Chris Wilson: How to identify and beat burnout

Real estate is known for having top performers who give every deal everything they have. But what happens when you give too much? Stress scientist Chris Wilson examines agent burnout, what it is, how you can avoid it and what you can do if it does happen to you.

Burnout is a difficult, dirty and dark conversation. I get it, real estate is about smashing goals, hustling and winning. I love it for that.

I have been around these environments in sport and military and, to be honest, it still gives me a buzz.

But there’s no hiding from the fact burnout can and does happen. The good news is there are ways to prevent and remedy it should you find yourself or a member of your team is suffering.

What is burnout?

Often when people talk about burnout they recite the symptoms, not the condition.

The best way to describe burnout is the individual has burnt, or used up, the resources that allow the body to function correctly.

This causes the symptoms of fatigue, negative mindset, disengagement from everyday tasks and poor emotional regulation.

Burnout should be diagnosed by a medical professional and can be intertwined with overwhelm. 

Why does burnout occur?

Burnout is always an accumulation of factors.

It might include fear of failing, being over-worked, being ‘on’ 24/7, toxicity and a lack of control.

On it’s own being over-worked will not cause burnout. If you love what you do and it gives you satisfaction and joy then you will tolerate the workload.

However, if you add being forced to over-work and you feel bullied into doing so, which means you don’t get to see your family, that is a cocktail for burnout. 

What are the early warning signs of burnout?

Early warning signs (EWS) are subjective and usually fall into three categories: physical, such as tense muscles or headaches, mental signs such as feeling angry or irritable, or emotional signs such as low mood and racing thoughts.

Now, let me tell you about my first burnt out agent.

They put it all in to win, and lost, badly. Yet it’s my favourite success story.

Two principals called me in desperate need of help with their number one agent as their numbers had started to drop.

When I called the agent and explained who I was and why their principals had called me, I was met with anger.

It turned out that the agent had been struggling for quite a while and the fact their numbers were dropping revealed how bad it was. 

When you work in sales, the last thing to drop is your numbers because they define your success.

After the initial meeting, where I was met with resistance and aggression, the agent finally let go.

The next step is vital to creating change. We established they loved their career in real estate, and they wanted to make this work. They were willing to change. 

Burnout is classified as trauma, so we had to create a program for real estate that would allow the agent to keep their numbers strong and financially well while remaining mentally, physically and emotionally healthy.

How do you tackle burnout if it happens to you?

If you are worried about yourself or a colleague, the first step is to speak to your GP.

The next thing you need to do is talk to someone you trust, this may likely be the principal.

The business owner should know about their team and can plan to support you in your recovery.

To speed up your recovery you must go into ‘slow mode’.

Unless you are told to stop working, you should use the time to look at your business and how you can improve your systems to take the pressure off. 

Avoid alcohol, drink plenty of water, exercise daily in low doses and avoid inflammatory foods.

But best of all, surround yourself with people that make you laugh. They are the best medicine.

  • Identify the physical, mental and emotional early warning signs that indicate you are negatively stressed. This self-awareness allows you to stop yourself from over-reaching.
  • Set clear boundaries that meet your needs with family, health, and work requirements. Sacrificing one for the other leads to high levels of anxiety.
  • Set personal success milestones for family, health, and work. Success in each arena is fulfilling.
  • Learn your workplace support procedures and who you should speak to and when. Becoming informed can reassure you.

Ultimately, remember that burnout is nothing to be ashamed of and it can be remedied.

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Chris Wilson

Chris Wilson is the founder of Stress Science also high performance coach. For more, visit