Preventing Burnout



It is a sinister, venomous beast. You don’t see Burnout coming. You don’t feel its fangs sink into your neck. But you feel the effects. You become tired. Unmotivated. Unable to move and unable to think. Your efficiency decreases, your proficiency sinks. You have become yet another victim, mere helpless prey to the silent stalker.

Burnout is an important term to Psychologists because it effects our work with clients. Take on a large caseload or too many heavy cases and you risk falling asleep during therapy. Your cognitive abilities suffer and searching for the proper intervention becomes tedious. Filters for emotional response start to melt. Burnout can kill careers.

It’s similar for Judges. Large events require immense work. Physically, we stand and walk and carry. Emotionally, we keep our cool amidst both our Judge peers and a large player base. Mentally, we make rulings and lead teams. Make no mistake. A Grand Prix is fun and exciting, but it is also exhausting. As such, there is a risk of Burnout.


Burnout can occur during the Grand Prix or after it… or both. Here are some symptoms of what I like to call Big Event Burnout (B.E.B.).

-Taking longer than usual to make a ruling because your mind is foggy
-A loss of excitement for the next Judging Event, when previously you were very excited for it.
-Irritation beyond your normal threshold
-Apathy and disinterest beyond your normal threshold.
-“Blanking out” or “Staring off into space”


Psychologists have identified twelve “phases” that attribute to burnout. The phases aren’t “necessarily followed sequentially.” For the record, this is essentially a copy-and-paste job from Wikipedia that I’ve extrapolated for the Judge Program.

1) The Compulsion to Prove Oneself

I want to show everyone I’m a great Judge!

2) Working Harder

I’ll push in all the chairs! ALL OF THEM! Then they will see that I am a great Judge!

3) Neglecting Needs

I haven’t eaten yet, but my Team Lead is watching me. I must push in more chairs while the time is ripe!

4) Displacement of Conflict

Hmm. I’m hungry and my feet are really hurting. That’s weird. 

5) Revision of Values

Okay. I haven’t eaten yet and my feet hurt. But that’s okay. It will be worth it when I ask for that review.

6) Denial of Emerging Problems

Ugh, I could take a damn lunch break if there weren’t so many chairs in this venue. And when the hell is my Team Lead going to leave so I can sit down for a bit?

7) Withdrawal

I’m hungry and sore. Go away.

8) Obvious Behavioral Changes

Everyone is asking me if I’m okay. I’m fine, I’m just not acting like myself because I’m tired. 

9) Depersonalization

Walk. Push chair. Repeat. Walk. Push chair. Repeat.

10) Inner Emptiness

I’m exhausted, sore, and under-appreciated. Why the hell do I apply for these things.

11) Depression

I just… I don’t care. Oh look, a ruling. I’ll walk really slowly so someone else takes it. Oops, I walked by some trash on a table. Oh well.

12) Burnout

I give up. Fuck it. 


Due to a supportive community, the limited time spent working (due to shifts), and Team Leads/TOs who understand we are human… most of us never reach actual Burnout. But we get close. Here are some tips to help prevent that B.E.B.

1) Be clear with your Team Lead about any medical needs you may have. I understand this can be difficult, especially if the medical need is on the discreet side. If so, be sure to let the Team Lead know that this is a sensitive subject and you’d rather keep it between the two of you.

2) At the beginning of each round or each hour, do a “self-scan.” How are you feeling? Are you hungry or thirsty? Do your feet or back hurt? Are you sleepy and need some coffee?

3) Take breaks. It’s a weird line, especially for Judges who have a need to impress (myself included). Nothing causes self-doubt and social paranoia quite like asking your Team Lead to take a fiver or a tenner, only to walk away worried that they think you are “weak” or “selfish.” However, your Team Leads are aware of the difference between a need-based break and abusing them. It is an essential tenet of work that a rested worker is an efficient worker. However, I also understand that other variables go into this, so…

4) Know your weakness. If you know you’re not good at gauging yourself, or if you know you are horrible at asking for things (such as myself)… talk to your Team Lead. Set the stage so that there’s no room for misinterpretation. “I hate asking for breaks, do you mind if I take a ten-minute sit-down every two rounds?” Likewise, if you’re running to the bathroom, quickly motion to your Team Lead that you’re running off… it will provide peace of mind that you’ve opened that channel of communication and it will kill the thought of, “Oh, they’ll look for me and I won’t be there… and they’ll think I’ve abandoned my post.”

5) Compartmentalize your self-care. Feet hurt? Sit down and sort some land. Feeling sleepy? Make a coffee run for your team. Thirsty? Grab water bottles and pass them out to floor judges. Taking a “break” doesn’t necessarily mean you have to be unproductive.

Burnout is a terrible beast. Ultimately, it is prevented by a combination of taking care of ourselves and a supportive community. Only by working together can we ensure we perform optimally and have a great (and memorable) event.

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