How Burnout Physically Changes Your Brain (It’s Not Pretty)

When you’re a busy entrepreneur, it’s easy to convince yourself you need to just push through burnout. With people relying on you and endless problems to solve, many business owners feel like they don’t have the time or space to take a step back and deal with their mounting stress and exhaustion. Sure, a long vacation or a less intense schedule would be nice, but it will have to wait until some magically less stressful future time. 

If this sounds familiar, there’s a bunch of brain research I want to show you. 

A portrait of the burned-out brain 

We tend to think of burnout as an emotional or mental condition, and it certainly does have emotional and mental effects. But everything you feel or think arises from your brain, so mood swings, foggy thinking, or an extra quick temper are all reflected in the physical functioning of the brain somewhere. Research shows that, when it comes to burnout, those brain changes are anything but minor. 

Recent research out of Sweden compared 40 study subjects who all had worked more than 60 hours a week for multiple years and received a formal diagnosis of burnout with a matched control group of people with the same demographic profile who weren’t suffering from burnout. 

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