• Dr Phoebe Lau

3 ways to master burnout

Updated: Apr 26, 2019

Ever feel like you’re exhausted, stressed, and de-motivated? You maybe suffering from the common burnout. Burnout occurs when what you put into work and life doesn’t match with what you’re getting out of it. If we use the “emotional wealth” analogy, it’s spending all the money in your emotional bank account without having the means to replenish it. So you’re spending more emotional and psychological resources than you can replenish. Understandably, this leaves you feeling depleted. If you’re feeling like this, or you’re heading in this direction, here are 4 ways to master burnout:

Photograph of male lying down on bed in cartoon bedroom of Van Gogh


Instead of being bogged down with the daily irritations and what you “have to” do, focus on why you’re doing what you’re doing. Your values helps clarify your why. For example:

Scenario A

Situation: You’re in a job that doesn’t fulfil you 

Usual reaction: Feel irritable and down throughout the day, and grumble about parts of the job that you don’t like. You might wish or dream about leaving every day. You let these thoughts and feelings about the job simmer away slowly until you get home.

Result: You’re holding the psychological and emotional burden of dissatisfaction. You’re brain starts to seek out moments in your day that confirms your belief that you’re in an unfulfilling job. This is called a confirmation bias. This burden along with usual daily stress might feel like it’s eating away at you. 

Scenario B

Situation: You’re in a job that doesn’t fulfil you 

Alternative reaction: Start the day with focusing on why you remain in the job and what you value about the position. So you might acknowledge that not all parts of the job are wonderful, but you receive an income that allows you to spend valuable time away with your family, enjoy certain hobbies, or simply provide you with the ability to take care of your health. Your job might provide learning opportunities, or opportunities to manage “difficult” personalities in the office that will benefit you in your next position. Next, feel a sense off gratitude for what you are getting out of your job. If you get bogged down with feeling dissatisfied during the day, ask yourself, “what can I get out of today?”. You might even say a little “thank you”, every time you buy a coffee or lunch, because your job allows you to pay for this luxury. 

Result: By focusing on your why (values) a sense of purpose and gratitude begins to build. You will start seeking opportunities in your work place that are in line with your “why”, and your brain will seek out moments in your day that confirms your values.


Usually when we start to feel stressed, maintaining our physical health goes out the window. We stop exercising or making ourselves a nutritious meal because we believe we “don’t have time”. Take out your smart phone, and look at the amount of time you’ve spent on your phone in the last day, or week. I had a look yesterday, and I spent approximately 3 hours on my phone. Was I spending those 3 hours on my phone productively? Probably not. I could have used, let’s say, 2 hours of that time going for a nice walk and making my family a delicious hearty meal for the next couple of days. 

The problem is that our psychological and physical health are inextricably tied. If we’re feeling heavy, low in energy, and our gut is unhappy, this generally translates to negative and unhelpful thinking patterns and amplified emotions. This is a typical cycle that happens: 


Like most of you, I had a pretty full-on day yesterday with meetings, clients, answering emails, and dealing with problems that arose throughout the day. But one thing that stuck out in my mind was a delicious and warming chocolate chai latte I had on my way to a meeting. When I drank my latte, I really relished the taste and paid attention to how pleasurable it felt to drink something so warm and delicious on a cold (Melbourne) day. For those few minutes there was nothing but me and that latte. That feeling of pleasure and satisfaction still lingers when I recall it. 

Silhouette of sitting women looking at sunset
Photo by Dingzeyu Li

When we consciously have moments of pleasure throughout the day and take the moment to enjoy them, it stays in our mind as an internal resource. We can bring that feeling of calm, satisfaction, or enjoyment into our minds when we need it. It also gives our mind something pleasurable and rewarding to focus on, and in turn look out for similar experiences. Remember our brain has a confirmation bias, so it looks out for familiar and related experiences. 

These are only 3 ways among many other strategies to master burnout. If you want to learn more ways, subscribe, or if you want to learn strategies tailored to your specific circumstances book an appointment today - don’t wait. 

#innercollectivepsychology #mentalhealth #burnout #stress #melbourneclinicalpsychologist #melbournepsychologist #emotionalwellbeing #emotionalwealth #healthyhabits

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