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The long-term toll of burnout: 2 Women's Stories



In the bustling corridors of academia, two women, driven by ambition and intellectual curiosity, embarked on their doctoral journeys. They were bright, capable, and surrounded by supportive networks of family, friends, and colleagues. Their potential shone brightly, promising a future filled with professional success and personal fulfillment.

However, beneath the surface of their successful careers, a deep-seated struggle was brewing. These two women, both in their mid-30s, were unknowingly on the brink of burnout. They thought that, to succeed, there is no other way but to work hard. And so they did!


Burnout, a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by prolonged or excessive stress, had crept into their lives, gradually eroding their well-being and derailing their once-promising trajectories.


The consequences of burnout were profound and far-reaching: they found themselves struggling with everyday tasks that once seemed effortless.


More than 2 years after burnout, they felt better - and yet not fully themselves yet:

  • Building a simple IKEA furniture set became a daunting challenge, as following a series of steps overwhelmed their already taxed cognitive abilities.

  • Social interactions, once a source of joy and connection, now drained them of energy, forcing them to retreat into isolation after just an hour or two.

  • Conversations, once flowing effortlessly, now required careful note-taking and extended periods of quiet contemplation to process the information presented.

  • Making even simple decisions, once a matter of intuition, now became a source of immense anxiety, as they grappled with the weight of every choice.

The physical manifestations of burnout were equally debilitating. Chronic fatigue, headaches, and digestive issues plagued their bodies, further hindering their ability to function effectively. Their once vibrant spirits were dimmed, replaced by a pervasive sense of apathy and detachment.


Despite the debilitating effects of burnout, these two women, through sheer determination and resilience, embarked on a journey of recovery.


Their recovery process was arduous and often discouraging, marked by setbacks and periods of relapse. Over time, they started to regain their cognitive clarity, social engagement, and decision-making abilities.


Today, years after their burnout episodes, their experiences serve as a stark reminder of the insidious nature of burnout, and the devastating impact it can have on individuals, families, and society as a whole.


Here are their 2 words of wisdom to help prevent burnout:

  • "Despite the warnings of those around me, I dismissed any concerns about my burnout and kept going, believing I could power through. If someone has expressed concern about your well-being, take a moment to pause and reflect. Ask yourself if you're experiencing signs of burnout. If so, don't hesitate to take action. Believe me, you don't want to let burnout take hold."

  • "I was consumed by fear that reducing my workload would make me appear lazy. But there's a vast range between working excessively and being lazy. Fear is not your friend; it will only lead you astray. Trust that there are ways to achieve success without sacrificing your well-being. Make the effort to change before it's too late."


Remember: burnout is preventable.


By acknowledging the warning signs, prioritizing self-care, and seeking support, you can protect your mental and physical well-being, allowing you to live a good life!

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