What Cake can Teach Us about Thriving over Burnout in Life

What Cake can Teach Us about Thriving over Burnout in Life

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We might have used the phrase “burned out” at some points in our lives to express how tired we are. But far from being just a “passing phase”, burnout can have serious implications on life, as it continues to rob us of it.

What is Burnout?

Here at Emmaus, we want to help people understand and overcome burnout. We want people to understand that:

  • burnout is not just a “work thing”; it can happen in any roles we play in life, including unsalaried roles as volunteers, caregivers, parents, students etc.
  • burnout is a phenomenon where a person experiences tell-tale signs including that of extreme physical and mental exhaustion, of declining ability to work effectively, as well as cynicism and social withdrawal from others among many other signs.
  • according to a study by Schonfeld et al (2018), burnout, if left unaddressed, can lead to mental health challenges such as depression and anxiety

It is thus critical that we understand what burnout is. It is only when we can identify that we are burning out that we can do something about it.

Cake & Burnout

And so, we have recently thought about how we can best help people better understand what burnout is. We came up with the following analogy using cake and cake idioms:

  • We are all like cakes; we are different and we bring different flavours to offer the world and our loved ones.
  • From the moment we wake up, people, situations and things (such as our screens) all want a piece of us.
  • Sometimes, some people, situations and/or things take such big chunks away from us that we may either be (i) left with our cakes crumbling from the inside (despite how nice we look on the outside) or (ii) left with nothing for ourselves and our loved ones.
  • As we progress along the day, before we know it, our cake sells like hotcakes. For some of us, we may find ourselves feeling all spent by the end of the day, we might feel ourselves as being all over the place.
  • Even though we may go back to bake a new cake for the new day, the same process is repeated again and again. This may leave us feeling angry and cynical as we angrily scrap off whatever that is left on the cake board. We may feel trapped; not being able to move away from the situation and we may feel negativity toward ourselves, our abilities and/or others. The cakes we end up baking turns out not as we intended them to and we may not even recognize ourselves anymore. This is burnout.
  • Some people may have even experienced chunks removed from them that they can never be a whole cake again. No matter how they bake and rebake, there will always be a piece missing.
  • But the good news is that we can have our cake and eat it. Just like in baking, resilient people tend to be able to take the heat, have their “secret ingredients (e.g. yeast) and are able to rise up to the occasion no matter the pressure or time of the day.
  • And of all the stress management strategies, mental resilience takes the cake in the game of thriving in our lives.
  • Though it is not a piece of cake for one to thrive in life and develop mental resilience, it is definitely worth it as one becomes a expert baker of their lives.
  • The icing on the cake is when you have enough for yourself, your loved ones and the world, you thrive for good by leaving everyone and everything better from how you found them.

Being an Expert Baker

Keen to start growing as an expert baker so you can thrive in life and how you can develop mental resilience?

Consider joining our talks, workshops and retreats or bringing them to your organizations. Connect with us today or join our mailing list to be “fueled in” on the latest resources and happenings in Emmaus.



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What Cake can Teach Us about Thriving over Burnout in Life

by James Lim
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