Burnout…isn’t the same as stressed-out or depressed

Burnout…isn’t the same as stressed-out or depressed

No more understandable time than these days to feel burned-out, stressed-out, or depressed. I mean, are you kidding me? But it’s really important to understand they aren’t synonymous. And it’s even more important to know the difference. Let’s see what we can learn…

Here’s the best way to understand the difference between stress and burnout: Stress is an issue of too much, whereas burnout is about not enough.

It happens. Heading out of town for a few days, so don’t have time to create a worthy post. Instead of bailing, I hit the Chipur archives and found a relevant post from nine years ago to tidy-up and bring your way.

I think you’ll find the piece really helpful. It’s a longie, so let’s get right into it…

What is burnout?

Fact is, many of us push ourselves to the max, living in the midst of staggering stress. I suppose one may get used to it and somehow continue to drag themselves through life.

But when feelings of helplessness, the “constant-struggle’s,” the “why-bother’s,” a nasty attitude, and physical/emotional/mental exhaustion begin to present, it’s time to step-back and gain some perspective. At this point if the burnout-inferno hasn’t already arrived, it’s imminent.

And you know what? The manifestations of burnout will seep into every nook and cranny of your life. I’ll tell you what, it’s not over-dramatizing to say a killer may be on the loose.

You’re burned-out, not stressed-out or depressed

Unfortunately, burnout is often misunderstood and mislabeled: “I’m just stressed-out.” “It’s only a bit of depression.” When those words are spoken in the face of burnout signs and symptoms it’s obvious it’s been missed and dismissed.

Here’s the best way to understand the difference between stress and burnout: Stress is an issue of too much, whereas burnout is about not enough.

Millions of people take-on tons of stress. And many will manage well because they can envision things calming-down as they get their ducks in a row. But burnout is about feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, and inadequacy. And it’s tough to move forward under their spell.

Here’s another stress/burnout distinguishing factor. You typically know when you’re in the midst of a ton of stress. Burnout, however, often flies under the radar. I mean, you know something’s wrong, but what? And that’s what makes burnout so dangerous.

Oh, about depression. Absolutely, the manifestations of burnout resemble symptoms of a major depressive episode. But burnout is a unique pathology calling for its own treatment protocol.

I will say, though, that someone who’s been diagnosed with major depressive disorder may be more susceptible to burnout.

What does burnout look like?

why am i depressed

“Dang, why all these aches and pains all of the sudden?”

I don’t know of a better way to identify and understand a troubling phenomenon than to detail, in this case, its signs and symptoms.

So let’s do just that with burnout. I know you’ll find it helpful. But you may also find it a little confusing because there really is some manifestation overlap with being stressed-out and depressed.

Still, here are the most common signs and symptoms of burnout. Without perhaps creating a problem that may not exist (we can be good at that), see if anything hits home…

  • Acute boredom, lack of motivation, procrastination
  • Low self-regard and buckets of self-doubt
  • Chronic fatigue, aches, and pains
  • Frequent physical illnesses
  • Most any task feels as though it’s a waste of time and energy
  • Deeply feeling, “Same crap, different day.”
  • Changes in appetite and/or sleep
  • Isolation and withdrawal
  • Food and substance abuse
  • Misplaced anger
  • Missing work, school, appointments, social engagements, etc.

I’ll add that scientists have observed altered physiology and anatomy associated with burnout. Activity in the brain’s frontal lobe changes, as does cortisol regulation. And the cortisol piece is huge. As you likely know, the effects of fluctuating cortisol levels are far-reaching in terms of physical health.

How to manage burnout

Managing burnout involves two pieces. Prevention is always the first order of business. However, if the inferno has hit, you need to be able to extinguish the flames. Let’s chat both…


  • Gain insight into your potential for burnout based upon your personality traits, personal history, and family history. In short, get to know you.
  • Implement lifestyle changes. Incorporate me-time into your day (especially when you arise): meditate, journal, get into some art, stretch, or read something inspiring/motivating. Tidy-up your diet, exercise, get sufficient sleep, play.
  • Set boundaries. Learn how to say “no” to others – and yourself. You have to know when enough’s enough, and how to effectively express it.
  • Take regular and sufficient tech breaks – computer, TV, phone, text, email, you name it.
  • Get involved with projects/hobbies that bring you joy.
  • Do everything you can to minimize and manage stress.

In the Midst

  • Again, bone-up on how burnout presents in you. How can you expect to do anything about it if you don’t know it’s front and center?
  • Implement a prepared plan of slow-down. Not necessarily stoppage, just reducing the intensity and scope of your activity.
  • Prepare a list of life priorities. Referencing your list, what’s truly important in the immediate? What isn’t?
  • Secure help and support. You don’t have to endure your burnout leanings alone. Furthermore, you’re only throwing fuel on the fire if you try to.
  • Look in a mirror and tell yourself you have what it takes to get through the inferno, and to keep it from burning once more. Remember, burnout is an issue of “not enough.”
  • Love yourself (for a change?). You’re more than worthy.

Chill, and keep moving forward

Burnout needs to be frontpage news during these, shall we say, tense times. Never forget, it’s such a powerful phenomenon, and capable of wreaking havoc. And the scary thing is, it so often flies under the radar. That can only mean trouble.

But not for you, because now you know what it is – and what to do about it.


Hey, my eBook will provide some easy and meaningful reading to help you cope with burnout. Feelings & Rhymes Through Treacherous Times

And let’s not forget about hundreds of Chipur articles.

The Pandemic: Fighting & Winning the Emotional & Mental Battle

The Pandemic: Fighting & Winning the Emotional & Mental Battle

Those pandemic punches are cutting and bruising – physically, financially, emotionally and mentally. They’re all vulnerable spots that can leave us open to a knockout. But for my money, it’s all about the emotional/mental. So let’s get on to fighting – and winning…

You can pretty much avoid the virus if you adhere to social and hygiene protocols. But guess what? There are no ‘pretty much avoids’ when it comes to the emotional and mental punches.

This is the eleventh week in a row that I’ve written about something having to do with COVID-19. Actually, I was all set to go with a social anxiety disorder piece, but the pandemic fight angle hit me hard and I couldn’t let it go…

Don’t know about you, but it’s my belief there’s still a lot of insecurity and fear floating around. And I think that’s especially so in the mood and anxiety disorder neck of the woods.


Now, I’m not bringing you a rigid “X” number of ways to fight and win your particular emotional and mental pandemic battle bit. Nah, that could come off kind of dry and shallow.

Really, all I want to do is chat with you about what you may be experiencing and offer you some encouragement. And I’d like you to have something to identify with so you don’t feel weird and alone. I even tossed-in one of the poems from my eBook, Feelings & Rhymes Through Treacherous Times.

Works for you?

The Emotional & Mental Battle

I understand how important it is to emphasize the physical punches COVID-19 can deliver. No doubt about it, they can be lethal. And I understand how potentially dangerous the financial jabs are.

But what I don’t understand is why the emotional and mental battle doesn’t seem to deserve consistent headlines. If you ask me, it’s the most significant encounter of all. And it can be just as deadly as the physical threat.

I mean, look at it this way. You can pretty much avoid the virus if you adhere to social and hygiene protocols. But guess what? There are no “pretty much avoids” when it comes to the emotional and mental punches. And, of course, the very things we’re supposed to do to dodge the physical hits make the emotional and mental battle so much tougher.

How Are You Holding-Up?

i hate social distancing

“I’m not too sure about this, Bill.”

Now for the most important question of all. How are you holding-up emotionally and mentally through all this? Are you hanging in there? Maybe it’s a matter of the occasional rough episode. Perhaps you’re struggling way more often than not.

No doubt about it, this is hard.

By the way, when you’re in the midst of a rough go, have you developed some effective coping techniques you can pull out of your back-pocket? And do you truly understand that what we’re dealing with isn’t a permanent arrangement?

How ’bout this? Do you realize the story you get from the media – any of them – isn’t necessarily calmly-considered and factual? Never forget, the mission of the media is to attract readers, viewers, and listeners. Okay?

Just thought I’d toss-in a few questions (and an observation).

“I’ll Try Again”

You know, I’ve talked about fighting and winning the emotional and mental battle. Now that I think about it, I’m going to change that up a bit. “Winning” may not be the right goal. I mean, it comes off as an either/or proposition. Yes, either you win or you lose. And if you can’t perceptually win, you must be a loser when it comes to coping with the pandemic.

That just isn’t right. Would you agree?

So how ’bout we go with fighting and doing your best? Yeah, I’m more comfortable with that.

Okay, to wrap things up I’m sharing a poem I wrote many moons ago – amid my own jams. It’s my hope it’ll bring you inspiration and perspective. Lord knows I’ve turned to it many times over the years.

I’ll Try Again

Whenever life is
Hurt and pain
Vision’s blurred by
Bitter rain

It seems
All hope is surely gone
I tell myself
I must go on

At times I feel such
Deep despair
The burden more than I can bear

I can’t see past another day
But still I must prepare the way

In times of
Doubt and fainting heart
When from this world I’d choose to part

I know not what the answers are
I must believe they’re not too far

Whenever life has got me beat
Before I take the
Grand defeat
I’ll rise once more
Amid the rain
And swear to all

I’ll try again

You’ll make it through this, okay? So don’t you ever give-up.

As I said, that poem is one of many in my eBook. Please consider purchasing Feelings & Rhymes Through Treacherous Times.

Looking for more reading material? How ’bout hundreds of Chipur mood and anxiety disorder-related articles?

Me, Myself, and I: How to Become Darned Good Company

Me, Myself, and I: How to Become Darned Good Company

So many coronies flyin’ around – so much distance, isolation, and idle time. Ticktock, ticktock. Being alone may have already been troublesome for you. But now this? What are you going to do with yourself?

Yep, perhaps you just don’t like yourself, or selected portions. And now that you’re alone, and diversion-limited, you find yourself smack-dab in the middle of your worst nightmare. You!

Would you roll your eyes and shout “Duh!” if I suggested these are terribly difficult times? Go ahead and get it out of your system. I deserve it.

One of the things that makes the pandemic response so difficult to take is the “it’s just me” factor. And I think those enduring mood and anxiety disorders are especially sensitive to it. By the way, don’t think you have to live alone to fall prey.

To make clear exactly where we’re going here, I’ll pose two questions…

  1. Do you struggle with being alone?
  2. Do you consider yourself good company?

Let those sink-in for a minute or two, because we’re going to address both. And, of course, one has much to do with the other.

All set?

Do You Struggle with Being Alone?

Even before the pandemic hit, I suspect you knew how you felt about being alone. So, then, do you struggle with it? If so, what’s it about?

I mean, it could be rooted in abandonment or rejection trauma. Or maybe there’s a deep-seated fear that you can’t cope, or care for yourself, when alone. You may think you’ll fragment to some degree and all will come crashing-down in and around you. But you’re probably fully aware it’s never happened – and never will. Dang, those cognitive distortions.

Another angle may be you just don’t know what to do with yourself. It’s possible, I suppose, that you’re easily bored. And being holed-up in the house, you’ve run out of mind-engaging material.

But maybe what’s really going-on is you don’t think you’re especially good company. Certainly that can feed into the boredom issue, but I’ll bet it runs deeper than that.

Yep, perhaps you just don’t like yourself, or selected portions. And now that you’re alone, and diversion-limited, you find yourself smack-dab in the middle of your worst nightmare. You!

Heck, what it must feel like to be locked-down with the very person you can’t stand the most. That would sure make for some unpleasant company.

Do You Consider Yourself Good Company?

how to like yourselfLet’s work a little bit with the can of worms we just opened. In doing so, I’m going to assume that, in fact, you don’t consider yourself good company. Play along here, although you may not have to act.

Would you agree with the following? If one doesn’t consider themselves to be good company, it’s either because they never learned how to do “it’s just me” or they simply don’t like themselves. 

What else could it be? But the bigger question is, what can we do about it?

How to Become Darned Good Company

The good news is this “it’s just me” and not-so-hot company business can be remedied.

I’ve said this numerous times here on Chipur since the pandemic restrictions began rocking our worlds. There is no better time than now – in the midst of the most trying circumstances – to inquire and learn about ourselves, and devise and implement change and growth strategies.

It’s opportunity time.

As it applies here, the first thing I want you to do is decide if your dilemma is caused by not knowing how to do “it’s just me” or you simply don’t like yourself. If you believe it’s both, choose the one that’s primary for your work.

Now, what you just did is tremendously important. Gaining insight into the foundation of an emotional or mental situation goes a long way toward its resolution.

So let’s say you chose not knowing how to do “it’s just me.” What better time than now to come up with remedies? Jot down notes on the things that make you so uncomfortable when you’re alone. Think about how you acquired each. If you successfully dealt with one or more in the past, how did you do it? Now choose a couple and get to work on the untangling.

But what if you chose not liking yourself? Seriously, it doesn’t take Sigmund Freud to get yourself through this. Start with a list of the things that supposedly make you so bad, and such lousy company. Again, make notes on how you acquired each. And deeply consider if they’re valid, beyond any agenda you may have. Yes, we do that. Then it’s time to go to work on untying the knots.

Hey, I know some of the conflicts you may be dealing with are complicated. And they may require deeper interventions than what I detailed. Still, you can get started right-away, and you may just be surprised by the results.

Try it.

Let’s Get After It

You know, we can sit here and discuss the dilemma ’til the cows come home. But that isn’t going to make us feel any better.

Here’s the deal: we’re stuck with this pandemic craziness for a while. And that means we’re going to have to cope with varying degrees of distance, isolation, and idle time. No doubt, things we find troublesome.

Guess what? We’re going to have to come to grips with ourselves.

Look, whether it’s because we don’t do “it’s just me” well or don’t like ourselves, we need to find ways to make me, myself, and I darned good company. And if we pull it off, that means we’ve taken something lastingly positive from these immediately terrible times.

And I say that makes it worth it.

By the way, are you looking for some enjoyable and meaningful reading to curl-up with? Consider my eBook, Feelings & Rhymes Through Treacherous Times.

Of course, you can always occupy your mind with hundreds of Chipur mood and anxiety disorder-related articles.

6 Reasons Change Can Be Really Hard

6 Reasons Change Can Be Really Hard

Change is upon us, with more to come. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Still – good, bad, in-between – mood and anxiety disorder sufferers often struggle with change. Yep, change can be really hard. Why is that?

I think one of the biggest reasons change can be really hard is the fact that it requires leaving our comfort zone…

Bob Dylan sang about it in “The Times They Are a-Changin’.” So did David Bowie in “Changes.” He even parenthetically added, “Turn and face the strange.”

Change is a dynamic as old as the universe. Actually, it’s at the very foundation of existence. Fact is, if human beings and our environment didn’t change, we wouldn’t be having this discussion.

But as natural and necessary as change is, many mood and anxiety disorder folk can’t stand it – even to the extreme of egging-on threats to their well-being.

We need to talk about it…

Change & Neurobiology

How ’bout a little background? Change – just like thoughts, feelings, and behavior – is all about neurobiology.

We’re not going to get into a complicated bit, but the ability to change seems to me to involve executive functioning. Yes, a cognitive process that allows us to facilitate the attainment of our chosen goals.

Thing is, change could be about assorted combinations of several executive functions, including attentional control, inhibitory control, working memory, and cognitive flexibility.

And all of the action is thought to take place in the brain’s prefrontal cortex, orbitofrontal cortex, anterior cingulate cortex, and likely other locations.

6 Reasons Change Can Be Really Hard

stressed by coronavirusOkay, now that we have some background information in our back pockets, let’s get down to the task at hand.

Oh, and keep in mind we’re discussing this within the context of what many mood or anxiety disorder sufferers may experience.

So, then, why does change have to be really hard? Out of many possibilities, here are six biggies…

  1. Neurobiological Disorders: Given the background info we just discussed, we have to consider the impact of neurobiological situations that influence executive functioning. That would include cognitive disorders, such as the dementias. And we have to toss-in disorders that we may well be dealing with: OCD, anxiety, depression, bipolarity, ADHD, etc.
  2. Comfort: I think one of the biggest reasons change can be really hard is the fact that it requires leaving our comfort zone – even if that comfort zone isn’t really all that comfy. Just thinking about doing that can evoke bone-chilling fear for a mood or anxiety disorder sufferer. As I said earlier, change can be avoided to the extreme of generating threats to our well-being.
  3. Habits & Patterns: We’re creatures of habit and patterns. From an evolutionary – survival – perspective it makes all the sense in the world. I mean, what better way to avoid that saber-toothed tiger than to always take the same path well-away from its cave. But from a change point-of-view, habits and patterns can make life very difficult.
  4. Lack of Information: Change is difficult to pull-off if we don’t have sufficient factual information. In other words, “Since I apparently have no reason to, why should I change?”
  5. Denial: Okay, so we may have all the factual information in the world, and understand it well. But why would we change if for whatever reason we deny the facts – the circumstances?
  6. Laziness: Ah, nothing like a good old-fashioned case of the “I don’t feel like its.” I suppose we could throw-in non-pathological procrastination here. What can I say? It unfortunately happens.

It’s Time for Change

For reasons obvious to everyone, change is definitely upon us. And, yes, there’s more to come. But even if the elephant in the room didn’t exist, change is an essential – necessary – part of life.

Change is something to anticipate and freely roll with – and perhaps enjoy.

As we always say here, a problem can’t be solved if we don’t know its nature – or that we’re smack-dab in the middle of it. And now that we’ve come to understand why change can be so hard, we can work toward solutions.

So let’s go.

Important! As you’re tossing around the notion of change, be sure to read Chipur article 10 Things to Think About When CHANGE Is Knocking at the Door.

Are you looking for a secure place to hang your hat and chat? Consider joining the private Chipur Facebook group.

Maybe you want to catch up on some reading during at-home time. Chipur would like to help.

12 Ridiculously Silly Things to Do If You’re Going Nuts at Home

12 Ridiculously Silly Things to Do If You’re Going Nuts at Home

Come on, you have to be feeling it. Being stuck at home, especially by order, can be cruel and unusual punishment. Try as we may to keep ourselves busy with work, creative projects – whatever – limits get reached. So here are 12 ridiculously silly things we can turn to 24/7…

Fact! We’re in a jam, and we aren’t getting out of it tomorrow. So it’s time to turn to fresh self-entertainment material.

A pandemic: are you kidding me? And as messed-up as that is, the “fix” ain’t much to write home about either.

Hey, there’s no doubt in my mind that social distancing and staying at home are the right things to do – for now. But like the Statler Brothers sang, “Playing solitaire ’til dawn with a deck of 51.” gets real old – real fast.

Has to be something we can do about it, right? Well, I just happen to have some things in my back-pocket I’m willing to share…

12 Ridiculously Silly Things to Do If You’re Going Nuts at Home

i'm going crazy at homeCouple of thoughts going-in. Fact! We’re in a jam, and we aren’t getting out of it tomorrow. So it’s time to turn to fresh self-entertainment material.

Secondly, I’ve learned over the years that humor is often the very best medicine for what ails us. Would you agree?

So with that in mind, let’s take a look at some (ridiculously silly) things to do when we’re going nuts at home…

  1. Flip channels between Fox News, CNN, MSNBC, and your local news to see which one has the scariest COVID-19 stories and news-tickers.
  2. Write down your seven most disturbing pandemic catastrophic thoughts on separate pieces of paper. Fold each several times and put them on your dresser. Choose one a day for a week so you won’t have any doubt about which one to unnecessarily obsess over. Mix ’em up and do it again the following weeks.
  3. Spell-out coronavirus, COVID, and pandemic backwards and come up with creative pronunciations. Shoot, put them all together.
  4. Rearrange your main living area furniture in the most awful way. Live with it for a day and bask in the knowledge of how good you once had it. (Changing it back will give you even more to do.)
  5. Since you can’t get a haircut anyway, shear-off the hair on one side of your head and see if you lean to the opposite side.
  6. Count the number of items in your pantry. Then count the number of items in your refrigerator. Now divide the former by the latter. Spend the rest of the day trying to figure-out if there’s any meaning in the quotient.
  7. Study the pile of the last bath towel you used (preferably still damp). What does that tell you about how you dry yourself?
  8. Keep a running list of the thermometer and health products junk emails you receive. Alphabetize by sender.
  9. Practice new positions in which to take your temperature (you know you’re doing it multiple times a day). Just remember the type of thermometer you’re using.
  10. Create a spreadsheet tracking each time you check your temperature, analyze a cough, and evaluate if you have enough breath to walk to another room (you know you’re doing that multiple times a day too). Rate each occurrence 1-10, if you’d like. 10 being “Help!”
  11. Next time you bring groceries home, don’t clean each item. No, put as many as you can in the dishwasher and give it a go. You’ve always wanted to try it, right?
  12. Find the silliest thing you can to make a mask. Um, a diaper, half a bra, an athletic supporter?

Totally out of my mind and waaay too much time on my hands? What can I say? Straight off the top, people.

Well, you know the drill. If you’d like to add more you can do just that in a comment.

That’s a Wrap

I’m not messing-around. These are extraordinary times and we need to get creative with how we cope. Finding new things to do and turning to humor are must-do’s. I mean, do you have any better ideas?

As always, we’re in this together. So let’s get after it and put this mess behind us.

Tough times call for connection. Head on over to the private Chipur Facebook group and join us.

What better time to read tons of Chipur articles. Peruse those tons of titles.