How to Kill Burnout and Upgrade Your Performance the Easy Way


If you're like me, you've experienced how crippling burnout can be. Despite critical deadlines, burnout can keep your motivation at zero. Everything seems harder. And when it hits, the timing often couldn’t be worse.

Our subjective experience of burnout is validated by brain research. Burnout compromises the cognitive and emotional processes in the brain.


But what are the most effective ways to prevent and recover from it? 

Your brain works best if you give it even the tiniest breaks (as little as 60 seconds can greatly improve your performance).

Here’s why:

Burnout is caused by too much focus on achieving goals for extended periods of time. We know from many studies that the longer you stay focused on achieving goals without taking breaks for enjoyment and relaxation, the more your work quality and performance decline. You need to turn down activity in the concentration center of your brain (the Dorsolateral prefrontal cortex [DLPF]) several times an hour to allow your glial cells to clean away the stress-related byproducts generated by the neurons in this area.

The fastest way is to take relaxation break and to fully immerse yourself in any pleasurable activity for 1-3 minutes. This could be a taking a short walk, sipping a warm drink, massaging your own head, sketching a picture, looking at travel photos, watching a video on YouTube... Anything that you enjoy!

This cat massage video may help you.

That said, the most effective way to give your DLPF a rest is to enter a trance-like daydreaming state. Research shows that repeating the word "OM" like a yogi may be the fastest way to do this (other sounds don't appear to work!). That said, you may get some strange looks if you do this around others in the office and want to fall back on a more covert strategy.

Don’t feel guilty taking tiny indulgences throughout the day. In fact, we recommend getting very intentional about them. Set a timer to take quick breaks 1-3 times an hour. When you return to concentrate on a specific goal or task, you'll feel less stress and your productivity and performance will skyrocket. You’ll feel better, get more done, and you’ll protect your brain from debilitating burnouts.

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Neurohemodynamic correlates of 'OM' chanting: A pilot functional magnetic resonance imaging study. Kalyani BG, Venkatasubramanian G, Arasappa R, Rao NP, Kalmady SV, Behere RV, Rao H, Vasudev MK, Gangadhar BN. Int J Yoga. 2011 Jan;4(1):3-6.

Can we predict burnout severity from empathy-related brain activity? Tei S, Becker C, Kawada R, Fujino J, Jankowski KF, Sugihara G, Murai T, Takahashi H. Transl Psychiatry. 2014 Jun 3;4:e393.

Structural changes of the brain in relation to occupational stress. Savic I. Cereb Cortex. 2015 Jun;25(6):1554-64.

This post was lovingly crafted by Josiah Hultgren. He is Founder/CEO of MindFullyAlive, a Senior Lecturer at California Lutheran University, a cognitive coach, and a practical neuroscience expert. He produces and curates mindfulness content designed to improve structure and functioning of the brain.

A Simple Way to 3x Your Chances of Reaching Your Goals

How to Increase Your Odds at Reaching Your #Goals 300%

The written content of the post was authored by best-selling author and neuroscience expert, Mark Robert Waldman. It is posted with his permission.

Psychologist Heidi Grant recommends using if/then planning to improve performance and increase your chances of reaching your goals by 300%. 

If/then plans work, she says, because they “are built into our neurological wiring.” This kind of thinking helps “people decide exactly when, where, and how they will fulfill their goals,” providing powerful triggers for taking action. 

She recommends using these three styles of if/then thinking:

  1. Replacing 
    “If I start to engage in an unproductive behavior (procrastinating, worrying, stressing out, etc.), then I will do _______________.” Choose an activity that will interrupt it (relaxing, focusing on your values, seeking advice from a colleague, etc.)
  2. Ignoring
    “If I feel the urge to ________, then I’ll ignore it.”
    This form of thought suppression has been proven to be very effective.
  3. Negating
    “If I slip into a bad habit (over-working, over-eating, etc.), then I’ll choose to interrupt it.” By consciously making this type of commitment, you are more likely to remain on track.

Check out Mark Waldman's free 6 Days to Enlightenment email series for information on how you can access enlightened states often and easily.

Yawning is The Fastest Way to Hack Mental Stress and Focus

 Yawning is The Fastest Way to Hack Mental #Stress and #Focus

The written content of the post was authored by best-selling author and neuroscience expert, Mark Robert Waldman. It is posted with his permission.

Olympic athletes yawn before they race. Musicians and speakers yawn before they go on stage. Snipers get trained to yawn before they pull the trigger. Pack animals yawn together to establish communal empathy. This is because yawning is the ultimate stress and focus hack.

Here are 10 reasons to yawn frequently:

1. Stimulates alertness and concentration
2. Optimizes brain activity and metabolism
3. Improves cognitive function
4. Increases memory recall
5. Enhances consciousness and introspection
6. Lowers stress
7. Relaxes your upper body
8. Fine-tunes your sense of time
9. Increases empathy and social awareness
10. Enhances pleasure and sensuality

Yawning clears away the fogginess of sleep and increases cerebral blood flow. After yawning, you quickly benefit with enhanced mental efficiency and a heightened state of cognitive awareness. In fact, yawning appears to be the fastest way to lower mental stress and anxiety. 

Many neurochemicals get released during the yawning experience that are essential for motivation, memory recall, and voluntary decision-making. In fact, it’s hard to find another activity that positively impacts so many brain functions. So, If you want to maintain an optimally healthy brain, make it a habit to yawn whenever you want to relax or enhance your ability to concentrate on a task.

It has a similar effect on a person as having a cup of coffee. It helps your brain shift between the highly focused demands of decision-making and restful daydreaming states that give you access to creative problem-solving. It even regulates the time clocks in your brain, helping you to sleep better at night. Yawning helps you to wake up and stay alert during a stressful work day.


Yawning also appears to be a primitive form of empathy and is found in many mammals. There is a connection between frequent yawning and increased emotional empathy. That’s why we recommend that yawning a few times before entering a stressful business meeting or discussing a sensitive issue.

We recommend you yawn as many times a day as possible. When you wake up? Yawn. When you're confronting a difficult problem at work? Yawn. Whenever you feel anger, anxiety or stress? Yawn. 

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Yawn before giving an important talk, yawn before you take a test, and yawn whenever you feel bored. Do it mindfully, paying close attention to how it affects your mood and awareness.

Conscious yawning takes a little discipline to get past our social conditioning that it is rude. Another barrier is the “excuses” that people sometimes use: “I don’t feel like it,” “I’m not tired,” and a favorite, “I can’t.” Of course you can. All you need to do to trigger a deep yawn is to fake it four or five times. Try it right now, and you’ll see how each yawn feels more pleasant and relaxing.


A Mindful Yawning Experiment:

This exercise only takes two minutes, and works better if you are standing up. 

  1. Begin by taking a slow deep breath and then yawn. You can fake them at first, and if you make an “ahh” sound during exhalation you should be able to trigger a series of real yawns on your fourth or fifth try.
  2. As you continue to yawn, pay close attention to the sensations in your mouth, your throat, your chest and belly, and don’t be surprised if your eyes start watering. 
  3. If you feel dizzy, lightheaded, or disoriented, stop, sit down, and rest. Continue to yawn another ten or twelve times, and then pause, noticing the different body sensations you are having. Do you feel more relaxed and alert? 

If you feel tired, it probably means that you are exhausted from overwork. If you’ve been particularly stressed or anxious, you might find yourself yawning a great deal over the next half hour, or even throughout the day after you’ve tried this yawning experiment. It means that your brain needs more blood circulation to improve neural performance. Enjoy the yawns, knowing that it’s a special treat for your busy brain.

Check out Mark Waldman's free 6 Days to Enlightenment email series for information on how you can access enlightened states often and easily.