I’m Burnt Out


After a few years of over-working and ignoring the warning signs, I may have reached a “burnout” stage. What used to be easy at work is now difficult; the drive I used to have feels like it has been sapped; and I have noticed a negative change in my attitude. 

Does ancient Jewish wisdom provide any useful information for recovering from “burnout” and metaphorically get back in the saddle?

Justin A.


Dear Justin,

Congratulations on recognizing that ignoring your warning signs resulted in a small problem growing into a larger one. We hope that your words serve as a warning to others not to turn a blind eye to warning signs. (Then there are those people who magnify a bad stretch and put flashing red lights on normal feelings—the opposite of what you did which leads to a different but equally serious problem.)

Imagine if you had physical symptoms that suggested that you were pre-diabetic. At that point, certain lifestyle changes might keep the symptoms from worsening and a full-fledged case developing. However, once your health was severely compromised, it would be much harder to fix.

For this reason, your recognition is valuable because you need to send yourself a message that this situation will not easily change. You need to aim for small steps that steadily improve your frame of mind, knowing that you will hit plateaus and possibly backslide occasionally. It might be worth keeping a journal so that you can chart progress and not be thrown when you hit a rough spot.

We would suggest working with a coach in person, but here are four steps we encourage you to implement.

  1. Keep the Sabbath. One day a week should be set aside for God, for yourself and for the valued people in your life. Don’t allow work to intrude into this Lord’s day, whether by checking emails, answering a ‘quick’ phone call or even thinking about your work load. God commands us to work for six days and rest on the seventh, but we and many others see this as a benevolent gift from our Creator rather than a rigorous requirement.
  2. Find something in your life about which you can be passionate. This might be a hobby or some volunteer work. It should need active involvement from you. Passively watching four seasons of a TV series does not count. Passion in one area of life leads to passion in other areas.
  3. Share your dilemma with a trusted advisor who understands your particular work. An outside eye may find ways in which you can tweak your daily labor to emphasize areas in which you do find fulfillment and minimize other areas.
  4. Spend time and effort developing real relationships. Our culture encourages us to interact with machines rather than people. Make time for the people you care for and actively enlarge that group. Spend at least some time each day connecting with other human beings on matters other than work related ones.

We wish you renewed passion and enthusiasm,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin


11 thoughts on “I’m Burnt Out”

  1. How does one “Spend time and effort developing real relationships. .. Make time for the people you care for and actively enlarge that group. Spend at least some time each day connecting with other human beings on matters other than work related ones” when one is a Stay-At-Home Mom whose only contacts outside her spouse and older children (no more PTA meetings) are the clerks etc. she speaks to during daily errands/chores? I do not use social media, nor do i wish to learn how. 99% of my neighbors go to work during the day and rarely have time for more than a passing “hello”. When I can, I manage to get in 10-20 min of “small talk”…but truly, this is not enough, nor what I believe you are alluding to in your quote above. It is so easy for children to “make friends” because they have few if any prejudices; but adults is today’s society have many…

    1. We think you are articulating a question that many stay at home moms have.I (Susan) would like to discuss it in a Musing – if you don’t see it in the next few weeks, please get on my case!

  2. 1. Yes this happened with me as well.

    2. I cant do all the suggestions above as of yet however little by little 1 day at a time getting better.

    3. The Rabbi mentioned doing 3 constructive things rather then 3 destructive things. I make a simple organized list on the phone. If you plan for 3 you’ll end with 6-10 things done this is the best advice. I felt almost dead and miserable now things are moving nicely.

    4. Green vegetable mountain. Grind up a mountain of green vegetables with kale and ginger and make a 2 day supply giving you time for all other things. Drink this concoction of “bitter herbs” along with normal everyday eating. Almost on 90 days now mind clearing feeling alive again and greatful.

    5. We have practiced the shabbat for years now and we are practicing the feasts to the best of our ability.

    6. Reading early in the morning. No tv for years now thank God. Shut down the face book and most social media. No babys with phones all media filtered.

    7. Connecting with as many people as possible like minded individuals. Met a lawyer yesterday nice guy I love the “Natural Law” of my forefathers and wish to learn more of this law. Must read Torah now and go to work 30 minutes left. Good day.

  3. This was really helpful! Not that I’m burning out, but I realized as I was reading this that I was already doing the things that prevent burnout. Perhaps that’s why I love my job so much…it doesn’t rule my life.

    One comment I wished to make about the Shabbat, I am not very good at keeping it. However, I think it’s really worth making an effort to really practice the Shabbat, it is not a burden at all. Was pondering about the Shabbat being the “queen of the week” and realized the it’s kind of like practicing for life in heaven. For one day a week, we get to choose to live like we will be living in heaven. Not totally of course, but in the fact that we should lay down our worldly concerns (like money and work) and instead concentrate on the things we will have in heaven.

    Perhaps this is incorrect, but it helps me to think of it this way. It really encourages me to try and not let things get in the way.

  4. I appreciate this feedback, Rabbi Lapin. I have found since I started keeping the Sabbath that I enjoy my work more, am more productive and also look forward to my one day of rest per week. I have faced burnout before but not since I started observing the Sabbath obediently about a year ago.

    1. Agreed, wholeheartedly. Observing the Sabbath allows me to come out of my head and feed my soul, which does wonders to strengthen my Spirit. I find I have more patience, it is easier to act as my higher self and overcome office pettiness and my fatigue at/with work diminishes.

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