Stress vs Burnout

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By Carol Anderson

Super Heroes work hard

Can they burn out or feel


As much as all of us want to be ‘Super Heroes’, we have to contend with the fact that we are human.

Being human brings with it a bit of fragility.

Knowing the ‘face’ of our body’s enemy gives us a clearer path to running the race as a Super Hero.

Sometimes we get confused as to the definition of ‘STRESS’ vs ‘BURNOUT‘.

Here’s how they compare.

Stress is characterized by a response of ‘over-activity’

Burnout prompts backing off…’disengagement’


Stress shows in an overactive emotional response.

(Others think….’Where did that come from?’)

Burnout is where you can’t seem to feel anything….

your emotions are blunted.


Stress makes your body shutdown

you have a loss of energy but a mental state of anxiety.

Burnout creates a shutdown of your dreams, hopes and motivation.


Stress creates anxiety

Burnout leads to depression


Stress and Burnout are two paths that seem to run parallel

but actually are quite different.

It is like the common cold vs cancer.

One can just put you in bed for a while.

The other can kill you.


When stressed, the primary damage shows itself in your physical health.

When experiencing burnout, the damage is evident in your emotions.


Stress can kill you

Burnout makes you lose your desire to live.


So.….What to do?

It takes work to be a Super Hero

1) Unrealistic goals are a major player in creating both stress and burnout.

2) Create boundaries.- Just say no sometimes

3) We all have 24 hours a day and some of that time needs to be refreshing your spirit so even though you have an amazing work ethic, develop a ‘relax’ ethic too.

3) Don’t try to control what is out of your control.

ie: people.

Don’t manipulate or coerce.

4) Don’t violate your personal moral hierarchy –

but be sure to establish a moral hierarchy or

you will be tossed around with every suggestion.

Regret is a big player in causing stress or burnout.

If you regret something — down the road shame takes hold.

And shame is a major destroyer of the quality of one’s life.

Shame is a feeling that is worse than almost anything.

It attacks even those who are contented with who they are.

Shame creeps in because you haven’t lived up to your own standards – not someone elses.

You might be someone who has achieved great things, you have few enemies…you are  liked by everyone

but in some private area of your mind,

you aren’t fulfilling your beliefs about yourself – your activities – your plan – and

Whammmmooooo!!!!…shame creeps in.


Did you ever wonder why some people seem to be running a great race and then stop to

(what I call ‘cut themselves off at the knees’)

They just seem to loose the race on purpose.

They do something that destroys their chances of reaching their goal or being successful.


They have it all.

Why give it up for……..?

Actually, sometimes it is because what is required of them is something outside their ‘ideal- self’.

As easy as regret is to set aside, shame seems to permeate.

I know that I will never remember the circumstances that surrounded a choice I might have made twenty years ago but  even after all that time it could be a source of ‘shame’.

I made a pack with myself long ago not to second guess the ‘why’ for my choices.  I would never remember that one kid had a fever and the other couldn’t find their shoe so I didn’t go visit a sick relative and they died.  Ok, maybe a little dramatic but that’s the way life often is.  If you let it, it is constant drama.

I had decided to set aside self-condemnation for what was or wasn’t done but offered myself the respect I would give to anyone else if they were willing and pro-active in making choices and following through with establishing ‘goals’.

Since I teach music, I’ll use that as an example.  If you stop taking or teaching music lessons or never start, weigh that against the level of importance that music holds in your life.  True, it will create more activity in your home for sure – more accountability – yet, if you never do it and you always wanted to, it may introduce regret and eventually shame ergo an underlying cause of stress and burnout.

Life choices hold far more power than a simple passing thought.  They build a nest and raise a brood.  (family) Why do you think we call it brooding when we mull over issues?  Ha  …. I made that up. But it is true to a point.  A passing thought doesn’t affect us but ‘self-image’ (the private, sometimes secret nest of self-image we have in our heads) does.  And if we aren’t feeding that self-image with what it takes to get us there, then we can develop regret, shame, burnout and stress.

Stress is something you need to address with a professional. Don’t sit on it.  It won’t just go away and it will begin to affect your health.

For those who are identifying with burnout or regret,

see where you are on this path and undo what took you there.

If you are feeling sorry for yourself

self-pity leads to an unforgiving spirit

An unforgiving spirit leads to resentment

Resentment leads to anger

Anger leads to bitterness

Bitterness leads to depression.

And depression can make you feel like life is not worth living.

Busyness hides depression

Don’t fake it,

challenge yourself

and don’t allow boredom to open the door to the ugly mental path that got you in the ‘muddy road toward  depression’ or disappointment in the first place.

Back off and have fun.

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