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Taking Control of Burnout: Shifting from Victim to Empowered

Burnout is a state of emotional, mental, and physical exhaustion that can leave individuals feeling powerless and trapped in their circumstances. It's easy to fall into a victim mindset, believing that there's nothing that can be done to change the situation. However, this way of thinking only perpetuates the cycle of burnout and prevents individuals from taking action to improve their situation.

Today we will explore how shifting from a victim mindset to an empowered one can help individuals take control of their burnout and start feeling more in control and hopeful about their future.

1. The Victim Mindset

The victim mindset is a common trap that individuals fall into when they're feeling burned out. It's characterized by thoughts and beliefs that suggest that one's circumstances are outside of their control and that they're powerless to change them. This mindset can lead to feelings of hopelessness, helplessness, and resignation. It's important to recognize that this mindset is not only unproductive but also harmful. It prevents individuals from taking action to improve their situation and instead, perpetuates the cycle of burnout.

2. The Empowered Mindset

In contrast to the victim mindset, the empowered mindset is characterized by a belief in one's ability to make choices and take actions that can improve their present and future. It's the belief that one has the power to change their circumstances and that they're not bound by their current situation. This mindset is not about denying the challenges that exist, but rather about recognizing that there are always options and possibilities for change.

3. Taking Action

One of the key differences between the victim and empowered mindset is the willingness to take action. When individuals are feeling burned out, it's easy to feel overwhelmed and unsure of where to start. However, taking small actions can help individuals begin to feel more in control and hopeful about their situation. Some examples of actions that can be taken include:

  • Increasing attentiveness to physical and emotional needs: This can include getting more sleep, taking breaks during the workday, and engaging in self-care activities such as exercise or meditation.

  • Re-evaluating commitments: Consider whether there are commitments that can be reduced or eliminated, such as taking a break from a volunteer position or delegating tasks to others.

  • Seeking support: Reach out to friends, family, or a therapist for emotional support and to talk through challenges and stressors.

  • Setting boundaries: Learn to say no to requests that are not aligned with priorities or that add to an already heavy workload.

4. Challenging Assumptions

Often, the victim mindset is fueled by assumptions about what's possible and what's not. It's important to challenge these assumptions and consider whether they're based in reality or if they're self-imposed limitations. For example, an individual may assume that they cannot take a vacation because they have too much work to do, but upon further examination, they may realize that they can take a few days off and delegate tasks to others.

5. The Role of Mindset in Burnout Recovery

The mindset that an individual has when approaching burnout recovery can greatly impact their success. An empowered mindset allows individuals to see that they have options and that they can take actions to improve their situation. It also helps individuals to be more resilient and adaptable, which are key components of burnout recovery.


Burnout can be a debilitating experience, but it's important to remember that individuals have the power to take control of their situation and start feeling less burned out. By shifting from a victim mindset to an empowered one, individuals can begin to take action and make changes that improve their physical, emotional, and mental well-being. It's not always easy, but it's worth it. Remember, small actions can lead to big changes, and a shift in mindset can be the first step towards a healthier, happier life.


Jonathan H. Westover, PhD is Chief Academic & Learning Officer (HCI Academy); Chair/Professor, Organizational Leadership (UVU); OD Consultant (Human Capital Innovations). Read Jonathan Westover's executive profile here.



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