Cutting to the core of burnout

We’re slammed, flat out, and up to our ears in tasks. There’s barely enough hours In the day … and it’s taking a toll on our mental health.

Cutting to the core of burnout
What is driving us to burnout?
00:00 / 01:41

So what’s driving us to burnout? 

In this episode of 'The Core', Wilhelmina Shrimpton speaks to corporate workers and farmers with burnout, psychologists, businesses and GPs about how and why we're hitting the wall. 

Head to www.todayfm.co.nz, or search 'The Core' wherever you get your podcasts. 


You’ve probably already heard this at least a couple of times today already. You know, the standard reply when you ask someone how they are. 

“I’m so busy”. 

That little two-syllable 'B' word is forming the foundation of our daily small talk, and if it’s not the B word it's “slammed” … “flat out” … or “swamped”. There’s barely enough hours in the day, and it’s taking a toll on our mental health. Funnily enough, that ‘B’ word is causing another ‘B’ word … known as burnout. 

It’s a problem that’s now so widespread that in 2019 it was added to the World Health Organisation’s “International Classification of Diseases” … and that was before we even knew what Covid 19 was. 

A recent survey by workplace management platform Employment Hero revealed more than half of Kiwis felt burnt out at work at the end of 2021, and beginning of 2022. 

Another survey by AUT revealed that burnout rates have tripled since the pandemic struck. A third of workers surveyed reported burnout late last year …  compared with just 1 in 9 in May 2020. 

It’s true that burnout and stress existed before the pandemic .. but it appears Covid 19 has brought it to the fore. While dealing with lockdowns and sickness, we’re also trying to be better workers, wives, husbands and friends. We’re trying to be healthy, fit, AND social. 

We aren’t just climbing the career ladder … we’re sprinting up it, and we’re falling over before the finish line. 

So what exactly is burnout, and how do we recognise it? 

One expert says there are three red flags and symptoms of burnout. The first is chronic exhaustion, the second is increased cynicism and depersonalisation and the third is reduced professional efficacy - the feeling that you’re digging deeper and not getting ahead or failing. 

It can affect anyone, in any industry and at any time. 

‘The Core’ spoke to two people who suffered from burnout. A woman in the corporate world, and a man in farming. Both spoke of the immense toll it took on their mental and physical health, driven by a need to succeed and hit targets. One spoke of their stress and anxiety like an addiction. If their stomach wasn’t in knots, they believed they didn’t have enough on their plate.

Listening to them tell their stories was tough, as I saw myself in some of the harder days they recounted. There have been many points in my 13 year career where I’ve come pretty close to burnout. The long, weird hours and constant hustle of journalism can be an extremely hard thing to juggle. Throw in a lack of sleep, and a lot of anxiety and you’ve got the perfect storm. 

Thankfully that juggle is a little easier these days. Maybe it’s experience? Who knows? Whatever it is, I know I will undoubtedly cross that stressful bridge again. 

So what’s the best thing to do when and if you do cross it? Is it up to the individual, their boss, or their company to recognise and treat it? 

Find out on this week’s episode of The Core. 

You can listen to Wilhelmina Shrimpton’s investigation into burnout during The Core 7 - 8pm on Today FM Monday 23rd May. 

You can also listen on demand as a Today FM podcast - subscribe here

New episode out every Monday.