ECS Cares: Preventing Burnout

Network for Women in Science

By Dana Scoville Ph.D., LMHC  

What is burnout? Burnout is a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. It occurs when you feel overwhelmed, emotionally drained, and unable to meet constant demands. As the stress continues, you begin to lose the interest and motivation that led you to take on a certain role in the first place. Burnout reduces productivity and saps your energy, leaving you feeling increasingly helpless, hopeless, cynical, and resentful. Eventually, you may feel like you have nothing more to give.

Dealing with Burnout. The 3 R Approach:

  1. Recognize.
  2. Reevaluate.
  3. Resilience.

Recognize the signs of burnout:

  • Feelings: Tired, irritable, distracted, inadequate, and incompetent.
  • Physical: Muscular aches and body pain, headaches, increased or reduced appetite, weight change, and nausea.
  • Emotional: Feeling trapped, hopeless, and depressed.
  • Mental: Poor concentration, muddled thinking, and indecisiveness.

Reevaluate: Weigh what you like about your current employment and what you dislike. Next, challenge yourself to be thankful for the pros and think creatively about ways you can address the cons.


  • Ask for support from friends, partner, a mental health professional or another trusted person in your life.
  • Engage with people who add value to your life and make you feel good. Be wary of the trap of complaining to others in the same boat, it may make you feel better to vent in the short-term, but long-term it can perpetuate and even escalate negative feelings and will keep you stuck.
  • Set boundaries. Don’t overextend yourself. Learn how to say no to requests on your time. If you find this difficult, remind yourself that saying no allows you to say yes to the commitments you want to make.
  • Take a daily break from technology. Set a time each day when you completely disconnect. Put away your laptop, turn off your phone, and stop checking email or social media.
  • Nourish your creative side. Creativity is a powerful antidote to burnout. Try something new, start a fun project, or resume a favorite hobby. Choose activities that have nothing to do with work or whatever is causing your stress.
  • Set aside relaxation time. Relaxation techniques such as yoga, meditation, and deep breathing activate the body’s relaxation response, a state of restfulness that is the opposite of the stress response.
  • Get plenty of sleep. Feeling tired can exacerbate burnout by causing you to think irrationally. Keep your cool in stressful situations by getting a good night’s sleep.


HelpGuide: Burnout Prevention and Treatment

How to Prevent Burnout in the Workplace: 20 Strategies

MHAEM: Burnout Prevention

The Self-Care Prescription