Afternoon Inqueery

AI: Burn Out

Burning out is an experience a lot of people have at some point. Work, school, and family can all get to us. Sometimes I get overwhelmed by activism, and especially by educating. It is easy, after answering the same questions too many times, to get exhausted.

The hardest part of being burned out is that I don’t realize that’s the problem until I have let it impact my behavior. Sometimes this means snapping at my roommate or a partner, sometimes I get forgetful and miss an appointment, and this week I wrote something thoughtless and frustrated.

How do you react to being burned out? Do you recognize it before doing something destructive? If so, how do you recognize it? How do you recover?

Image is from Donncha O Caoimh at

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Benny Vimes

Benny Vimes

Benny Vimes is a queer polyamorous transman, curious skeptic, and enthusiastic seeker of knowledge. He's an undergraduate student in his 30's and loves teaching people about alternative sexuality and gender issues.


  1. July 17, 2012 at 2:11 pm —

    I know I’m burning out on something when I no longer think about it in my free time, or actively look for extra time to work on it. It’s really bad when I start looking for ways to avoid it.

    I can usually catch it before it starts causing problems, if it’s a hobby or something, but when I’m in a position of responsibility (e.g., a guild/raid leader in an MMO or an admin of an online community) I tend to hang on longer than I should because I feel like I have to. The only thing that cures it for me is to give myself permission to set it aside until it sounds like fun again (or at the very least, doesn’t sound like drudgery).

    For things I can’t just put down like that (my PhD research, mostly)… well, I haven’t quite figured out how to get rid of that, yet. Having my other hobbies makes me happier, but they also provide avoidance mechanisms when I probably shouldn’t be taking them.

  2. July 18, 2012 at 11:10 am —

    Pretty much what daenyx said. I have rather varied interests and tend to focus one one thing rather than remaining spread out all over the place, so when I start getting burned out on whatever it is, I try to think about other things. Sometimes it’s revisiting an old game I use to like — replaying Portal, for instance. Or deciding to learn some cooking method that I haven’t mastered yet (time to poach two dozen eggs … just cause!).

    It can be hard, though, because sometimes burnout turns into mild depression, and when that happens NOTHING sounds interesting. It’s times like those that I rely on my spouse. I’ll do whatever it is that she likes, and so far I’ll find something interesting in it and I’ll suddenly have a new hobby to bounce around in.

    Last time is was jewelry crafting. Haven’t made much myself yet, but when I bought an ankle bracelet that ended up being too small, I had the tools and parts on hand to extend it.

    So that was nice.

  3. July 18, 2012 at 12:02 pm —

    I do the sensible thing and make use of the provided contracted by my employer to provide free counselling-services to employees and almost trip over the giant table of alt-med propaganda in their waiting room. All this time struggling with mental fatigue when all I needed was my Bio-energies realigned.

    (I believe the counselling service was only sharing accomodation with the quacks and not actually affiliated. It still disgusted me.)

    Previously I’ve found playing sport regularly or even just taking a long walk helps a lot. it’s like it helps when my brain is tired. to also be physically tired.

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