Workshop 6th World Congress on Positive Psychology 2019

Resilience in the Age of Burnout: Becoming a Big Wave Surfer (#12)

Lucy Hone 1 2 , Denise Quinlan 3
  1. Director, New Zealand Institute of Wellbeing & Resilience, Christchurch, Canterbury, New Zealand
  2. Research Associate, AUT University, Auckland, New Zealand
  3. Director, New Zealand Institute of Wellbeing & Resilience, Dunedin, Otago, New Zealand

This session applies the science of resilience to a pernicious 21st century problem. Burnout affects those most deeply invested in their careers, for whom work is a calling and source of meaning -  including teachers, physicians, and even wellbeing researchers and practitioners.

While burnout can appear to strike suddenly, we will explain how to identify early warning signs and implement evidence-based strategies to manage them. The individual cannot avoid burnout by managing personal wellbeing alone, however. “Burnout is the  individual’s response to a systemic problem”1. Organisational drivers include long hours, high responsibility with low autonomy and flexibility, and a perceived lack of institutional support.

This workshop provides a framework for identifying individual and organisational factors affecting wellbeing, covering the warning signs of burnout (e.g., interrupted sleep, frustration, cynicism, work/home conflict and difficulty “unplugging” from work) and sharing the resilience strategies for prioritising and addressing these challenges. Many of us live very committed lives, with little or no slack in the system. As one school principal commented, “We are all one rogue Board member, one rogue staff member, or one traumatic student incident away from not coping”. If we want to ride big waves, we need to protect our wellbeing.


  1. 1. Bernstein, C. A., Aggarwal, R., Chilton, J., & Goldman, M. L. (2018). APA Wellbeing Ambassador Toolkit: Physician Burnout and Depression: Challenges and Opportunities [Power Point Presentation].