Reflections on Burnout

Burnout doesn’t happen overnight — it happens brick by brick, one decision after another

Vaidehi Joshi
Published in
14 min readSep 9, 2021


Some unlit matches and a burnt one. A new match with a leaf sprouting out of it.
Photo: Tangerine Newt/Unsplash

I can remember the exact moment that I realized the gravity of it. A coworker had sent me a link to an article from the Mayo Clinic on Slack. I skimmed the article until I reached a section called “Job burnout symptoms”, which included a bulleted list of questions to help you diagnose whether you were suffering from job burnout. I slowed down to read the list.

Have you become cynical or critical at work?
Do you drag yourself to work and have trouble getting started?
Do you lack satisfaction from your achievements?

With each question that I read, my heart sank a little further into my stomach.

Do you feel disillusioned about your job?
Are you using food, drugs or alcohol to feel better or to simply not feel?
Have your sleep habits changed?

I checked Slack again to see that my coworker had followed up with a second message.

“I don’t mean to scare you, but this is pretty serious stuff,” he had written.

Burnout doesn’t happen overnight — it happens brick by brick, one decision after another, until you suddenly realize that you have built a massive cage around yourself and you don’t quite know if there is a way out.

For me, that moment of realization came in the middle of the night, hours after reading that message on Slack. I laid awake, staring at the ceiling, thinking about that Mayo Clinic article. I kept replaying the list of questions in my head, realizing that I had answered “yes” to each and every one of them. I cycled through the medical consequences of burnout: fatigue, insomnia, heart disease, irritability, high blood pressure. Perhaps it was seeing the side effects of burnout listed out so matter-of-factly and in a medical context that finally made it hit home for me. Perhaps that sinking feeling in my stomach was because I knew it was true.

Trying to push through



Vaidehi Joshi
Writer for

Writing words, writing code. Sometimes doing both at once.