5 Misconceptions About Burnout

Carol, a seasoned ICU nurse started to cry uncontrollably on her way to the grocery store. After spending the last four days working her 12-hour shifts, she felt completely overwhelmed with the idea of driving to, navigating in, and unpacking from the grocery. Feeling frustrated and even embarrassed, she made the decision to go home to get what she needed more than eggs and milk, rest and recovery.

This may seem so obvious, but we create similar scenarios all the time, denying our basic needs to push through and “get more done.” Nurses are known for overfunctioning and today they are exhausted, discouraged, and losing the joy and meaning in their work, in other words, they are suffering from burnout.

Over 81% of today’s leaders admit they don’t know how to reduce the record-high levels of burnout, especially in healthcare. While stress is characterized by over-engagement, burnout is characterized by disengagement from yourself and others, with feelings of inadequacy and denial.

Strengthening the relationship you have with yourself is self-leadership and empowers you to learn and grow to make your best decisions, like Carol. Here are 5 misconceptions we have about burnout and the self-leadership skills to help:

  1. I should be able to handle this, there must be something wrong with me…

    Burnout is not a weakness, it is part of being human and we are all on the continuum somewhere, especially if you work in healthcare today.

    Accepting where you are and asking for support from a manager, coach, or colleague is a strength that requires courage and vulnerability.

  2. I’ll be okay when I get a day off…

    Burnout is not like a cold that goes away with a day of rest and pushing fluids, it requires you to change your behavior.

    Your time and energy are finite and you need to recover with activities that fill you up physically and emotionally—every day.

  3. If I made more money, I’d feel better about what I am being asked to do…

    We need to feel valued for what we do, but once your basic needs are met, studies show money is not the biggest influence for your overall well-being.

    To feel good about what you do every day means you have to remember WHY you do what you do every day.

  4. I feel guilty for not doing more for my patients and guilty for not doing more for my family…

    Doing more is not the answer, it’s doing the most important things and feeling good about doing the best you can.

    Practice self-compassion to tame your inner critic who says you are never good enough.

  5. I just wish things would go back to normal…

    We know by now things are not going back to normal. How we do everything from patient care to travel has changed forever.

    When you let go of the way things used to be (and the way you used to be), you eliminate unnecessary suffering and make space for new things to come in.

Burnout is not a problem to be fixed, but a syndrome to be managed. It needs to be supported at the organizational level and practiced individually. Self-Leadership strengthens the relationship we have with ourselves so we can make the best decisions, like going home without milk and eggs.


  1. Catherine Winkler PhD, NP on November 2, 2021 at 1:04 pm

    All well said. I think you differentiate between stress and burnout very well. The comments of over engagement and over functioning ring true. Lastly, the letting go of what was is good advice and important. Well done and I think another book as well as speaking to leadership groups would be critically important at this time.

    • Diane Sieg on November 3, 2021 at 1:30 am

      Thank you for your validation, Cathy. Both are in the works!

      Take good care,

  2. Marisette Hasan on November 2, 2021 at 2:01 pm

    Wonderful insights, thank you Diane!

    • Diane Sieg on November 3, 2021 at 1:29 am

      Thank you Marisette.

      Take good care,

  3. Carol Brooks on November 2, 2021 at 4:16 pm

    Thank you, Diane, for those comments. They are helpful not only to nurses but to all of us. I hope you are well.

    • Diane Sieg on November 3, 2021 at 1:28 am

      Absolutely, Carol! I focus on nurses, but always intend my message for everyone.

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