• Author: [[Emily Nagoski, Amelia Nagoski]]
  • Full Title: Burnout
  • Tags: #Inbox #books
  • Recommendation: 10/10


  • The problem is the world has turned “wellness” into yet another goal everyone “should” strive for, but only people with time and money and nannies and yachts and Oprah’s phone number can actually achieve. (Location 60)
  • all have an intuitive sense of what “burnout” is; (Location 79)
  • But when it was first coined as a technical term by Herbert Freudenberger in 1975, “burnout” was defined by three components: 1. emotional exhaustion—the fatigue that comes from caring too much, for too long; (Location 80)
    1. depersonalization—the depletion of empathy, caring, and compassion; and (Location 82)
  • decreased sense of accomplishment—an unconquerable sense of futility: feeling that nothing you do makes any difference. (Location 83)
  • research has found it’s the first element in burnout, emotional exhaustion, that’s most strongly linked to negative impacts on our health, relationships, and work—especially (Location 93)
  • So what exactly is an “emotion,” and how do you exhaust it? (Location 95)
  • In short, emotions are tunnels. If you go all the way through them, you get to the light at the end. Exhaustion happens when we get stuck in an emotion. (Location 106)
  • We may get stuck simply because we’re constantly being exposed to situations that activate emotion—our (Location 108)
  • Sometimes we get stuck because we can’t find our way through. (Location 112)
  • And sometimes we get stuck because we’re trapped in a place where we are not free to move through the tunnel. Many of us are trapped in just this way, because of a problem we call “Human Giver Syndrome.” (Location 114)
  • We thrive when we have a positive goal to move toward, not just a negative state we’re trying to move away from. (Location 214)
  • The “cheese” of Burnout isn’t just feeling less overwhelmed and exhausted, or no longer worrying whether you’re doing “enough.” The cheese is growing mighty, feeling strong enough to cope with all the owls and mazes and anything else the world throws at you. (Location 216)

PART I   What You Take with You


  • This chapter is the answer to Julie’s question, and it might be the most important idea in the book: Dealing with your stress is a separate process from dealing with the things that cause your stress. To deal with your stress, you have to complete the cycle. (Location 247)
Just Because You’ve Dealt with the Stressor Doesn’t Mean You’ve Dealt with the Stress Itself
  • You have to do something that signals to your body that you are safe, or else you’ll stay in that state, with neurochemicals and hormones degrading but never shifting into relaxation. (Location 293)
  • Suppose the stressor is not a lion, but some jerk at work. This jerk will never be a threat to our lives, he’s just a pain in the ass. He says some jerky thing at a meeting, and you get a similar flood of adrenaline and cortisol and glycogen, oh my.5 But you have to sit there in that meeting and be “nice.” “Socially appropriate.” It would only escalate the situation if you vaulted across the table and scratched his eyes out, as your physiology is telling you to do. Instead, you have a quiet, socially appropriate, highly functional meeting with his supervisor, in which you recruit the supervisor’s support in intervening the next time the jerk says another jerky thing. (Location 296)
  • But addressing the cause of the stress doesn’t mean you’ve addressed the stress itself. Your body is soaked in stress juice, just waiting for some cue that you are now safe from the potential threat and can relax into celebration. (Location 302)
Why We Get Stuck
  • Chronic Stressor → Chronic Stress. Sometimes your brain activates a stress response, you do the thing it says, and it doesn’t change the situation: (Location 316)
  • Social Appropriateness. Sometimes the brain activates a stress response and you can’t do the thing it’s trying to tell you to do: “Run!” it says, pumping out adrenaline for you. “I can’t!” you say. “I’m in the middle of an exam!” (Location 325)
    1. It’s Safer. Is there a strategy for dealing with, say, street harassment, that deals with both the situation and the stress caused by the situation? (Location 344)
  • Sure. Turn around and slap that guy in the face. But then what? Will he suddenly realize that street harassment is bad and thus stop doing it? Probably not. (Location 345)
The Most Efficient Way to Complete the Cycle
  • When you’re stressed out by the bureaucracy and hassle of living in the twenty-first century, what do you do? You run. Or swim. (Location 402)
  • singing along to Beyoncé, or sweat it out in a Zumba class, or do literally anything that moves your body enough to get you breathing deeply. For how long? Between twenty and sixty minutes a day does it for most folks. (Location 404)
  • And it should be most days—after all, you experience stress most days, so you should complete the stress response cycle most days, too. (Location 406)
  • Remember, your body has no idea what “filing your taxes” or “resolving an interpersonal conflict through rational problem-solving” (Location 408)
  • solving” means. It knows, though, what jumping up and down means. Speak its language—and its language is body language. (Location 409)
  • Physical activity is the single most efficient strategy for completing the stress response cycle. (Location 413)
Other Ways to Complete the Cycle
  • Here are six other evidence-based strategies: (Location 417)
  • Breathing. Deep, slow breaths downregulate the stress response—especially when the exhalation is long and slow and goes all the way to the end of the breath, so that your belly contracts. (Location 417)
  • Breathing is most effective when your stress isn’t that high, or when you just need to siphon off the very worst of the stress so that you can get through a difficult situation, (Location 418)
  • A simple, practical exercise is to breathe in to a slow count of five, hold that breath for five, then exhale for a slow count of ten, and pause for another count of five. (Location 421)
  • Positive Social Interaction. Casual but friendly social interaction is the first external sign that the world is a safe place. (Location 424)
  • people experience greater well-being if they’ve had a polite, casual chat with their seatmate.7 People with more acquaintances are happier.8 Just go buy a cup of coffee and say “Nice day” to the barista. (Location 425)
  • Laughter. Laughing together—and even just reminiscing about the times we’ve laughed together—increases relationship satisfaction. (Location 429)
  • Affection. When friendly chitchat with colleagues doesn’t cut it, when you’re too stressed out for laughter, deeper connection with a loving presence is called for. (Location 433)
  • One example of affection is the “six-second kiss” advice from relationship researcher John Gottman. Every day, he suggests, kiss your partner for six seconds. (Location 437)
  • Another example: Hug someone you love and trust for twenty full seconds, while both of you are standing over your own centers of balance. (Location 443)
  • The research suggests a twenty-second hug can change your hormones, lower your blood pressure and heart (Location 446)
  • rate, and improve mood, all of which are reflected in the post-hug increase in the social-bonding hormone oxytocin. (Location 446)
  • Big Ol’ Cry. Anyone who says “Crying doesn’t solve anything” doesn’t know the difference between dealing with the stress and dealing with the situation that causes the stress. (Location 462)
  • Creative Expression. Engaging in creative activities today leads to more energy, excitement, and enthusiasm tomorrow. (Location 467)
  • One thing we know for sure doesn’t work: just telling yourself that everything is okay now. Completing the cycle isn’t an intellectual decision; it’s a physiological shift. (Location 509)
How Do You Know You’ve Completed the Cycle?
  • How does it feel? (Location 521)
  • It’s a gear shift—a slip of the chain to a smaller gear, and all of a sudden the wheels are spinning more freely. It’s a relaxation in her muscles and a deepening of her breath. (Location 521)
  • The more regularly she exercises, the more easily she gets there. If she has let the stress accumulate inside her for days or weeks, one workout won’t get her all the way there. (Location 522)
  • “Yeah. That’s how it works. If anxiety starts, it ends.” (Location 531)
The Practical Advice
  • Because you experience stress every day, you have to build completing the cycle into every day. Make it a priority, like your life depends on it. Because it does. (Location 548)
  • For a lot of people, the most difficult thing about “completing the cycle” is that it almost always requires that they stop dealing with whatever caused the stress, step away from that situation, and turn instead toward their own body and emotions. By this point in the chapter, you (Location 554)
Signs You Need to Deal with the Stress, Even If It Means Ignoring the Stressor
  • Your brain and body exhibit predictable signs when your stress level is elevated, and these serve as reliable cues that indicate you need to deal with the stress itself before you can be effective in dealing with the stressor. (Location 560)
    1. You notice yourself doing the same, apparently pointless thing over and over again, or engaging in self-destructive behaviors. (Location 562)
    1. “Chandeliering.” (Location 566)
  • That eruption is a sign you’re past your threshold and need to deal with the stress before you can deal with the stressor. (Location 568)
    1. You turn into a bunny hiding under a hedge. (Location 569)
  • If you’re hiding from your life, you’re past your threshold. (Location 574)
  • Your body feels out of whack. (Location 575)
  • Stress is not bad for you; being stuck is bad for you. (Location 612)
  • Here’s the ultimate moral of the story: Wellness is not a state of being, but a state of action. (Location 615)


  • Specifically, it’s about what we call “the Monitor,” the brain mechanism that manages the gap between where we are and where we are going. (Location 651)
Allow Us to Introduce…the Monitor
  • It is the brain mechanism that decides whether to keep trying…or to give up. (Location 658)
  • The Monitor knows (1) what your goal is; (2) how much effort you’re investing in that goal; and (3) how much progress you’re making. (Location 658)
Dealing with Stressors You Can Control: Planful Problem-Solving
  • you analyze the problem, you make a plan based on your analysis, and then you execute the plan. (Location 684)
  • The least intuitive part of planful problem-solving is managing the stress caused by the problems and the solving. (Location 691)
  • so remember to build completing the cycle into your plan. (Location 693)
Dealing with Stressors You Can’t Control: Positive Reappraisal
  • Positive reappraisal involves recognizing that sitting in traffic is worth it. It means deciding that the effort, the discomfort, the frustration, the unanticipated obstacles, and even the repeated failure have value—not just because they are steps toward a worthwhile goal, but because you reframe difficulties as opportunities for growth and learning. (Location 697)
  • With positive reappraisal, you can acknowledge when things are difficult, and you recognize that the difficulty is worth it—it is, in fact, an opportunity. (Location 715)
  • The hard part is acknowledging that those difficulties are actually opportunities. (Location 719)
  • When something feels uncomfortable, you’re probably doing something that creates more and better progress than if it were easy. (Location 720)
When to Give Up
  • You may find yourself oscillating between pushing onward and giving up, between frustrated rage—“This goal is attainable, and screw these jerks in my way!”—and helpless despair—“I can’t do it, I give up, everything is terrible!” (Location 861)
  • So how do you know when it’s time to stop the planful problem-solving, drop the positive reappraisal, and just…quit? (Location 871)
  • If you want to try using this principle rationally, all you have to do is write four lists: (Location 879)
  • What are the benefits of continuing? What are the benefits of stopping? What are the costs of continuing? What are the costs of stopping? (Location 880)
  • But a lot of the time, knowing when to give up comes to us not from rational, explicit cost-benefit analysis; it comes to us the same way it comes to the bird and the squirrel—in a quiet intuition that is outside rationality. We simply hear the voice inside us saying, “You’ve done all you can here. It’s time to move on.” (Location 893)
  • If you’re feeling not just frustrated and challenged, but helpless, isolated, and trapped, like you want to hide in a cave, or like you’d rather put your hand in a toilet full of tadpoles than spend one more day doing the thing, you should definitely quit whatever it is. (Location 911)
  • The quality of our lives, day to day, is measured by our freedom to choose to stay or leave. (Location 943)


  • meaning isn’t always “fun.” (Location 1032)
  • meaning offers a “positive final value that an individual’s life can exhibit.” (Location 1037)
  • That is, a life has meaning when a person contributes something positive to the world by the time they die—whether they enjoyed it or not. (Location 1038)
  • meaning is not constant. (Location 1042)
  • meaning is good for you. (Location 1046)
  • People with greater senses of meaning and purpose in life experience better health and are more likely to access preventative healthcare services, to protect that health. (Location 1047)
  • Even among people living with advanced or end-of-life disease, interventions that enhanced meaning in life had benefits for participants’ depression, anxiety, distress, and overall quality of life. (Location 1053)
  • For most of us, meaning is what sustains us on the long, hard journey, no matter what we find at the end. (Location 1061)
  • Meaning is not found; it is made. (Location 1062)
  • Research has found that meaning is most likely to come from three kinds of sources:15 (Location 1069)
  • pursuit and achievement of ambitious goals that leave a legacy—as in “finding a cure for HIV” or “making the world a better place for these kids”; (Location 1071)
  • service to the divine or other spiritual calling—as in “attaining spiritual liberation and union with Akal” (Location 1073)
  • loving, emotionally intimate connection with others—as in “raising my kids so they know they’re loved, no matter what” (Location 1075)
  • Ask yourself, What am I doing when I feel most powerfully that I’m doing what I’m meant to be doing? (Location 1091)
  • When life is stable, we don’t need much sense of meaning to stay well. (Location 1204)
  • When our lives bounce through pockets of turbulence—such as the uncertainty of joblessness or a confrontation with death or a sense that our work is not making a difference or that we don’t belong—our brains grab hold of our Something Larger, as if it can stop our lives or the world from tumbling out of the sky. And it works.24 It (Location 1210)
  • But sometimes the turbulence lasts too long, or the plane actually crashes. You survive, but you’re left in an “existential vacuum,” devoid of meaning. (Location 1214)
  • The key is: You can never be separated from your Something Larger, because it is inside you. (Location 1229)
  • Want to turn something terrible into an unlooked-for opportunity to engage with your Something Larger and make meaning? Rewrite the narrative of your experience, focusing on the lessons and strengths you gained through adversity. (Location 1231)
  • Take half an hour or so to write your story, answering these questions: (Location 1235)
    1. What parts of the adversity were uncontrollable by you? (Location 1236)
  • What did you do to survive the adversity, in the moment? (Location 1238)
  • What resources did you leverage, to continue surviving after the adversity had passed? (Location 1240)
  • Once you have your story, take a moment to write about a time when those resources empowered you to overcome a subsequent difficulty. Then write a summary: Even though I couldn’t control  ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​  (adversity), I managed to  ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​  (survival tactic), and then I used  ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​  (resource) to grow stronger. After that, I could  ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​  (skill/win/insight). (Location 1244)
  • PART II   The Real Enemy (Location 1314)
    • Note: .h1


  • Animals, including humans, who repeatedly find themselves in bad situations from which they can’t escape may not even (Location 1360)
  • try to escape, even when given the opportunity. (Location 1361)
  • soon as a participant in the “helpless” group was “shown that the noise was rigged or the problem was unsolvable, his symptoms would disappear.” (Location 1369)
  • the baby is treated as if all sorts of other things about them are true—what kind of toys they’ll enjoy, what skills they’ll develop, whom they’ll grow up to fall in love with, what they’ll want to be when they grow up. (Location 1383)
  • Being raised as a boy makes it easier for boys to grow up and take on positions of power and authority, which is all “patriarchy” means. (Location 1388)
  • And that feeling you have when someone is doing it to you but you’re not sure because maybe they’re right and you’re overreacting and being too sensitive? Like you can’t trust your own senses, except what your senses are telling you is unambiguous? That’s feeling gaslit. You’re filled with simultaneous doubt, fear, rage, betrayal, isolation, and panicked confusion. You can feel that a situation is wrong, but you can’t explain why or how. So you worry that you misunderstood something, or you feel inadequate for being unable to articulate your objection. (Location 1450)
  • gaslighting is designed to make you question your own credibility and competence. (Location 1456)
Patriarchy Blindness #1: Human Giver Syndrome
  • Now, what if…just what if…we raised everyone to be a version of a human giver? What if we assumed it was every person’s moral responsibility to be generous and attentive to the needs of others? (Location 1501)
Patriarchy Blindness #2: Headwinds/Tailwinds Asymmetry
  • people tend to notice their adversarial headwinds and not their helpful tailwinds. (Location 1526)
  • People even report that their parents were easier on their siblings than on themselves—no matter what their siblings have to say about it. (Location 1529)
  • most of us tend to ignore or forget about advantages we’ve received, but remember the obstacles we’ve overcome, because the struggle against the obstacles requires more effort and energy than the easy parts. (Location 1531)
  • “self-regulatory fatigue”; if you’re using up decision-making and attention-focusing cognitive resources on choices about food, clothes, exercise, makeup, body hair, “toxins,” and fretting about your body’s failures, what are you too exhausted to care about, that you would otherwise prioritize? (Location 1855)


  • And then we are infected with Human Giver Syndrome, which pushes girl babies to grow into human givers—pretty, happy, calm, generous, and attentive to the needs of others—while it pushes boy babies to be ambitious, competitive, strong, and infallible. (Location 1749)
  • But in the nineteenth century, with the rise of the middle class, it became fashionable for a man to be able to afford a wife who was too weak to work. (Location 1921)
  • So that, friends, is where the thin ideal originates—in the basic assumption that a woman is a man’s property, his status symbol. Because: patriarchy. (Ugh.) (Location 1926)
PART III   Wax On, Wax Off


  • “When you were little, who held you when you cried?” (Location 2152)
  • “When you were little, what did you eat when you were hungry?” (Location 2154)
  • Babies can literally die of loneliness itself, even if their other needs are met.1 Contact with another person is a basic biological need; loneliness is a form of starvation. (Location 2163)
  • The best, strongest, sanest, smartest, and most grown-up people, they said, are the ones who don’t need anyone to do anything for them. (Location 2177)