Burnout Syndrome and Mental Shut-down


Conventionally, many attribute Burnout Syndrome to be caused by overworking, overthinking or just lack of rest. However, this is being ignorant to the many examples of people who don’t get burnt out despite ‘working without much rest’, or those who experience similar symptoms even without that much workload.

In fact, ask yourself: “Am I really getting burned out because the work is tough?” Is it physically tiring, mentally taxing or emotionally draining?

SanMyu describes Burnout Syndrome as a form of mental shut-down. It is a protective mechanism that inadvertently work against you by lowering the cognitive level to reduce ‘stress’. Think of it like a car. If the engine overheats, the car applies a limit system to reduce to RPM of the engine. Likewise, when the body thinks that it is going into an overdrive, it reduces its capacity. If the workload is 100, and things are starting to overheat, the easiest way to reduce it is to limit the capacity to 60, so that regardless of your conscious decision, the mind can only work at 60.

This itself is not a problem. In fact, it is a vital system necessary for our survival. However, habituation of this system – what we call lethargy state – is the problem. Described to be ‘sweeter than death’, a pervasive pattern of down-capacitation that affects all parts of one’s life is extremely addictive. It’s almost like an opioid painkiller that works in the emotional level.


SanMyu catagorises the lethargy state into 2 phases.

Sang Gi‘ or upward gi – high-level anxiety; deep frustration; mild feeling of suffocation; headache; frequent anger; sadness

Ha Gi‘ or downward gi – low-level, subtle anxiety; blunting of emotional reaction; sluggishness in thoughts; inability to exert physically; lack of energy

Generally, there can be some overlap between these two, but what is important is knowing which side is more prevaling. If you were to be having Sang Gi phenomenon, that’s not that bad, but what you must be wary of if the Ha Gi phenomenon.

Once someone has tasted the fatal sweetness of lethargy state, it is far too addictive to stop. Not feeling any pain, not giving a shit about anything and not caring about anyone; they don’t realise they are suffocating until it’s too late.


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