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Nkem Offonabo: Burn Out – How To Identify It, How To Combat It & Stay Productive



Moladun works in the banking industry, as a relationship officer. She has always been a top performer with impressive sales figures, a recent promotion and an anticipated branch manager position but recently she started having difficulty getting out of bed. Her frequent hospital visits have shown little or no ailment and her sudden outbursts targeted towards the domestic staff, her children and husband, Akin – who now wonders what happened to his once vibrant wife. Moladun knows within her that she is overwhelmed with her workload, feelings of tiredness and exhaustion but she is unable to help herself.

Burn out is real. It’s a long-lasting psychological condition; a state of emotional, mental and physical exhaustion caused by extreme and prolonged stress. It occurs when one feels overwhelmed, emotionally exhausted and incapable of meeting daily occupational and personal demands. This can be harmful to both your health and job than you may realise.

Burn out can be caused by a number of factors such as a toxic work environment, extreme workload, a feeling of unappreciation, no support system, lack of control and meaningless work.

How to identify burn out
Burn out frequently sets in when your work and family demands start to consume your entire life. If you start skipping family time, neglecting friends, unable to take care of yourself and sometimes losing self image, you constantly pick on people, you find yourself resentful of your passion and avoiding hobbies. The result is that you start to feel exhausted, disconnected, pessimistic and unproductive.

How to combat burn out
Instead of ignoring the warning signs and acting helpless, these practical steps can help both the employee and entrepreneur fight a burn out, or avoid its reoccurrence… as we juggle our professional and personal responsibilities.

1. Prioritise your tasks
Arranging your activities, in their order of importance, will help you determine which of your different tasks are most important and needs to be attended to before others. Until you are able to prioritise your work and life, everything will always appear important and things that should not necessarily be given much attention will take up space in your life and that can be “overwhelming”. In prioritizing, you will need to apportion time to each deliverable and track the time taken to achieve each of them. This will keep you from expending energy on irrelevant and time-consuming tasks.

2. Delegate some tasks
Delegation is one of the simplest management tool for any professional; delegating some of your work and family responsibilities helps in preventing unnecessary burn out. Large corporates have understood the power of delegation and have keyed in to outsourcing to enable them focus on key deliverables that will directly impact their bottom-line. Delegation may seem unattainable for the employee with lean support staff or the entrepreneur who tends to be everything (CEO, Marketer, Social Media Manager, Accountant, etc.) to the business – especially at the start-up stage. Small businesses, as well as individuals, can take control of time by employing interns or contract staff with lesser financial implication for increased productivity and time management. As a busy professional, it is important, to get your spouse and children involved in household chores to promote responsibility, quality family time and improve one’s health by reducing exhaustion.

3. Find meaning in your work
Most people work just to earn a living or pay bills. No wonder they take the next exit route for a bigger pay check when the job no longer pays the bills or in response to competition when their contemporaries are moving a step ahead. To truly find meaning in one’s work, it is important to see one’s work as an act of service and value delivery. That way, it is easy to see how each team member’s work consciously and constructively connects to the people they are serving and to the big picture of the corporate. For example, Human Resources sees their commitment to employee growth and development and the impact it has on the organization’s brand image and overall productivity.

4. Celebrate milestones
We get caught up in the day to day activities of building a business or career that we don’t get to stop to celebrate little victories. Every business or individual needs regular milestones to feel accomplished. Companies can find unique ways to celebrate employees’ milestones, a simple recognition email, can go a long way to improve employee engagement and motivation than raises and promotion. Lest I forget, I celebrated my 10th year work anniversary on Saturday, 16th of June. I am grateful for the opportunity to serve and add value to both employees and customers of my esteemed organization.

5. Make time for rest and recreation
Unlike the employee who is entitled to the statutory time-off or leave days, it is natural for entrepreneurs to work long hours into the night and even go on for months without breaks. This is an invitation to extreme burn out. You need to take time away from work to decompress; an inexpensive getaway or a group tour with friends or family, participating in a sport or any form of art can help to revitalise and improve your creativity.

With the right approach to work and a commitment to one’s well-being – emotionally, mentally or physically, almost any job can be meaningful and fulfilling.

Photo Credit: Marcos Calvo Mesa |

Nkem Offonabo is a graduate in Psychology and holds a SEMP (Special Executive Management Programme) MBA from Metropolitan School of Business and Management, United Kingdom. She is a certified Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHRi®) and an Associate of the Chartered Institute of Personnel Management of Nigeria (ACIPM) with over 10 years' work experience that cuts across Human Resource Management, Product and Business Development in the Financial Services Industry. Nkem is a trained Life Coach and Neuro Linguistic Programming Professional. She is the acclaimed Africa’s No.1 Work-Life Balance Coach and Founder of The Work-Life Organisation Global Ltd, a Professional Coaching and Human Resources Management Consultancy. She works with individuals and organisations to provide coaching and training on employee wellness, work-life harmony, personal and organisational effectiveness as well as Human Resource Advisory Services. She is the convener of Work-Life Conversation, a highly sought-after group coaching community of working professionals and entrepreneurs. She has been featured on The Pink Network – 'Woman 2 Watch', She Leads Africa and Plus TV Africa. She was recognised as one of the Top 50 Leading Ladies in Corporate Nigeria by Leading Ladies Africa (2020 edition). To contact her, please visit her website on or send an email to [email protected] or via: Instagram | Facebook | Twitter @theworklifeorg


  1. Sco- Sco

    June 21, 2018 at 2:29 pm

    Thank you for this! Burn out is soooooo real. You really captured it very well. These are really good tips.

    • Nkem Offonabo

      June 21, 2018 at 11:10 pm

      Thank you!

    • Njideka Aniagolu

      July 9, 2019 at 6:44 pm

      Burnout is really cool and I love it dear…Thumbs up for you!!!What a great work… Ma’am.

  2. Clementine Adeyemi

    June 21, 2018 at 6:34 pm

    Just recovering from this. Thank you

    • Nkem Offonabo

      June 21, 2018 at 11:09 pm

      Hi Clement, I hope that you feel a lot better and in super control of your well-being. Send me an email if you need extra support.

  3. Adaobi

    June 22, 2018 at 6:38 pm

    Thanks Nkem. I’m feeling the symptoms myself.

    • Nkem Offonabo

      August 6, 2018 at 5:39 pm

      Hi Adaobi, its important that you make a decision to prioritize your wellbeing. Determine what the stressors are and make a conscious decision to minimise its effect. You definitely won’t run away from your responsibilities both at work, school or home but your mental or psychological state need to be in good state.


    August 6, 2018 at 5:02 pm

    Burnout is so real! This article came as a timely reminder to take a break and REST!

    I was on the verge of a burn out and I didn’t even realise it.

    Thank you Nkem for this beautifully written piece it saved my loved ones from an avoidable pain!

    Keep inspiring your world to greatness

  5. Paul Oyewusi

    February 9, 2020 at 4:11 am

    This is really a great piece on stress management. Every professional should have it read.

  6. Enyi Ibe

    November 9, 2020 at 1:59 pm

    Thank you Nkem for this piece.

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