Everyday Toxic Behaviors That Burn You Out

In a culture of “go go go,” more and more people are feeling burnt out. It is easy to blame it on work and life, but are those the only reasons? Our own toxic behaviors might be playing a part. However, these can be changed if you know where to begin.

While rest and vacation can help, it is only temporary. If you go back to your normal ways, you will just fuel burnout all over again. You have the most control over yourself. By ditching these toxic mindsets, you can be sure that your flame does not burn out.


What Is Burnout?

Burnout is physical or mental collapse due to a high-stress lifestyle.

In the 1970s, American psychologist Herbert Freudenberger created the term “burnout.” It is a result of a high-stress lifestyle, causing both physical and mental symptoms. However, experts have a hard time agreeing on a definition. Is it a normal reaction to stress, or is it an illness? Is it a mental health problem?


Regardless, burnout has three main symptoms: exhaustion, alienation from work activities, and poor performance. It can cause physical problems like stomach troubles. Feeling listless, grumpy, and “out of it” is also likely.

Who Is At Risk?

People in any profession who are overworked can face a burnout


When Freudenberger pegged the term, it was used for “helping” professionals like doctors and nurses. These days, anyone can feel burned out, from overworked employees to celebrities and stay-at-home moms.

Technology does not help, either. We are connected at all times, making it hard to detach from work. You can literally answer e-mails from anywhere. In fact, e-mail overload has a high risk of burnout and stress, according to a 2014 study.1


Five Behaviors That Fuel Burnout

1. Rumination

Rumination fuels burnout by obsessing over things that can't be changed.

There is nothing wrong with thinking about a situation. But when you obsess over what cannot be changed, it spells trouble. For example, a 2015 study found that rumination is a predictor of stress and burnout in teachers. This made their jobs so much harder! Reflection, however, had the opposite effect.2


What is the difference? Ruminators stress about things that can not be changed. On the other hand, reflectors look for chances to grow and learn.

2. Misguided Motivation

Misguided motivation fuels burnout by affecting productivity in the workplace


Motivation does not appear overnight. But if you do not take the time to find purpose and inspiration, it will work against you. A 2013 study found that high intrinsic motivation reduces the risk for burnout. This includes hopes for finding a job or meeting a goal.3 Meanwhile, less motivation decreases fulfillment because there is nothing to reach for.4

The solution? Pay attention to what truly inspires you – and do not ignore it. Doing things that bring unhappiness is a recipe for burnout.


3. Self-Obsession

Self-obsession fuels burnout by creating a false sense of self-consciousness

It is healthy to love yourself. Yet, putting one’s self on a pedestal will surely cause burnout. This is basically narcissism, an excessive admiration of one’s self.5 It creates a sense of entitlement that does not mesh well with work. Plus, you are placing a lot of pressure on yourself.

Replace self-obsession with self-compassion. Be nice to yourself when times are hard, and remember that you are only human. Showing kindness to yourself keeps burnout at bay.6

4. Pessimism

Pessimism fuels burnout by masking your ability to find good in things you can't control.

A negative outlook is a fool-proof way to feel burned out. Pessimism will make absolutely everything seem miserable! Perception is powerful. According to a 2017 study in American Journal of Epidemiology, pessimism brings on stress and depression. It is even linked to higher rates of death caused by heart disease, cancer, and infection.7

It is easier said than done, but being optimistic is the key to happiness. Find good in things you cannot control. Remember, that your outlook is the only thing you can change. Why not keep a gratitude journal? Every day, write down positive things that happened. It will help you stay positive even in times of stress.

5. Social Pessimism

Social pessimism fuels burnout by paving the way for seclusion and lesser support from co-workers

If you refuse to engage with co-workers, the job will feel more stressful. It paves the way for seclusion and feeling like you do not have support. But if you form relationships with co-workers, you will feel more relaxed and rewarded. Your overall well-being will also thrive.8 You don’t have to become everyone’s BFF. Instead, attend work functions and just have an open mind.

Taking care of your physical self will also prevent burnout. Exercise, get enough sleep, and eat well. Self-care should always be your priority.