How to counter burnout

  • Published
  • By Command Chief Rob Safley
  • 301st Fighter Wing

Burnout is a state of emotional, mental, and physical exhaustion brought on by prolonged or repeated stress. Psychology Today also notes “The cynicism, depression, and lethargy that are characteristic of burnout most often occur when a person is not in control of how a job is carried out--at work or at home--or is asked to complete tasks that conflict with their sense of self.” Equally important is working toward a goal that doesn't resonate, or when a person lacks support either at work or at home.


If a person doesn’t take a break once in a while, they could face burnout. We can all run out of gas, but there are steps to lessen the effects. As supervisors, and wingmen, we need to be aware of some of the signs of burnout: declining work effort, decreased job satisfaction, higher absenteeism/turnover, and decreased quality of self-care. All of these can lead to depression, broken relationships, and destructive behaviors.


To counter burnout, experts recommend having a clear sense of purpose, understanding the impact a job has on others, and having connectedness at work and home. If you recognize burnout/stress in yourself or others, you need to triage the “wounds” Self-care is a practice that should be integrated into our daily lives. You shouldn’t forget to bathe & floss daily; the same rings true for self-care. When we find positive ways to affect our overall well-being, not only do we become more resilient, but we are able to decrease our anxiety, minimize stress, and avoid burnout.

The internet is full of ideas/remedies to help unplug from a challenging day. Listening to your favorite music, hitting the gym, going for a walk with a loved one, or watching a favorite movie are all great options. If you have exhausted these opportunities, or need something a bit more in-depth, we have a ton of resources—Military One-Source, Mary Arnold (301 FW director of psychological health), Veterans Crisis Line—that are FREE and easily engaged. The key is recognizing the need in yourself or others and making the call.

We also need to continue to create the culture that seeking help is okay. It’s okay to NOT be okay. We count on each of our warriors to do their part to advance the 301st Fighter Wing, and keep us as THE flagship program in Air Force Reserve Command. Everyone needs to be in the right mindset to sustain this, and we cannot do it without every teammate.  

Be safe, be smart, and be a good wingman!

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