How to Move from Burnout to Balance

Person balancing on Rock

Last month I presented (in-person) to nursing students and leaders at Purdue University School of Nursing and UTHealth Cizak School of Nursing. What a gift for all of us to be together after virtually meeting and gathering for the last two years!

Nursing students are one of my favorite audiences because they are the future of our profession and impress me with their heightened awareness and strategic thinking. I was not surprised to learn their deep concern for the current high rate of nurse burnout. They unanimously expressed how important it was for them to work in a culture that supports a work-life balance.

Throughout my 26 years of studying, writing, coaching and presenting on work-life balance, my experience is balance is not a destination, but an ongoing practice we need to commit to every day. Just like burnout (physical and mental exhaustion), balance is on a continuum, and we are all somewhere on the scale any given day. Balance needs to be supported organizationally and practiced individually and one way we can move towards it is to create boundaries.

Boundaries are challenging because they require you to say no to something. Nurses, like many healthcare professionals and other high functioning and over-achieving humans have a hard time saying no because they want to help, know how to help, and think they should be able to help. But often, your yes comes at too high a cost, because you have to say no to something else, usually something that supports you to be your best.

5 Ways to Create Boundaries

  1. Kindly say no and skip an obligatory excuse with, Thank you so much for thinking of me, I’m sorry I can’t help.
  2. Slow down to reflect before you agree to do something, especially if you are caught off guard.
  3. Time-block for your recovery and treat it like every other appointment you make.
  4. Create hard stops with your commitments, including phone calls, meetings, and even social events.
  5. Remember less is more. Doing more doesn’t make you a good person, doing more makes you an exhausted person.

Boundaries help you get closer to a feeling of balance and overall well-being because they empower you to make the best decisions for yourself. This is Self-Leadership and when you model it, you give others permission to practice it as well and we are all better for it.


  1. Kelsey Neyens on May 3, 2022 at 5:23 pm

    Diane, this speaks so well to me. Doing more does indeed make me an exhausted person. Thank you for that validation!

    • Diane Sieg on May 4, 2022 at 5:19 pm

      You are most welcome Kelsey! I think we all need validation on this so we can role-model to others.

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