6 Myths About The Causes Of Burnout That You Need To Stop Believing Right Now

Do you believe any of this?

woman lying in bed Getty

There are many causes of burnout, but some myths people spread about it can prevent you from dealing with it the right way. 

As a burnout survivor, it took me a long time to both admit I had burned out and shifted the blame from others back onto myself. I must take some of the blame.

Most people carry around these burnout myths and it affects the way they approach stressful situations and their mental health.


RELATED: What Does Burnout Feel Like & How To Recover

Here are 6 myths about the causes of burnout that you need to stop believing right now. 

1. Burnout happens as quickly as striking a match.

While a burnt-out match is the recognized imagery worldwide for burnout, this isn’t how it happens.

Full disclosure: I do "call" my experience with burnout "my implosion" as I look back at it and see it as something that happened instantaneously to me. But that's not what it is.

The reality is that I had been headed that way for a couple of years and didn’t even know it. I can look back now and see all the signs I was ignoring. I was headed toward classic burnout.


You will, too, once you allow yourself to look back at it with a more objective lens.

2. You only require a few days of R&R.

Ongoing constant mental stress from your work environment does not go away with a few days (or even a couple of weeks) respite from it. In fact, it often leads to chronic health conditions that require medical intervention.

So, no, a vacation or a few days of R&R isn’t the answer. Early signs of un-managed stress of this nature do include interrupted, less, or poorer quality sleep, so absolutely catching up on your z’s on a relaxing vacation will help.

Other early warning symptoms such as lack of mental clarity and focus, feeling of overwhelmed, unexplained weight gain, or hair loss are not going to go away by taking a few vacation days.


3. Only weak, emotional people burn out.

Burnout does not discriminate. It doesn't matter if you're the CEO, a server in a school cafeteria, or a top producing sales executive.

If conditions are right and a person is not taking care of themselves, they are putting themselves at risk of burnout. That top-performing sales executive you can always count on?

According to Uncrushed, a burnout survey released in October of 2019 found that 67% of those surveyed agree or strongly agree that they are close to or currently experiencing burnout.

What’s more, 60% agree or strongly agree that they would be viewed negatively for taking time off to manage burnout. This perception must change immediately, and it starts with the top. 


Leaders and business owners worldwide must flip their priorities to protect the one thing that keeps their lights on — their human capital.

RELATED: Recovering From Burnout: 3 Subtle Signs You Need To Recharge

4. Passion for what you do prevents burnout.

That genius entrepreneur who lives, eats, and breaths their passions? Prime candidate.

Those top producing sales executives? They love what they do. And they love when you recognize them and give them more responsibility, a promotion, or a raise.

Until they’ve had enough of the 60+ hour work weeks, not seeing their family, living in a hotel, not being able to see their friends, take care of their health… the list goes on.


Top performers are known for burning the candle at both ends. When they burn out, they do so spectacularly and completely. A reminder to stop giving your top performers more and more. You will burn them out!

I’ve yet to meet a top performer in my life that had healthy boundaries in place without having spent time working on their personal development (or with a coach) outside of their career to learn how to manage and balance it all.

5. Only women burn out.

Burnout is an equal opportunity destroyer. It knows no gender, age, or ethnicity. A medical abstract published in 2018 showed that burnout symptoms varied greatly according to different life stages of working men and women.

Men and women between 20-35 (millennials and younger) and 55 and over, are particularly at risk for job burnout. Why?


As for the 55 and over higher risk group, this has much more to do with the science of aging. As you age, your natural ability to handle stress decreases. You draw on various other hormones to support your body’s natural stress response hormone, cortisol. 

When those other hormones run low, your stress response system has very little or no backup and, therefore, you begin to experience all sorts of physical reactions — including chronic illnesses — in response to the constant stress.

In regards to the younger generation burning out, I cannot thank this generation enough for bringing mental health awareness to the forefront of the corporate conversation. It's about time!

These adults grew up watching their parents go through two major historical events: 9/11 and the crash of 2007-10. Many watched their parents make sacrifices to feed the family and keep the heat on.


They saw their parents lose their jobs, their homes, their pride, their everything, and many families never come back from that loss.

Millennials understood then — and got it completely right — that they will solely be responsible for taking care of themselves. They already know — at such a fragile young age — that neither their government nor the company they work for will ever have their best interest in mind.

Finally, a generation that is saying, "Hey wait, that doesn’t work for me!" They are not selfish — they are smart.

6. Burnout means the end of your career.

Burning out means the beginning of enjoying your career on corrective terms. The time has come for you to set limits and boundaries on what's OK and what's not OK for you to take on.


You work so you can have a life at home with your family. You don't work so you can be rewarded with more work.

When you do burn out, it's not instantaneous like striking a match. Chances are, you’ve been heading this way for anywhere from six months to 3 years.

You’ve probably carried a bit of a chip and a negative attitude around with you. Maybe you recognize that you don’t have a lot of joy in your life these days and are dealing with several chronic health issues you simply accept as chronic.

It will take time to come through the other side, but you will come out of it stronger, wiser, and happier than you’ve been in a very long time.


You do get to choose to continue your career path — with boundaries — or completely redefine it. It's your life and your choice.

Burning out means a new beginning on your terms. 

RELATED: 6 Causes Of Burnout To Avoid At Work

Rachelle Stone is a burnout prevention coach, who specializes in supporting clients in avoiding burnout by managing their Stress and Energy for expanded capacity, better relationships, and increased monetary success. For more information, visit her website.