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  • Annette Nilsson

Burn On....

While we all know about burn out and bore out, the burn on syndrom does not get much attention.

And why would it, the fire is still on, the flame is flickering, barely visible, but it burns!

To notice a burn on, we need to become more aware, more sensitive, and more forgiving. The dangers of a burn on syndrom are potentially bigger than those of a burn out.

A burn out after all is visible, it is a collapse, it does not go unnoticed, and therefore, it gets attention and hopefully treatment.

Burn on is another word for chronic stress. But we tend to shut down when we hear the word stress, as it is omnipresent and inevitable.

The stress I talk about is chronic, constant, and undramatic. It is a combination of unresolved inner conflicts, belief systems, negative self-talk, and a lack of self-worth, and the confirmation of those beliefs through experiences in our environment. The belief 'I am not good at...' is confirmed the moment we do not get positive feedback, for example after a presentation.

Being chronically stressed, we do not have the capacity to tell ourselves 'well, indeed, this presentation was not my best, better next time'. Instead, we will try harder next time, but we do not believe we actually can do better.


Burn on eventually has severe consequences for our mental and physical health. Psychoneuroimmunologists have confirmed that chronic stress is the root cause for auto-immune deseases, and in the worst case can lead to cancer. Psychoneuroimmunology studies how the immune system and the central nervous system interact. https://www.webmd.com/brain/what-is-psychoneuroimmunology


How do you know that you suffer from 'burn on'?

  • you are constantly tired, no matter how long you sleep

  • you lack enthusiasm about things which you used to like in the past

  • you cannot see the point in what you are doing but carry on anyway

  • you believe that if you pull your self together, it will eventually get better

  • you think that with a bit of rest or a holiday, you will be back on track

5 steps might help you to handle chronic stress, and recover from a burn on syndrom

  1. acknowledge how you feel

  2. direct awareness to your symptoms

  3. be patient in finding solutions

  4. treat yourself with kindness

  5. and get support

To burn on is an unhealthy and self-destructive habit or behavior pattern. To break the habit, we need to identify the root cause or the trigger for our behaviors. Only with being mindful of what triggers us to ignore our own well-being, and to burn on, we will be able to eventually to light that fire again, and also turn it down. Self-regulation is essential for your nervous system, for your mental and physical well-being, and for longevity.

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