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Obsessing over your well-being can lead to burnout. Here are 3 things to consider

When we’re burnt out, it can feel like each day is repeat of the last.

Obsessing over your well-being can lead to burnout. Here are 3 things to consider
[Source photo: Andrea Piacquadio/Pexels]

Too often we’re taught that our well-being is something we can hack. Whether it’s running a marathon or doubling our daily water intake, many of us feel pressured to set practical personal goals—goals with a linear path to “success.”

While our well-being is meant to fulfill and sustain us, it can also become a chore—or worse, a burden. Many of the ways we’re told to cope with stress are in direct conflict with how to actually heal it. Even more, conventional well-being advice can add additional tasks to our already-overwhelmed schedules. Unfortunately, self-care doesn’t always help us find our purpose or enjoyment in daily life we’re seeking.

Often, when we try to fit our healthy habits neatly into our daily lives, it only allows us to temporarily hover around a well-being baseline. Either we eventually shirk on the so-called healthy habits, leaving us feeling guilty, or they end up becoming just another item for us to check off, achieve, and complete.

As a clinical psychology researcher and the cofounder of a mental well-being company that’s on a mission to help us all feel less burned out and more alive, I’ve been studying the root of burnout in modern society for years. And, more importantly, I’ve been deciphering the ways we can help heal burnout. Here’s what I’ve learned.


There is a major difference between feeling just okay (or as we say in the scientific research world, languishing) and actually being mentally well. The definition of psychological well-being is much more expansive than you might imagine. And many forms of self care fail to address all of the important aspects of wellness.

Here are the three main pillars of psychological well-being: 

  • Hedonic well-being is our ability to enjoy and experience pleasure.
  • Eudaimonic well-being brings us meaning, fulfillment, and purpose.
  • Resilience helps us think creatively and problem solve effectively.

When we focus on linear tasks and goals, we can fail to prioritize these aspects of well-being. That’s because at the core of it, our mental well-being is a spectrum, and the way it shows up in daily life is non-linear. So, by focusing our efforts on experiencing more enjoyment, purpose, and resilience we move away setting unrealistic standards for our well-being, and ultimately, make it a sustainable part of life.


As a creativity and well-being researcher, I know that when we care for our well-being in a sustainable way, it doesn’t just make us healthier—it also allows us to show up as a more open, creative, and inspired person in all parts of life.

Here are three ways you can simplify your well-being habits and help heal burnout writ large.


One way to help heal burnout is to experience freedom. When we are burned out, we move through our days without having autonomy over our schedules, decisions, or ideas. My team and I have found that moving from this robotic, linear way of being into a more expansive perspective can have a huge positive impact.

One way to break from this kind of linear thinking, and give yourself freedom over your life, is to activate your creative brain by asking yourself: “What if things could be different?”

You might use your natural, human ability to imagine future states that don’t yet exist in order to redefine your habits right now. Are there practices you’re engaging in because you’ve done it that way forever? Give yourself freedom to experiment, even if it is just in your imagination.


Let’s be clear: Enjoyment is different from pleasure. In a dopamine-driven world, we seek out quick moments of pleasure, like checking the reactions to your latest tweets or having a drink after work. Making space for enjoyment requires more effort—but it’s well worth it.

Enjoyment is at the root of our creativity, and following our natural curiosity is the way we enter a true flow state. Prioritizing rejuvenating, autotelic experiences help us feel restored and open to new ways of seeing the world. These kinds of experiences are at the basis of feeling fulfilled, purposeful, and connected to something larger than ourselves. Having fun may feel frivolous at first, but set aside some time to do something you enjoy and notice the impact it has on how you feel.


I always recommend leaving space for spontaneity in any well-being practice because surprise and novelty can be incredibly therapeutic. My team has found that the more spontaneous experiences we have, the more happy, fulfilled, and even successful we become.

Being spontaneous releases dopamine and other neurotransmitters that help us feel more motivated, connected, and inspired. What’s more, building flexibility into our lives allows us to be more resilient when unexpected events happen.

When we’re burnt out, it can feel like each day is repeat of the last, and simply completing our tasks leaves us feeling empty inside. In order to live more fulfilling and meaningful lives, we must do something radical—give ourselves permission to take a non-linear approach to everything, even our well-being.

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Katina Bajaj is the cofounder and chief well-being officer of Daydreamers, also a published well-being author with a Master’s degree in clinical psychology from Columbia’s Mind-Body Institute. More

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