurs when workplace stressors — be it workload, lack of reward, isolation, or a mismatch in values — aren’t successfully managed. It results in a lack of motivation, a reduced sense of one’s own competence, and an inability to take pleasure in your work. The experience of burnout is overwhelming. It can make every second at work feel like an eternity. Brain fog and emotional exhaustion can make it difficult to connect with coworkers, and cynicism can cause you to dissociate from your goals.

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To “fix” burnout you have to treat the root causes of it — not just the symptoms. Burnout, by nature, is insidious. Once you’re in its throes, it — naturally — feels more pressing to treat the symptoms. The exhaustion, disconnection, and hopelessness that accompany burnout are hard to ignore. 

Dr. Jiménez, however, posits that the challenge isn’t stressful situations or competing responsibilities. The real culprit is “unsustainable effort, whether generated from individual work habits, poor management practices, organizational cultures, or all three.”

 

Insight earned the hard way

The cover of the book, The Burnout Fix

While The Burnout Fix is rooted in research and evidence-based practices, Dr. Jiménez’s experience with burnout is deeply personal. 

As a young aspiring dancer, she overcame injury and landed a coveted spot in a prestigious dance program. Later, exhausted and disillusioned, she left the program. In one of the most heartbreaking and relatable experiences in the book, Jimenez describes how it left her questioning her passion for dance altogether. Many of us have made similar decisions, giving up something we once loved because the energy just isn’t there.

Now a successful and award-winning psychologist and leadership coach, Jiménez’s “a-ha moment” came after hiking to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro. Unlike the success stories most people tell after reaching the peak, her insight came from her trip back down the mountain. As she was rushed to the base, weak with altitude sickness, she realized that success is unimportant if it comes at the cost of a steady personal pulse.

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Why don’t traditional fixes work?

In a world obsessed with productivity, The Burnout Fix shines a light on the unsustainability of “success at all costs.” Often, attempts at handling burnout are superficial, and they require the burned-out individual to create the change. Unfortunately, burnout isn’t a challenge only for the individual. Dr. Jiménez argues that it is equally an organizational challenge. 

“We need to have steady-pulse people, steady-pulse teams, and steady-pulse organizational cultures in order to truly address the burnout epidemic.”

Understanding that “burnout shows up differently among different people” is key to developing strategies for overcoming it. The relatable stories of Jiménez’s path to overcoming burnout — twice — and insight into her clients struggles are the backbone of the book. Weaving personal experience with practical advice, Dr. Jiménez outlines five pillars of ensuring a steady pulse as you juggle multiple commitments and responsibilities. 

The 5 pillars for keeping a steady pulse (PULSE Practices):

Pace for Performance
Undo Untidy Thinking
Leverage Leisure
Secure Support
Evaluate Effort

Addressing burnout takes a team approach

In a Q&A with BetterUp, Dr. Jiménez elaborated on how people — and teams and managers — could make a difference in the burnout epidemic. “The key is awareness,” she said. “First, you develop awareness, and then once you understand what you’re experiencing you can go to the right people to help you solve it.” 

Reaching out for help with burnout, however, takes courage. It can be scary to admit that you’re struggling or overwhelmed. Most people don’t because they think it reflects poorly on their performance and fear how they will be perceived. 

That’s why Jiménez emphasizes that “it is an organizational responsibility to not create those norms.” In a world where it’s easy to conflate productivity with self-worth, leaders need to make sure that they’re not reinforcing potentially dangerous values.

How do I avoid burnout?

While there’s no way to avoid stress entirely, it is possible to protect yourself from burnout. It requires intentionally checking — and rechecking — your personal pulse. The Burnout Fix outlines five PULSE practices for avoiding the loss of vibrancy and will that accompanies deep exhaustion. 

Far from providing a “one-size-fits-all” approach to recovering from burnout, readers are guided to dig into the root of what causes some to thrive while others struggle under stress. Dr. Jiménez provides an accessible, systematic path to find your own way out.

If you’re ready to start building your personal pulse practice, you can start with Dr. Jiménez’s advice on boosting wellbeing and resilience to combat burnout.

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Published May 3, 2022

Allaya Cooks-Campbell

BetterUp Staff Writer

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