Burnout – What it is and How to Prevent it

The concept of burnout takes on a whole new meaning amid COVID-19. Our Chapter recently heard from Janet Tyler, True Depth’s president on what burnout is, prevention tips and her personal story. Her vulnerability and candor about her personal burnout journey was truly touching and impactful.

She kicked off the event by differentiating stress and burnout. Here are her definitions and the respective symptoms of each:

  • Stress – feeling temporary pressure due to adverse situation and demanding challenges.
    • Over-engagement
    • Emotions are over-reactive
    • Loss of energy
    • Leads to anxiety disorders
    • Primary damage is physical
  • Burnout – after long periods of sustained stress, challenges begin to feel insurmountable.
    • Disengagement
    • Emotions are blunted
    • Loss of ideas, motivation and hope
    • Primary damage is emotional

Janet also talked about some of the key prevention tips to avoid burnout:

  • Stop excessive collaboration
  • Reduce unnecessary meetings
  • Set clear expectations for your team (and yourself)
  • Stop the urge to overload your high-potential, star employees
  • Discuss the risks of burnout openly
  • Hire a qualified executive coach if needed

I also loved her top ten tips for recovering from burnout, although she noted it can take up to two years to fully recover:

  1. Track how you spend your time for a week OR think back to your last 25 meetings with colleagues/clients. These exercises give you a basis for deciding where to make changes that will have the greatest impact. (Maybe you’re more of a morning person than you thought?!)
  2. Do the work. Get back in touch with your daily tasks and passions.
  3. Face your fears. Consider “What would that look like?” prompts to further understand scenarios that scare you like a possible job change.
  4. Strengthen your identity (outside of work). Think about your hobbies, family, travel, etc. It’s important to have these foundations.
  5. Feed the soul. Do what makes you happy: reading, listening to music or podcasts, fishing, sports, etc.
  6. Service before self. Volunteer and put your heart into a cause you care about.
  7. Prioritize sleep (enough said!).
  8. Appoint a burnout buddy. Get an ally that will listen and hold you accountable (and vice versa) if they sense you’re getting overly stressed and on the path to burnout. (Check out the pictured buddy contract for more inspiration!)
  9. Take a vacation. A full week or more can bring down your cortisol levels and help you destress.
  10. Diet and exercise. We all know this, but it’s so important to prioritize health.

Bottom line, we’re predisposed to burnout in our profession so it’s important to recognize the signs and take care of ourselves! It’s also our responsibility to normalize burnout and check in with our organizational teams to prevent others from burning out.

Many thanks to Janet Tyler for her insights; keep an eye on our Chapter’s event calendar for additional topics.


Thank you to those that could join us for this outstanding event! If you missed it, please be sure to watch it:

Megan Bonelli (formerly Peterson) is an Account Supervisor at Franco and a Detroit PRSA board member/blog committee chair.

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