How to Beat Burnout With Spoon Theory

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Has that sensation of thriving and being on the top of your game been replaced with a void lacking any motivation? If the energy and excitement you once had for your job has transformed into a state of emotional or physical exhaustion, you could be suffering from burnout. Telltale signs include finding it difficult to concentrate, struggling to sleep and becoming increasingly cynical at work.


With more people extending their work hours to balance commitments over the past year, burnout has found its way to the home and has contributed to a growing focus on supporting wellbeing throughout the pandemic. Therein lies the good side: we are recognising burnout, stress and other challenges to our mental health like never before. That recognition is the first stage of managing it, for now and for the future.


So what does this have to do with spoons? Ah yes! I came across The Spoon Theory recently when learning about how people with chronic illness manage their symptoms. It stood out to me as something that translates so well to mental health and stress management in particular. The Spoon Theory was developed by Christine Miserandino, a public speaker and writer who lives with Lupus. The idea uses spoons as a unit of energy and is a great way to think about the energy you use on a daily basis. 

Spoon Theory for Burnout Infographic

'Most people start the day with unlimited amount of possibilities, and energy to do whatever they desire, especially young people. For the most part, they do not need to worry about the effects of their actions.'

Maybe you start the day feeling limitless, bounding with energy. Or maybe your energy peaks later in the day. It may be that you have a steady flow of energy, perhaps that fluctuates throughout the month. However it works for you, we all have limits to our energy levels until we replenish it. Recognising and managing that can make it go further, supporting both the recovery and prevention of burnout.

'When you are healthy you expect to have a never-ending supply of “spoons”. But when you have to now plan your day, you need to know exactly how many “spoons” you are starting with'

Recovering from burnout takes time, kindness and understanding. Choose the units (spoons!) that work for you right now and increase as you can, when you can. What do you think: could Spoon Theory work for you?

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