“Burnout happens when you’ve been experiencing chronic stress for so long that your body and your emotional system have begun to shut down and are operating in survival mode,” says Dr. Sara Denning, a clinical psychologist based in Manhattan who specializes in dealing with stress and anxiety. “You numb out because you can’t think. You can’t even make decisions anymore.”


Unfortunately, it’s also one of those terms so overused that telling people you’re burned out, particularly in a country that fetishizes work (Americans work more than any other country in the industrialized world) and in a city that runs on ambition, does not exactly engender much sympathy. Mostly it’s hard not to sound like a whiner. And yet, the real thing—actual, life-stopping burnout—demands to be noticed.

— Glynnis MacNicol had a dream job that paid well—and then she walked away from it all. MacNicol talks about what it’s like to burn out in this month’s issue of Elle magazine.

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Photo: Tim Regan