Feeling Burnt Out? It Could Be Because You’re an ‘Over-Functioner’


There’s burnout, there’s parental burnout, there’s exercise burnout — and let’s not forget WFH burnout! — and we’re all experiencing it in spades. In fact, 77% of us (and our neighbours across the way) reported experiencing burn out last year.

But why are we burnt out? There’s the obvious (COVID), but how does that explain the fact that burnout has existed before — and will continue to exist after? Some of the time, it’s due to the “cult of performance and perfectionism”, according to a parental burnout expert.

Outside of parenting, this can affect us. In fact, according to a child development and perfectionism expert quoted in the BBC, perfectionism is “heading toward an epidemic and public health issue”.

And hand-in-hand with this perfectionism? Over-functioning. These two are so intertwined, it’s hard to separate the two. Leadership coach Carrie Skowronski, when talking to Well + Good, said, “Overfunctioners move quickly, take over, and micro-manage other people’s business rather than looking inward.” Oftentimes, they’re yes-people.

Dr Kathleen Smith agrees with this definition, saying those who are over-functioning are often “over-responsible for family, friends, colleagues, and even strangers.” Kathy Caprino takes the definition even further, saying it’s “Doing more than is necessary, more than is appropriate and more than is healthy.”

Well, no wonder it leads to burnout.

Dr Sara Gottfried, on an Instagram post, says she’s been “learning about how to shift from over-functioning in her life” — towards balance, and to peace. The biggest help she’s found?

The “NO” experiment. It sounds pretty straightforward, but it does take a bit more effort than just blurting “no” outright. It involves listening to your head, your heart and your body when a new request or opportunity comes up — as Dr Gottfried says, “We need the whole body [to say] yes to avoid over-functioning.”

So if you’re over-functioning and heading towards burnout — it might be time to say no.

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