[3pm - I am back and will answer more questions! I plan on spending quite a few hours here and will also answer questions over the next few days. I'm going to share some resources:

For information on my workshops and other programming (that isn't therapy) you can go here: https://www.drmorganlevy.com I have a short, informal quiz I created that you might find helpful: https://www.drmorganlevy.com/quiz (It does ask you to enter your email - you can unsubscribe)

For more information about my therapy practice you can go here: https://morganlevyphd.com

Here are some of my favorite sites to help find a therapist: https://www.psychologytoday.com/ https://openpathcollective.org https://internationaltherapistdirectory.com https://www.nami.org

I always recommend asking for a free consultation to ensure you are getting the best fit!

Alright - I'm going to get back to responding. I appreciate all of you so much!- Morgan]

[1PM EDT - I'm having so much fun! I have to step away for a little bit, but keep those questions coming! I will be back soon to answer more and provide more resources.]

[Update - Thank you everyone for these amazing questions! I plan on answering as many as I can. I've set aside time in my schedule to do this because I love reddit! I just wanted to let you know that I see them all and am working away :) ]

Hello Reddit! My name is Dr. Morgan Levy and I am a licensed clinical psychologist. I did an AMA last year and had a blast so I am so excited to do another one!

I’ve been working online providing therapy and workshops specializing in burnout and perfectionism for several years now. I’m really passionate about helping perfectionists and high-achievers learn more about who they are beyond their profession and their work.

While I can’t provide therapy over Reddit, I’m happy to answer general questions about perfectionism, burnout, and other mental health issues in general.

Beyond my work as a psychologist, I’m a bit of a nerd! I love science fiction and planning murder mystery parties :)

Disclaimer: This post is for educational and informational purposes only and not therapy or a substitute for therapy. If you're experiencing thoughts or impulses that put you or anyone else in danger, please contact the National Suicide Help Line at 1-800-273-8255 or go to your local emergency room.

Proof: Here's my proof!

Comments: 634 • Responses: 51  • Date: 

worrymonster563 karma

I burned out and got fired from my job and basically ended my career of 10 years in November. I'm struggling to have self confidence and find a direction to pursue now. Do you have any exercises you recommend to help people identify new directions to take after ending toxic careers?
Every time I start to think I might want to focus on a new path my perfection brain kicks in and reminds me I'm going to fail. It's been an insurmountable mountain.

DrMorganLevy490 karma

That sounds like a huge life change! I’m sorry to hear how it’s impacting you now. Work becomes such a huge part of our identity and we can feel lost when everything is pulled out from under us and we don’t know how to move forward.

While I don’t identity much as a career counselor, something that I think is really important is understanding and recognizing our values. (Not our goals). Once we recognize our values, it becomes easier to make decisions in our life and live in a way that’s in accordance with our values. This can involve looking at the different areas of our life (work/education, relationships, leisure, health, etc) and determining what matters most to us in those areas. I’m going to link to a handout that I’ve found clients of mine have enjoyed using: https://thehappinesstrap.com/upimages/Complete\_Worksheets\_2014.pdf

The fear of failure is so debilitating. I’m sure it doesn’t help that you were in a toxic work environment before. Sometimes people fear failure and they fear that they are going to be exposed for their inadequacies so it keeps them from moving forward. The fear of failure can be a deep-rooted issue, but it could also be because of just being in a toxic environment where you might have been scrutinized constantly.

That voice telling you that you’re going to fail definitely sounds like an annoying inner critic. The best way to address our inner critic is to recognize that it’s sole purpose is to make us feel bad and that it usually comes from the words that we’ve heard from the people in our life. It doesn’t make it true.

I hope this was helpful. Please let me know if I need to clarify anything!

DrMorganLevy85 karma

Oh, thank you!!!!

worrymonster42 karma

Wow thanks for such a long and compassionate response! I actually was looking at your site and if you took insurance I'd been emailing you about a booking. :)

This certainly was helpful. Processing through the end of a "dream career" is not a grieving experience I expected to have, and your advice to hone in on values rings true with me. It's something I'd already had in mind and this has given me motivation and tools to write down and formalize what I've been letting bounce around in my head. So often we're told to focus on /what/ we like doing and /why/ we like doing, but not the way it enriches our sense of self like a clear understanding of values can.

As for my persistent inner critic, they've been a life long issue that I know i need to dig through a lot of layers to crack. Thanks for your encouragement! It's definitely all been a lot of change but I keep remembering it is change for the better.

DrMorganLevy30 karma

I'm so glad this was helpful.

I'm going to share some resources in the main text of this post in a bit to help people find therapists that work for them and meet all of their needs.

That's a great point about it being a grieving experience. Because you're exactly right. It is a loss. And losses are difficult and take time to work through.

Thanks again for sharing all of this!

meldroc35 karma

Would you say that toxic workplaces & employers are becoming more prevalent & increasing the amount of burnout?

I imagine perfectionism, burnout, & imposter syndrome are exacerbated by being micromanaged, yelled at, harassed, and kept one-foot-out-the-door at all times.

DrMorganLevy42 karma

Yes. I think that also is reflected in what people are now calling the "Great Resignation"

banksy_h8r19 karma

For desktop users, this link should work.

DrMorganLevy10 karma

Thank you!!!

ScottColvin44 karma

I'm with you 100% Looking to figure out how to get back up. I was amazed how hard it hit. Super fucking weird.

DrMorganLevy18 karma

Oof..I'm sorry to hear that you experienced this as well!

Jak1977271 karma

If you were to offer one piece of advice to a teacher who has students struggling with perfectionism, what would it be?

DrMorganLevy554 karma

It seems like more and more students are feeling that immense pressure to perform. Another trait that shows up often with perfectionism is avoidance. Because perfectionists often avoid getting things done because they just feel so worried that they aren’t going to do it right or that they will make mistakes. They become frozen and it’s hard for them to move forward.

Something that I teach a lot and I think could be helpful in this situation is the concept of being “good enough.” Yes, of course, sometimes we need to do the very best we can in certain situations, but we don’t need to be that way ALL of the time. And that’s usually how perfectionists feel. With the concept of being good enough, it’s about recognizing how much you actually need to do or where you need to be at in order to still succeed and obtain the goal that you have. For example, sometimes the A- and not the A+ really won’t change our outcomes or goals, but being satisfied with work that is “good enough” for the A- can save us countless hours of work and stress.

Please let me know if this is clear or if I need to explain more! Or if you even don’t agree with it. I have a lot of people who don’t buy into this concept and I’m happy to discuss it more. I hope this helped!

Also, side note, I know being a teacher has been pretty rough these last few years. I hope you’re getting the support that you need.

Milan514159 karma

“Avoidance… Perfectionists often avoid getting things done.” Thank you for validating this. I sometimes feel this way, but over time I’ve learned that making mistakes is better than not trying at all/avoiding something!

DrMorganLevy34 karma

Yes!!! Thank you for sharing!

driverofracecars48 karma

Are competitive environments good or bad for perfectionists?

Thatgamer32178 karma

Not the op but coming from a perfectionist I think it’s a double edged sword because in those cases perfection isn’t necessarily being perfect it’s being better than the other guy, so it’s a lower bar to reach but also you can end up overworking yourself a lot more because “victory” or “perfection” is so close in these situations rather than a platonic idea of perfection.

driverofracecars15 karma

What about when you’re competing against yourself? I’m also a perfectionist and I find when I’m competing against myself, I can get really down on myself and negative when I’m not performing as well as I feel I should be.

DrMorganLevy45 karma

What about when you’re competing against yourself? I’m also a perfectionist and I find when I’m competing against myself, I can get really down on myself and negative when I’m not performing as well as I feel I should be.

Well, it seems like if you’re competing against yourself then it’s less about having healthy competition and more about letting your inner critic take over. I spoke about the “shoulds” in an earlier comment and it seems to be coming into play here. I’ll copy that over and also expand a bit.

Stop “Shoulding” - You might say yes to every request you receive because you think you should be able to get it all done. Or maybe you think you should be the person that everyone can count on. If you're always thinking in terms of what "should" be said or done, then you're likely ignoring what you want and need. This can spiral towards burnout. The reality is "shoulds" often come from outside influences. It’s important to understand where these expectations come from and challenge them. Start substituting it with “I would like to” or “I need to”

So it may seem silly, but making this change can create such a huge difference in our well-being. When we have “shoulds” its more about external influences. When we focus on what we truly want and truly need then we are taking more control over that. I’m not sure if I’m explaining this clearly over text format. I have a webinar that I recorded on youtube where I go over this a bit more – it’s not the best quality – but I think the content is helpful! (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xj5wblFSbus&t=31s)

I’m wondering where your performance “should” comes from.

It can also be helpful to recognize that as humans our levels of motivation and productivity ebb and flow. We can’t be high-performers ALL of the time and that’s totally okay.

Jak197733 karma

That's really interesting, and something we are already acutely aware of. We try to teach that being good enough is good enough, that aiming for perfection in one task will cause problems elsewhere, possibly in the longer term.

The hardest part is how to explain this in a way that changes behaviour and internalised thought. How can we change this thinking effectively?

I can see highly competitive people aiming for the A+, and that's fine, but its the endless chase for that last percent than means you either drop the ball on something else, or fall apart at the end. But I think most teachers would agree that this is a real problem.

DrMorganLevy39 karma

I’m glad that’s something that you teach! I’m sure it’s also harder if the same principles aren’t being taught at home. Something that has been shown to help children with anxiety, stress, perfectionism, burnout, etc is mindfulness. The ability to practice that and learn how to be in the present moment can really make a different when it comes to that pressure. I’ve seen that some schools are starting to implement that as a regular routine and I think that will make such a difference.

Jak197711 karma

We've used mindfulness for a few years, and its great for some students, but not for others. There's obviously no easily one-size-fits-all solution for all students, and I'll take your advice to heart when dealing with some of my performance anxious students.

DrMorganLevy3 karma

I found this article, you might find it helpful!

It's called: Perfectionism: Helping Handout for School and Home by NICHOLAS W. AFFRUNTI


freeapple0117 karma

Interesting! What I’m struggling with is that although A- or A+ might not change the outcome, it does change how I think about myself. A- feels like I’m not good enough for the world, while A+ gives me a sense that I’m worthy.

DrMorganLevy5 karma

Yeah, that can be a common way of thinking. When we attach our worth to an outcome that’s when we can start to spiral into burnout. It’s important to remember that success does not equal inherent worth.

yukon-flower4 karma

Oh wow, I physically shuddered at the thought of accepting only getting an A-, when an A+ would be possible with more effort.

I'm all for getting a project out the door in good time so that the next group can review it and more the project forward, but the idea of putting out work that isn't polished feels like I'm wasting my talents.

I'm extremely successful, but only just starting to realize that I probably have a lot of anxiety issues that are so ingrained that I don't even recognize them for what they are. Any tips? (I took your website survey and provided a real email, but the email I received didn't shed any new light.) Thank you, Dr. Levy!

DrMorganLevy6 karma

Thanks for taking the quiz! I just developed it...thanks for the feedback! I'll see about adding more info to make it a bit more useful!

It's a huge step to even be able to recognize that you are experiencing anxiety in the first place. So many people just live on autopilot. I would pick one area to examine and start small! For example, even just checking in with yourself throughout the day and rating your anxiety on a scale from 1 to 10. You might start noticing patterns of where it's showing up the most.

I also highly recommend reaching out to a therapist in your area to help you work through some of it.

minibun3 karma

What can parents do to support a child who struggles with perfectionism? Teaching environment is only one factor that influences the student outcome and we need to be on the same page with parents about the approaches we take at home to be consistent and work with them together as a team!

It’s also true that many children and adolescents have taken a big step back in their social and emotional development (SEL) due to social isolation in the past 2 years, and exhibiting more anxiety and pathologies in which perfectionism, emotional dysregulation, ADHD and OCD are rampant in our kids.

Do you have any concrete tools or framing in working with kids that have been effective for curbing perfectionism tendencies?

One other consideration is if the kids have a perfectionist parent(s) who scold or shame kids for not being perfect, and thus kids get upset for not doing something right at the first try or acting out when things don’t happen like how they imagined. I think the underlying emotion they experience is fear (of failure) and anxiety (of the unknown consequences of doing something ‘wrong’). How can we equip our kids better to deal with unrealistic expectations, whether that’s internally driven or externally pressured?

DrMorganLevy3 karma

I don't specialize in working with kids, so I found a resource that seems pretty great and I hope it's helpful!

It's called: Perfectionism: Helping Handout for School and Home by NICHOLAS W. AFFRUNTI


Ultitanius209 karma

I'm not saying that burnout is necessarily something new, but it feels like something that's far more prevalent than it used to be. Do you have any data that suggest that it is becoming more common? If so, is there any noted reasons as to why?

Thank you!

DrMorganLevy273 karma

Here’s an article from the American Psychological Association on burnout and it’s prevalence that I think can answer this question much better than I can :) https://www.apa.org/monitor/2022/01/special-burnout-stress.

In my own practice, I’ve noticed that the pandemic and working from home creating a huge shift and increase in burnout. People have a much harder time setting boundaries when they are working from home and find it much more difficult to say no.

I’ve also noticed that feeling the pressure to do it all at work and at home has increased burnout significantly for the people that I work with. I think as more and more companies become aware of the impact of mental health on employees productivity and happiness then there might be some changes.

pridefulofbeing97 karma

I often try rituals like wearing certain items that are only worn when I’m in “work” mode at home teleworking. Other items, I only wear when I’m “off” work. Seems to help! So does having the space and privacy to create a little separation.

WoodSorrow41 karma

This is a great point. In WFH, I dress for work, and when I'm done, I dress for home. Really helps establish that mental boundary in addition to physical space boundaries.

EatAtGrizzlebees37 karma

Yeah, my dad has been working from home for over 20 years now. He has a ritual not much different from when he was leaving the house: Get up at 5 AM, read the newspaper, make coffee, eat, take a shower, dress for work, into his office he goes. He comes out around noon for lunch, eats out of his office usually, and goes back in to his office until 5 or 6 PM. I was worried about him working from home since he's been such a workaholic his whole life, but he's done a great job of having a routine and setting boundaries.

DrMorganLevy10 karma

Boundaries are so important!

DrMorganLevy3 karma

Yes, I love this!

DrMorganLevy31 karma

Yes! I love this discussion! It's such a great point! Something else I encourage my clients to do when they are working from home is to have their home "commute time." So when they worked in an office, they had time at the end of the day to recharge and decompress before getting home. Now, they are immediately thrown into being at home and it can be very jolting. I suggest taking 10 minutes when work is over to do something relaxing or peaceful in order to get that similar experience.

MrBohannan54 karma

Have you noticed burnout being due to increasing demands of employers and also being followed with flat wages?

I work in healthcare (as a provider) and I feel I am drastically underpaid for the work they want me to perform. With the corporitization of healthcare, employers are starting to treat workers, even high level professional ones as cannon fodder. In my 15 year career tenure one constamt remains the same, more work is added and nothing is removed. At this rate healthcare will be unsustainable in the next decade. Its not as if I have many options as well as this consolidation continues, its much like the cable company oligopoly. They all offer the same.

Is this something you and your colleagues are looking into?

DrMorganLevy7 karma

Yes, I agree with all of your points completely.

Researchers are looking into this, for sure. In my own work, I work with individuals and small groups, I decided the conducting research route wasn’t for me after graduate school :)

fatchancefatpants131 karma

For people who recognize they're on the path to burnout, how would you recommend people manage it?

DrMorganLevy223 karma

First, I want to say that recognition is the most important part so that’s great! It’s much more difficult to make any changes if we don’t recognize that there are changes to be made. There are so many different strategies and ways to manage burnout. I’ve shared a few in other answers, but I’ll share another one of my favorite strategies here!

Stop “Shoulding” - You might say yes to every request you receive because you think you should be able to get it all done. Or maybe you think you should be the person that everyone can count on. If you're always thinking in terms of what "should" be said or done, then you're likely ignoring what you want and need. This can spiral towards burnout. The reality is "shoulds" often come from outside influences. It’s important to understand where these expectations come from and challenge them. Start substituting it with “I would like to” or “I need to”

Please let me know if I need to clarify!

PennyLovesHugorHill47 karma

not OP, but i needed to hear this. sometimes i feel like “shouldering” is my whole gig. i’m on my first real vacation in years, and i’ve had a tough time unplugging my mind from the office. cheers.

DrMorganLevy28 karma

I'm so glad this was helpful and I'm glad to hear that you are on vacation! It definitely takes intentional practice to not think about work when we are on vacation.

Regemony130 karma

What advice would you give someone who is chronically avoidant? I saw a reply around being "good enough" but it hasn't really gelled for me and I've been struggling for years in a paralytic state, trying to finish my PhD.

DrMorganLevy107 karma

What advice would you give someone who is chronically avoidant? I saw a reply around being "good enough" but it hasn't really gelled for me and I've been struggling for years in a paralytic state, trying to finish my PhD.

You know, sometimes I feel like graduate school is a world of it’s own. It definitely fosters perfectionism, burnout, and imposter syndrome.

I’m going to get a little bit technical here with what we call “psychobabble.” Please feel free to follow-up and ask for any clarification. In the model of psychology that I tend to work with, avoidant traits usually show up as a defense mechanism from experiencing anxiety or any form of discomfort. Basically, avoiding is “safe.” It creates an uncomfortable cycle though. We avoid because it’s safe, but then we feel bad because we are falling behind and feel like failures and that we aren’t productive enough.

I would typically work with someone on slowly becoming more comfortable with tolerating discomfort. This could involve literally sitting in discomfort without trying to get rid of the feelings. We would also work to make sure they have the coping skills to manage that discomfort (I never want to push someone too fast or before they are ready for it).

Just curious, what are you getting your PhD in?

tmmydg77 karma

Hey, thanks for doing this! I’ve been called a perfectionist my whole life, by my teachers, my parents, my coworkers and so on. That’s because I do take time to look into details. However I absolutely do not ever strive for perfectionism. In fact, I would call my work style competitive yet somewhat sloppy.

I guess my question is, what really characterizes perfectionism? And is there a healthy degree for it?

Second question is: what are early signs of a burnout?

Lastly, what was your first murder mystery party like? :)

DrMorganLevy112 karma

I’m so happy you wrote this because almost all of the perfectionists that I work with do not identify as being perfectionists! They usually think they are never enough or that they are never doing good enough, but on the outside people it doesn’t necessarily look like that.

One thing that I like to emphasize is that perfectionism is not necessarily a bad thing that we want to get rid of. It’s more about figuring out where it works for us and where it doesn’t work. For example, I have a friend who said that if she wasn’t a perfectionist that she never would have become a partner at her law firm. It’s true. But it doesn’t mean she needs to be a perfectionist ALL of the time in EVERY area of her life. I’m all about balance and recognizing everything is on a spectrum.

Perfectionism is also different from mastery striving. Perfectionists usually are driven more by the fear of failure. Mastery striving is more driven by the excitement of success. Perfectionists usually have unrealistic and impossible expectations whereas mastery strivers usually are able to alter their expectations based on feedback.

Some early signs of burnout can be the increased desire to prove oneself, working more than usual, problems with sleep, physical problems (e.g., headaches, stomachaches, muscle tension), eating changes, and ignoring hobbies. Burnout can look different for everyone, but these are the most common signs!

Ooh…my first murder mystery party. I think it might have been zombie themed! I always thought it was so cool when I saw murder mystery specials of TV shows and wondered if that was a thing in real life. One day I decided I wanted to see if I could do one and I googled it and found that there are ton of websites online with easy party packages to host one! My favorite one was “monster” themed and it was about celebrating Dracula’s birthday. Lol.

SquidCap06 karma

They usually think they are never enough or that they are never doing good enough

This is the default condition for all humans. It is the truth, you are never doing enough good of a job that it could not be done better. Now, is it worth going over 20% effort? Quite rarely... 20% effort gives you 80% of the results and that is usually just fine. People are just so incredibly sloppy, in general so they don't expect much more. The things i care about i do at 90-95% end result, things that i don't.. get 80%. It is the last 20% that takes 80% of time.

edit: called Pareto Principle. I truly believe it is universal constant, it pops up in so, so many places, 80/20 or 1/5th. For ex: Individually, everyone is an idiot in at least one subject matter/topic/opinion/belief and one fifth of all people are idiots in at least one specific area. Does not matter how good of an expert you are, how high your IQ equivalent score is, you are an idiot in some area/topic/etc. and if we look at just one topic one fifth of all people are idiots in that.

This made school SUPER easy ;) Satisfied with B avg? You get to have a lot more free time to be a kid. Now, if you excuse me i'll go and work on that song i've worked on for 4 months and have about 50 final_mix files on my drive cause it can always be better... The only thing that saves me are deadlines and knowing that people in general, are sloppy..

DrMorganLevy9 karma

Quite rarely... 20% effort gives you 80% of the results and that is usually just fine.

Yes! I totally agree with that statement.

I totally relate with all of those files...my desktop is a bit of a mess!

Nidandelsa57 karma

So I've taken those "Do you have burnout" online questionnaires and apparently I've been burned out for the better part of a decade (many grains o'salt here). Now what? In general, how do you treat burnout?

DrMorganLevy71 karma

Those online questionnaires and quizzes can be more insightful than we might realize!

Treating burnout is different for everyone because the root causes might be different. I work in a few different ways and there are so many different strategies that can help reduce burnout!

In my work, I like to explore many different areas to come up with a comprehensive plan for treating burnout. It also depends in what capacity I am working with my client.

In the therapy, we usually look at the root causes of burnout and why it formed. We explore patterns (e.g., behaviorally, emotionally, cognitively, interpersonally) that are currently showing up for the individual and why those patterns might be there. Then we typically work to adjust and change those patterns to be a little healthier. This is much more childhood focused.

In my work beyond the therapy room, I offer skills-building programs to help people prevent burnout. This isn't therapy - so we don't go deep into emotions or childhood stuff. This typically involves a “life audit” (to understand where burnout might be showing up and if something is triggering it), challenging our inner critic, working through imposter syndrome, assessing and understanding our values, setting boundaries, practicing mindfulness, and overcoming perfectionism.

There are many skills that I would recommend for someone experiencing burnout, but I would need to know more how it’s showing up in order to make my suggestions on what I think could work the most effectively.

I hope this was helpful! Feel free to follow-up!

Panzrams_Yacht_Club51 karma

Hi Dr Morgan Levy!

Wording this as openly as possible for you to form you own answer, how much of a problem are these for people diagnosed with ADHD?

Thank you!

DrMorganLevy13 karma

I’m not an expert in treating ADHD alone, but there is definitely an overlap that occurs. Mental fatigue and exhaustion in ADHD is very, very real. There are many different root causes of burnout and ADHD can be one of them. This could be in part due to the extra effort that’s involved in regulating activity levels and focus. It also could be because there is a high overlap in individuals experiencing ADHD and depression.

peldenna46 karma

I’m on a three month personal leave of absence from work because I felt burn out creeping. What should I focus on during this time and when I get back to help me avoid feeling that way again?


DrMorganLevy42 karma

That’s great that you were able to recognizing burnout starting to show up and that you were in a position where you can take some time off to recover. I would recommend always starting with assessing your values and if you are living in accordance with them. I shared this in an earlier answer, but I’ll put it again here: https://thehappinesstrap.com/upimages/Complete\_Worksheets\_2014.pdf

I would also suggest practicing mindfulness so that it’s easy to recognize what is going on in the present moment and if small signs of burnout are starting to show up. The more we practice mindfulness, the more we are able to implement it in our daily lives the easier it becomes to catch burnout before it gets worse.

It’s also really important to carve out time in your schedule for fun and relaxation (I know this isn’t feasible for everyone). Research shows that play and fun are super important to our mental well-being and help us be more productive in the long run.

Setting boundaries and knowing when to say no and when you are saying yes out of guilt is also a helpful skill to have! It definitely can take time to develop this though, so I always recommend starting out small.

bacon-was-taken30 karma

I burned out while studying hard for a software, I got "perfect" grades or close to it, but now there's a mental blockade to even just seeing the UI on my screen. Is there a way to make it fun again, and not scary?

DrMorganLevy32 karma

I usually recommend taking a break and some time off after spending a significant amount of time prepping for something like that! I don’t think we are meant to constantly work or constantly study and I think sometimes our bodies realize that before our brains do. When I recommend taking a vacation or time off, I also emphasize that it’s a true break. No checking emails, no just working for a few minutes, no answering work/school calls. Just a real break where you are able to do things you enjoy and bring you happiness in order to recharge. Usually people feel much more prepared to go back to work after being able to do that.

yoks74x29 karma

At age 48 with a successful software consulting business, I know I am very burnt out. Productivity has gone downhill, and motivation is seriously lacking. Have you had success in helping burned out individuals restore their productivity and motivation? A big life change is not feasible...I will work in this business until I retire and hopefully sell it.

DrMorganLevy24 karma

Great question! We don’t always have to make a huge life change in order to tackle burnout. Sometimes small tweaks and minor shifts are all that we need. I like to do a “life audit” and assess schedules, burnout triggers, mindset patterns, and behavioral patterns in order to come up with a plan to make changes. Once these small, but very powerful changes are made, the people I work with usually feel much more motivated, productive, and fulfilled.

I’m also a huge advocate of just taking time off from work (when possible). I understand that it could be hard owning a business, but if we don’t take time off then we just burn out. I learned this the hard way a few weeks ago! I almost forgot to show up to a therapy session! I realized I needed to take a few days off and felt much more refreshed afterwards.

Sometimes taking time off leads people to just feeling guilty that they took time off in the first place. I would say there are some deeper issues going on there that would need to be worked through.

Congrats on having a successful business!

yoks74x8 karma

Thank you for the reply. Are you currently taking on new clients for remote/virtual sessions?

DrMorganLevy10 karma

I am. I like to do a free consultation to make sure that I'm the best fit.

MartynZero11 karma

What are some early signs to look out for before a burnout that I should keep an eye out for a partner?

DrMorganLevy30 karma

Great question. Social support is a huge factor in psychologist well-being! Some common early signs of burnout can be the increased desire to prove oneself, working more than usual, problems with sleep, physical problems (e.g., headaches, stomachaches, muscle tension), eating changes, and ignoring hobbies. As a partner, you may also notice more irritability from them. So for example, they might seem to show less patience in general. They might seem like they are overall different than usual and seem a little off.

OmittedScribe10 karma

Hi Dr Levy, what is your opinion on the length of time that someone should be in therapy?
I've read comments from other psychologists saying that if they don't see any real progress after a year or so, to move on or find a different therapist. But I have friends who have been in therapy for 5+ years and still see the same person weekly. How do you differentiate between a therapist who is genuinely engaged and trying to help their clients, and someone who is clearly not the right fit but is dragging things out to make money?

DrMorganLevy9 karma

Thank you for this question! It really depends on the type of therapy that is being done! For example, I take a psychodynamic approach to therapy which is much more long-term in nature. This approach does NOT work for everything! I’m usually very up front about this and discuss this before taking someone on as a client. There are also therapists that are much more solution-focused in nature and tend to have shorter courses of therapy with their clients. It’s all about what your goals are as a client and finding a therapist that is a fit for those goals.

I certainly hope none of you find yourself with a therapist that is only dragging things out to make money. It’s always a good idea for the therapist to assess how the client feels treatment is going and if they feel like their needs/goals are being met. If they don’t feel like they’ve had any changes, I would suggest discussing this with the therapist. If they aren’t satisfied, there is nothing wrong with getting a second opinion from another therapist to see what they think!

Thank you for asking this!

marwachine9 karma


I am curious what drew you to psychology and why did you choose to specialize in perfectionism and burnout?

I would also like to ask for book recommendations please :)

DrMorganLevy20 karma

As a kid, I loved reading and stories. I was fascinated by heroes and villains and their motivations. I always wanted to know why things were the way they were. Before I went into psychology, I actually wanted to be a vet! I love animals, but then I realized that I can love animals and not be a vet. (And lets be real – I couldn’t handle organic chemistry classes). I realized I LOVED psychology during a History of Psychology course that I took in college. It absolutely fascinated me!

Early on in my training I paid attention to when I felt like I was doing my best work as therapist - I noticed that this occurred when I was working with individuals that were perfectionists and overachievers! I loved working with them to help them learn who they are beyond their work and embrace their emotional and “darker” sides.

A lot of the people I work with really love Brené Brown's work. I really enjoyed her book, The Gifts of Imperfection. I also recommend Full Catastrophe Living by Jon Kabat-Zinn.

VivaciousVera7 karma

You mentioned providing online workshops. Can you share the link? I’m also curious if you have any suggested reading for high achievers looking for a reset or recalibration.


DrMorganLevy8 karma

Sure! I provide workshops and education through this website: drmorganlevy.com

A lot of the people I work with really love Brené Brown's work. I really enjoyed her book, The Gifts of Imperfection.

I have a few books that my clients have said they enjoyed, but I have not read them yet myself.

Boundaries by Drs. Henry Cloud and John Townsend

Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle by Dr. Emily Nagoski

Suitable_Promise43287 karma

Can you share ways to combat "compassion fatigue" in the helping field? I am a hospital social worker and burn-out in healthcare staff is out of control and getting worse.

DrMorganLevy6 karma

Yeah, it’s so rough. I do think a lot of it is due to how the healthcare system is so stressed right now.

That being said, on an individual level, there is a lot of research supporting the use of mindfulness-based interventions to address compassion fatigue. One technique that might be helpful is a body scan meditation. If you google it – a ton will pop up!

I also enjoy focusing on my senses in order to help me ground myself. I do it several times throughout the day. I focus on what I see, hear, taste, smell, and feel. I do that for a few moments whenever I can.

It’s also so important to take time off for rest and relaxation when you can. I know healthcare workers are really struggling right now. I hope it gets a bit easier.

whimsicalredpanda36 karma

Hi Dr. Morgan Levy, thank you for hosting this AMA!

I have a lot of pursuits that I've been putting off because I don't feel confident enough to proceed with them. This has compounded into something that even affects my work ethic in the things that I'm obligated to do for academic purposes. I'm constantly avoiding doing things, even if they're important to me and because I've avoided them, they feel tainted when these pursuits logically should be exciting to me, but have instead become associated with feelings of guilt and avoidance. I still want to do these pursuits, but I feel paralyzed every time at the thought of doing them and instead resort to trying not to think about them at all. What are your thoughts on this? If possible, do you have any advice on where to go from here?

Thank you again!

DrMorganLevy6 karma

Thank you for sharing. Yes, this is so common and is sometimes referred to as perfection paralysis. The fear of failure is immobilizing. It also is so much more difficult to get started on something when we look at it in its entirety instead of all of the smaller steps that make up the task. In general, when we set large goals for ourselves, we can become overwhelmed and just give up because of how overwhelmed we feel. If this is the case, it may be helpful to do the task and accept that there will be mistakes and that you can always go back and fix/adjust them later. Something that helps me get things done is to tell myself “progress, not perfection.”

innisfrii5 karma

Hi there!

Would you have any advice for minimising burnout while maximising output/productivity? Mostly just for those inevitable periods of life or study where a degree of burnout seems to be necessary. Thanks!

DrMorganLevy5 karma

Oooh..I like this question because it comes up so much. People can be so hesitant to work on burnout and perfectionism because the traits of drive and perseverance have gotten them so far. They don’t want to get rid of those traits because in their words, they don’t want to “be a loser.”

What I try to emphasize is that getting rid of those traits is not the goal. It’s about balancing where they show up so that they only show up in the areas we need them to.

In high-output times, it’s important to take breaks when needed, and I mean actually schedule them and value them just as much as work. It’s also helpful to learn when to say no and what tasks are actually required of you and what you are just saying yes to out of guilt.

It’s all about work life balance. (Or some like to say work/life harmony).

BruceRL4 karma

I have a super stressful job, but I feel like I do everything right to avoid burnout, yet I still feel like I'm breaking down. I have an excellent diet, moderate my drinking, take frequent disconnecting vacations, meditate, work out regularly, read, have hobbies, moderate my social media.

Is there a long list of techniques that i could look at to see what I might be missing?

DrMorganLevy6 karma

It sounds like you’re working really hard to take care of yourself! It’s hard to say based on this message alone, but with the information given, I would definitely want to assess more about the impact of your stressful job. It’s going to be really hard to wind down if we are in a state of stress for 8 hours a day.

I would also have a look at the values exercises that I mentioned in other answers. The link wasn’t working, but if you google “Act bullseye worksheet” it should pop up! Its basically exercises to learn if you are living life in accordance with your values.

LocationInfinite13573 karma

Hey Doc! Thank you for doing this!

How much do you think the alienation (in all aspects from labour/social alienation/alienation from self) caused by capitalism affects burnout? To what extent do you think we can deal with burnout in a capitalist society beyond therapy or occasional retreats?

And what would you say to people who are burnt out because of the immensely catastrophic era we're living in? Especially because of the pandemic and the Climate Crisis?

Maybe off-topic : Favourite books? Any lesser known author you recommend? And what's the weirdest mystery party you've had?

DrMorganLevy5 karma

These are really great points. I do think our society today significantly contributes to the high levels of burnout that we tend to experience.

It can feel really frustrating attempting to overcome it knowing we have these impossible obstacles in our way.

When we are trying to make changes in the world, it can feel really easy to begin to neglect our own wellbeing. It’s almost impossible to take care of others if we don’t take care of ourselves though. Beyond therapy and retreats, it’s important to implement consistent and routine coping and self-care strategies in our lives.

Lately, I’ve been enjoying the YA sci-fi books from Hank Green. They’ve been fun reads!

Hmmmm…I’m not sure about weird, but a fun one was when we had a plot twist and it turned out some of our characters were actually aliens and not humans!

-cheesencrackers-3 karma

I work in front line health care, where there is obviously a ton of burnout right now. The approach seems to universally be wellness modules and focusing on how we as individuals can fix our own burnout instead of addressing the systemic problems in the system causing the burnout (staffing, increase in violent patients, etc). What is your thought on this?

DrMorganLevy3 karma

I definitely agree that only focusing on the individual is not the answer for long-term societal change. It sometimes can feel foolish working on these strategies when we know there is a bigger picture that isn’t being addressed. However, that doesn’t mean working on our own wellness should be ignored. It’s a tough issue to navigate. I do wish we can make large scale changes.

I believe Industrial/Organizational psychologists specialize in that sort of change and working with companies – I’m not too familiar with how they work, but I would love to learn more.

Thank you for all that you do in front line healthcare!

scratsquirrel3 karma

As a manager how can I help support my team members that struggle with perfectionism and burnout? Either before it’s too far down the pathway or once it’s at that stage already.

Thank you for your time engaging with the community here.

DrMorganLevy3 karma

I love that you’re asking this as a manager! Showing that you care about your team members is huge and it’s great for them to have that.

Encouraging time off, breaks, and asking what they feel they need to be successful are all strategies that may work.

I think supporting mental wellness initiatives and allowing flexibility in work styles can make a huge difference. Rigid thinking and rigid boundaries in the workplace just create inflexibility and an increase in depression, anxiety, burnout, and other mental health struggles.

Daraynemanx992 karma

How can I learn to stick with a hobby after not being instantly good at it and becoming frustrated?

DrMorganLevy2 karma

This is so common with perfectionists. This is where mindfulness can be really useful and focusing on the present moment.

So what I typically recommend in this situation is to really try to be intentionally present while doing the activity – without any judgment at all. So don’t label things as good or bad.

For example, if you were playing the guitar, you could focus on how the guitar feels in your hands, what it smells like, what the individual notes sound like, what it looks like.

It might be easy to do that for a second or two until you find yourself distracted with frustration again. When that happens, just try it again. It’s normal to get distracted, but the point is to just keep gently reminding yourself to bring yourself back to the present moment.

So I would try to enjoy the process rather than the end result.

Hidatsu2 karma

So lovely of you! Its funny you post this now because I am for real struggling. Im a long term hobby writer and have been doing this for 13 years now, give or take the time Ive taken away from it. For the past 6 months or so ive been struggling to write. I used to write daily, at least once a day. Now, im lucky to get something done once a month. Granted, ive got a lot of stressors in my life right now, and my mental health is plumeting. I know it's tough and ive been trying to be kind to myself, but I miss my creative outlet. Is there anything I can do to tey and spark that love for writing again, or should I give it a rest for a while?

DrMorganLevy3 karma

There’s nothing wrong with taking a break if you feel like you need it! I’m sorry to hear that you’re struggling with your mental health and that you’re experiencing a lot of stressors. It can be really difficult when we place high expectations on ourselves and we just can’t seem to meet those. But it’s also okay to adjust expectations. I’m wondering if it would be helpful to reflect on what writing provided for you? If it’s not providing you those same benefits now, it’s okay to take a break and start again later.

robmobtrobbob2 karma

So, my sense of perfectionism came from my sometimes abusive relationship with my father. This is something I'm working through in therapy. I realized that I began to hate myself as I made more mistakes because no one in my life told me it was okay to make mistakes. What are some extra steps someone like me could take to not let mistakes undermine my sense of self worth?

DrMorganLevy3 karma

I’m so glad to hear that you’re working through this in therapy. So many of our difficulties are rooted in childhood experiences.

I would run this by your therapist, but you might enjoy some mindfulness work. In particular, I find that loving-kindness meditations can help some people with their sense of self-worth. I’ll share a link here to one that I’ve recorded, but if you don’t like it (my voice isn’t for everyone!), you can search and there are tons of them out there.