The 5 Major Causes of Burnout And How to Fix it Fast
Why This Will Change Your Life When You Implement It
Recognizing the signs and causes of burnout can help you identify where you are and provide comfort that there’s a term for what you’re going through. But only by taking action can you reverse burnout and overwhelm and change the trajectory of your life.
The truth is, nobody but you can take a stand and change the way you feel about your life. Nobody else can force you to take the steps out of the fog, pain, and stress. Somebody else can’t fix it for you. Somebody else can’t feel it for you.
After reading this, and when you take the necessary action to correct course and start healing and rebuilding your life from the inside out, you will discover an inner well of inspiration, intelligence, and motivation that will serve you for the rest of your life.
It turns out that being the only one who can save yourself is actually a great thing! Because it is through this firewalking process that you will forge your inner strength in ways you never had before and grow more purposeful and happier than you have been before, too.
In this article, I’ll share the top 5 causes of burnout I see in my clients and experienced for myself back in 2013.
And I’ll share the tried-and-true methods that address and treat burnout at its source so that you can use them to start feeling better now.
Burnout is exhausting, overwhelming and scary – but armed with a proper course out, you can overcome these obstacles and train yourself into more resilience, self-confidence, and self-respect than you’ve ever had before.
Why Listen to Me?
My name is Blaze Schwaller, and I’m a life coach, host of the Full Spectrum Feeling podcast, and an entrepreneur who has created three businesses over the last two decades.
But more importantly, I’m a survivor of burnout myself, and have come through the other side happier, more secure in who I am, and clear on what I want.
I now live a life I love that consistently delivers me joy, connection, and purpose. Seven years ago, I wouldn’t have believed I could have this life, but I am here – and if I could do it, I know that you can create and step into a life that’s better than you can imagine yet, too.
The reason you are going to love this is that I’m comfortable diving into the emotional side of burnout, practical in my suggestions, and devoted to helping pull as many people to the other side of exhaustion, burnout, and overwhelm as possible.
I know what it feels like to be standing in the quicksand, and I personally have experienced the consequences of not taking action soon enough. Since then, I’ve spent the last 7 years researching the science and psychology of burnout, gathering tools, and testing them out so that today I am proud to offer one of the fastest, most effective, and easy to understand burnout solutions you can choose.
I have created my own personal methodology to help burnt-out professionals confidently and effectively prioritize themselves called “The Burnout Cure” coaching program, which enables you to become burnout-free without guilt or regression.
This is my story, and if you are in burnout or on the verge of it, you may recognize the patterns that emerged in my life and career years ago as you read it.
When I was 25, I began my tattoo career, and by the time I was 28 I had opened my own tattoo studio and art gallery. I was in love with tattooing, painting, and telling people’s stories on their skin.
As my business grew from a solo operation to a ten-person studio open 7 days per week, I enjoyed the expanded possibilities in my space and work. I was thrilled to invite artists from around the world to showcase their paintings in my gallery, coordinate and host a weeklong workshop for 40 students with a Hollywood sculptor at my studio, and host fundraisers for charities I loved, like the Wolf Conservation Center of NY. But even as I gained all the outer trappings of success, I felt incredible pressure to keep up and was buckling under the unsustainable pace I had set.
At 34, I had become resentful of the work that was bringing all my “success.” My body was breaking, and I spent hours and hundreds of dollars every week treating pain in my shoulder, back, arms and wrists. My mind wouldn’t slow down. I couldn’t sleep. I began to desperately hunt for solutions to my problem of why I wasn’t happy when I thought I should be. After all, I had built my own business, was making money from my art, employed several people, and had made a respectable name for myself in the tattoo industry in only a few short years. I was married while watching friends marry, divorce and marry again. I lived in a nice home. What else could I possibly want?
So, I tried therapy, acupuncture, massage, fitness training, and different diets. I tried meditation, read books on self-help & relationships & business, and took business courses to show me how to manage work more efficiently and better. I tried adjusting my schedule then readjusting it. I tried taking breaks and not taking breaks. Nothing seemed to help. I always felt on edge, frustrated, and not-enough.
It all came to a head in 2014.
I had become so overwhelmed and depressed that I sold my business to the manager of my studio. But even that didn’t solve my problem because I felt I had to keep showing up and working even harder to ensure that he “got a good deal.” I contracted myself to the studio and tattooed harder and longer than I had before, then wrote off my hands’ agony as just something I had to deal with that would get better over the weekend. I was in complete denial.
On fourth of July weekend, I took the first 4-day vacation I had had in a year to visit a friend in Boston. We went to her gym for a Zumba class and to use the hot tub and pool there. During the class, my arms began shooting pain from the tips of my fingers up to my shoulders, which had never happened before. I ignored it.
When I got into the hot tub, I felt too hot and out of breath. I headed into the shower to cool down. As the cold water hit my skin my fingers tingled and then went numb. Not just on my right hand but also on my left. The tingling crept up to my wrists, then up to my elbows. I could barely breathe. I knew I was in trouble and felt scared.
I pushed open the stall to my shower and called, “I need help,” as I tried to pull a towel around me. I stumbled into the middle of a crowded locker room and watched in horror as my hands balled into fisted claws, the towel slipped out of my grasp, and I fell to the floor.
Afterwards, in an unfamiliar hospital in an unfamiliar city, I was told I had an incredible amount of stress, I needed to sleep more, and the tendons in my fingers on both hands had been almost torn completely and I needed to not use them for at least 9 months if I wanted to heal properly. It was the prognosis every artist fears most. My career was officially over, and not on my terms.
I had to call clients with half-finished back pieces and sleeves to tell them that I couldn’t come back. I was mortified. I waited for someone to tell me what to do now, but nobody did. I waited for my coworkers to check in on me, for my manager-turned-boss to visit me, or for my best clients to beg me to return. But nobody did. It was living my worst nightmare in real life.
So, from my burnt-out shell of a body, reeling mind, and numbed out emotions, I had to put together some semblance of a life.
I had to heal. Otherwise, my life had peaked at 35, and it struck me as pretty pathetic to have then passed out naked in a locker room to cap it off.
That couldn’t be the end of my story. I had to find purpose again. So, bit by bit, heartbreaking moment after heartbreaking moment, I did.
The truth is, what happened to me didn’t just happen to me. I had set myself up for a fall and by denying my own part in the story, I took my power away to correct it. I just didn’t know that then.
Since overcoming my low self-esteem and learning how to be present for all my emotions, cues, and insights, I see again and again that when we let our circumstances dictate our thoughts and feelings, we limit our ability to act. The number one most needed skill you can learn to overcome burnout is how to create your own agency, believe in it, and make using it your number one habit in life.
If you’re here, you’re in the right place. Overcoming burnout is a skill, and you can learn it. It is simple, although it might not be easy.
The first step is identifying which of the 5 habits that lead to burnout you have so you can meet them head-on and begin to resolve it. I’ve got your back. Let’s go.
CAUSE NO 1
You prioritize taking care of others more often than you prioritize yourself.
When you keep saying yes to everyone but yourself you quickly end up with no time for rest or for the things that matter to you. Not having any time or energy left for yourself can lead to frustration, anger, depression, anxiety, apathy, or feeling helpless.
If you’ve been prioritizing everyone but yourself for long enough, you can even feel guilty when you do something for yourself and worry that others expect you to always be doing something for them.
The guilt and pressure to justify your actions makes activities you used to love feel flat and unsatisfying, creating even more exhaustion, overwhelm and disappointment.
The worst part is that constantly denying yourself your own time, respect, and care can eventually result in physical distress like chronic pain, fatigue, brain fog, and other physical discomforts.
The good news is that taking time for yourself when done the right way can result in rapid and surprising turnarounds for some of these symptoms, which can inspire you to take more actions on your own behalf and break the burnout cycle.
For example, a client once told me she was suffering from an aching pain in her belly every morning. She had experienced this for so long that she wondered if that was just how it was going to be for her for the rest of her life. She resigned to bearing the pain because there was no apparent physical cause for it, and everything she had tried so far didn’t work.
But after we took time to explore the buried emotions and free up the trapped energy she associated with this heavy sensation, she felt relief immediately. Weeks later she told me that this particular pain that had haunted her for a year was simply gone and didn’t come back.
This is a great example of how taking time and dedicating energy completely to yourself to heal what you’re feeling is a powerful catalyst for shifting burnout into inspiration and even relieving outward symptoms of fatigue, pain and stress.
The shift can be practically instantaneous, and once you’ve managed it, the rewards of the shift continue to build.
And so, you absolutely must address the people-pleasing tendencies in your life so that you can put it to rest effectively without burning bridges in your relationships. Then, you can learn to gift yourself the appreciation and attention you deserve without guilt.
CAUSE NO 2
You aren’t taking time for proper self-care, or when you do, you don’t enjoy it.
I can’t tell you how many people I work with struggle with genuinely enjoying moments they take for themselves. They schedule vacations, buy new outfits, enroll in yoga classes or meditation retreats, and get massages believing that these actions will pamper them and make them feel better. But when they have new clothes, take the class, or go on vacation they find that they still feel on edge and can’t relax at all.
They fear they’re going crazy because these were the remedies they thought are supposed to work.
The truth is, buying something nice for yourself if you don’t feel you deeply deserve something nice can make you feel worse once the excitement of acquiring it has worn off.
And removing yourself from your usual life for a week can feel amazing but it doesn’t eliminate the source of your stress while you’re gone. Unfortunately, taking a vacation can feel even more overwhelming for you because you dread returning to “life as normal” and being faced with the same old grind when you get back. It adds terror to the mix, which only fuels the fire.
Creating an effective self-care routine or rescue plan requires that you get honest with yourself about how you really feel right now.
It requires developing the strength and coping skills to handle pain that has frequently become unconscious and internalized in burnt-out, overwhelmed people.
Because until you get honest with yourself about the blocks you have to letting in joy and comfort today, you’ll keep finding that no matter what you do, your feeling is still the same.
When you address the blocks in the way of allowing you to relax, you find a liberation that sets you free.
One client I worked with had been carrying limiting beliefs about defining himself as a true artist despite years of earning excellent money as a professional VFX illustrator. He feared that by not creating enough personal art he couldn’t claim that title for himself, and it was soul-crushing.
When we dived into his unconscious beliefs about what defines a “real” artist and reframed the damaging and false thoughts in his old definition, he realized instantly that he was, in fact, living the life of an incredibly productive, successful, and prolific artist already.
He finally recognized that the personal art he wasn’t counting really did count. Not only that, but he could also choose to develop it as much or as little as he wanted, and it wouldn’t matter – he was still an artist either way!
Within a week of his breakthrough, he called me to share that he had located an affordable shared photography studio within a few blocks of his home, was collaborating with local artists to create events in support of the community, and had instituted a new routine of creating personal art with his wife each morning. He’d never felt so connected to his purpose and happy about his life as an artist before.
"You sensed into the blocks that I had. Both things that I had told you about, but also things that you intuited, and really rapidly helped me move through those blocks, faster than I could have imagined...
I mean, it literally was, we just did that in one session!
And that was something that I thought would take months, probably, if not years to overcome, because I had spent years building up those blocks... So that was astonishing, actually, doing that with you!"
In order to squash burnout, you have to locate the uncomfortable beliefs in the way of you enjoying life right now.
They are hidden in your feelings, so you must learn how to be with them and get their messages clearly. When you do, you’ll have all you need to break free and make choices that serve you and get you closer to your goals. Learning this skill will even let you expand your goals beyond what you initially believed you could do.
Ultimately, only you know what’s right for you. That’s why it is so important to work on the real problems and not use “band-aids” to temporarily mask and relieve your uncomfortable feelings.
This skill, once you practice it, will dramatically change your life for the better.
You’ll be able to address things as soon as they come up instead of wandering around your life with a vague sense of dread. It’s well worth the effort to learn it, so much so that I recommend and teach this to all my clients.
CAUSE NO 3
You mistake having a plan with solving your problem.
This looks like downloading 500 free programs and pdfs that tell you how to reduce stress, create a booming side hustle that’ll make you millions, adopt a meditation routine, put together a capsule wardrobe, do your makeup in under 10 minutes, etc.
They all seem like great paths to getting something you want and simplifying your life.
But then you don’t finish reading them or do anything they say because, meh. 🤷
I see you. It’s OK, I’ve been there, too.
Like me, you’ve tried a lot of the things they say to do before, and it didn’t make a difference in how you felt. And you know what they will tell you to do anyway.
The truth is, you probably already know most of the steps that will take you where you want to go. That’s not the problem!
The problem is that you haven’t had someone there to help you take those steps and show you how to do them in real life. You lack practical experience doing it, so when it’s hard to implement you get discouraged or bored and look for the next thing to try instead.
You need someone to point out when you aren’t doing the work or when you’re not doing it right. You need someone you can ask for help when you’re confused about a process, so you get clarity before you give up.
And you need practice building up a new routine and giving it long enough to take hold so it can make a difference and become a lasting habit.
"I've finished just 1 session with Blaze, and I already feel like so many blocks and walls have dissolved away.
I was very stuck with money-worry and at the same time knew it was time to rewrite all the stories I had around it.
In just one hour, Blaze helped me to arrive at practical ACTION steps to take to help me out of my day-to-day blocks and patterns.
She also helped facilitate a wonderful energetic healing which was so integral to finding the root of these patterns and helping me to acknowledge it and let it go.
I highly recommend her services! Absolutely one of the most effective fusions of energetic healing and coaching I've ever experienced!"
– Kirstyn Lazur
Here’s the reality: Knowing WHAT to do and having someone show you HOW to do it and clear up any of your confusion makes a huge difference in getting the result you want.
Experimenting by yourself may eventually result in success, but often takes years and it’s easy to get bored or discouraged and give up way before then.
Don’t mistake having a lot of information available to you with having the right information at the right time or thinking that simply having knowledge will fix things.
You must act if you want to change anything in your life, and if you don’t take action on your plan, you’ll stay right where you are.
CAUSE NO 4
You lack the right guides and support to help you out of this mess.
Your friends and family are wonderful and add a ton of value to your life. But if your best friend and family members haven’t already been to the top of Burnout Mountain and come down the other side, they can’t help you find the trail much less create an efficient one out and that’s a fact.
It’s like this: Imagine you’re standing in front of a haunted house.
The thing you want – personal freedom, the ability to relax and enjoy your life, recognition at work, a more fulfilling relationship, or the deep self-confidence you desire – is at the back exit, and to get it you must navigate and complete the entire maze inside.
This haunted house is full of the scariest things you can think up. It’s got mirrors that distort the truth and make it hard to tell what’s what, spooky monsters that pop out and tell you the worst possible things about yourself at the worst times, and signs that give conflicting directions or tell outright lies about where to go next.
Inside it alternates between blindingly bright and terrifyingly dark, and it’s loud and disorienting followed by periods of quiet that make you nervous as you anticipate the next startling surprise.
If you are brave enough to enter, at every moment you want to jump out of your skin and find the exit, but you don’t know where it is.
This is what your mind is like when you’re in the middle of burnout – and if the people you ask for help haven’t already conquered their personal haunted houses, they will just agree with you when you point out all the scary stuff.
They aren’t yet aware how much of it is made up, what is an objective fact and what’s a distortion, or where the exits are.
They can’t calmly guide you through, around, and out of your haunted house.
They have no idea how to get you to the prize, but because they love you they will cheer you on and sympathetically agree with you about how hard it is.
It’s not their fault. They want you to win. But they have no clue what to do or where to go either.
They might even be more frightened than you are of different parts of the journey.
A proper guide is able to take your hand and encourage you through the maze and avoid the traps, and even help you recognize them before they spook you out of completing the journey.
Having this kind of support system is what helped my client Julia recognize her thoughts of worthlessness and helplessness were taking up way too much of her energy and causing her to freeze or meltdown instead of standing up for herself.
While she learned new skills and was shown again and again where she was succeeding and making progress, she practiced labeling her thoughts and replacing them with ones she liked better. This empowered her to set boundaries on her time, effort, and space and recognize her own expertise in her work. Within a month she was negotiating for a better title and was offered not one but two raises!
When you get coached through your haunted house by someone who’s seen all the scary things before and who has conquered their own version of it, you can relax enough to trust the process and trust that your guide won’t be spooked when you are. You can trust that you can do it, too – that you ARE doing it. You can trust that you will get what you came for.
That’s the difference between continuing through to the gold at the end of the maze, or turning back, giving up, or having a heart attack somewhere in the middle.
To beat the haunted house, you could do it by yourself, sure. But hiring the guide would be faster and less stressful. You’d get to the end so much faster. You’d get to live your life without the fear, without the panic, without the drama in so much less time, and the journey there would feel at least a little safer and more predictable.
CAUSE NO 5
You don’t know how to feel better, so you spend a lot of energy looking for the “right” answer that could help.
This shows up as checking in with everyone around you about what they think you should do to feel better and dabbling with lots of different modalities but not getting any traction.
Being in limbo becomes your default state. There will always be another opinion, and you can drift between them whenever one is disappointing before ever changing a thing.
But the truth is that if you want to stop feeling exhausted, disappointed, and burnt-out, at some point you MUST choose a new way of being.
You’ll have to change something in your life. Deep down, you already have a sense of what it is that you want and need. But if you’re afraid of doing it, that fear is keeping you treading water that is getting over your head.
Here’s why asking your friends and family to tell you what to do keeps you stuck in this cycle:
You’re not compelled to act on what your friends or family say for very long because it doesn’t come from inside of you. Their advice isn’t enough to get you in motion. Or it’s not enough to keep you in motion.
Another reason it fails is that what makes your friend happy might not make you happy, so the same actions don’t necessarily produce the same results. I know, it’s super frustrating!
And here is a painful truth, but one you might need to hear so you can finally face the pain and move forward:
You might be more comfortable in the stage of “searching” than in the stage of implementing.
You might be scared of failing or that you can’t have what others have, so you avoid situations that could potentially shove that in your face. If that’s where you’re at, you’ll have the same conversations with your friends and family for years with nothing changing. It will take something drastic like losing a job, a health crisis, or some other tragic event to force you into action.
As someone who waited until I had a health crisis and lost my tattoo career before taking action to resolve my self-esteem and self-confidence issues, I truly have no judgment about this. I’ve been exactly there. Sometimes we’re not ready until the stakes get astronomically high.
But I hope that if you recognize yourself in any of these situations that you consider your options.
There is help in figuring this all out. It’s help that is available for you and to you.
You don’t have to wait. Waiting is a choice. But you can also choose not waiting.
You can change it all TODAY. And that’s up to you.
The solution is to face your truth, no matter how terrifying it feels to look it in the eye.
And to do that, you need to build resiliency and coping skills, have practice at recognizing what’s going on in your head and practice at continually choosing a train of thought that benefits you and leads you where you want to go.
Most especially, you need someone unattached to your situation to help point out what you’re missing in your unique blind spots. Because you can’t see what you can’t see.
Choosing to ask for help and get the support you need from someone who knows how to help is without a doubt the fastest, least expensive, least draining option you have.
Choosing someone who can see your situation with clear eyes and ask you the right questions at the right time, so you finally uncover what you truly value and want is priceless.
"Blaze is an earth angel who gives her full attention, support and love to people.
One never feels like just another client to Blaze but you truly feel supported and loved as a person.
This is a coach that has so much knowledge, insight and inspiration AND a kind open heart that makes you feel empowered and capable. Thank you Blaze 🙏🏿🍃🌻💖"
- Asanda Mahlukani
Having someone to show you how to change the way you think about yourself and what options are available to you will change your life.
It’s what’s going to give you the clarity to answer with conviction what future you want.
Then all you have to do is keep taking steps to get there.
Thank you so much for taking the time to read this guide. I know that burnout consumes more energy than it produces, and it’s not easy to find the way out on our own. I applaud you for reaching for the information you need to have your breakthrough.
Having people around you that truly care and understand is the next step to getting where you want to be – burnout-free, and reconnecting with your joy and inspiration.
If you want to continue the journey with me, come say hi!
Join my FREE Facebook group here.
Your journey is just beginning, and you don't have to go it alone. ❤️