Book Rec: Burnout: Solve Your Stress Cycle by Emily & Amelia Nagoski

Elle Brown RN
Stakeholder Engagement Coordinator Elle Brown RN reviews a book on burnout that’s very relevant to nurses and midwives.

Burnout: Solve Your Stress

Burnout: Solve Your Stress Cycle (Alternate title: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle)
Emily & Amelia Nagoski
Penguin Books

We don’t usually do book reviews. This book, however, is not your typical self-help book and has great relevance to nurses and midwives.

The book is dedicated to “the givers”.

It speaks to the gendered nature of burnout and recognises that women experience burnout differently than men. Burnout has a relationship with our culture, patriarchy and our inner critic — which the authors call “the madwoman in the attic”, borrowing from Jane Eyre.

Burnout is written by sisters Emily and Amelia Nagoski. Emily is a Wellness Education Director and Lecturer at Smith College with a PhD in Health Behaviour. Amelia is a conductor, assistant professor and coordinator of music at Western New England University who educates other professional musicians on the application of psychological research in their life and work. The unique combination of their skills and experience makes this a compelling read.

This short book is entertaining, well researched and supplies a lot of evidence to back up its assertions. There are compelling stories interwoven in each chapter that both illustrate causes and symptoms of burnout and achievable solutions.

This is how the authors describe their central thesis:


Wellness is not a state of mind, but a state of action. It is the freedom to move through the innate cycles and oscillations of being human — from effort to rest and back, from connection to autonomy and back, from adventure to homecoming and back.

But we have been lied to our whole lives about what wellness “should” look like, and rejecting that lie, all those myths about “having it all” and “finally achieving lasting peace” is how we create space in our lives for that free action through the cycle of being human.

This is a book that covers all you have probably heard about the path to wellness. It provides evidence on the efficacy of meditation, mindfulness, exercise, rest and sleep. The authors offer multiple suggestions and motivations to improve your health and find joy.

For me, what personally resonated the most was the chapter on rest and sleep and the percentage of our day we should devote to it. The importance of making rest and sleep a major part of your day is compelling, especially so if you are seeking healing from burnout.

Connection in its many forms and making meaning in your life are also integral to finding joy.

The biggest message in this book is that healing from burnout takes some work, but not more than the struggle that leads to burnout in the first place. Giving to yourself first is not selfish, but creative, as it leads to joy and meaning.

Find further information and resources on Emily and Amelia’s website: The Burnout Book.

What are you reading?

Are there any books you’ve found helpful? We’d love to hear about them and share your recommendations with the community. Shoot us an email at [email protected].

Talk to us about burnout

If you’re experiencing burnout and want to talk about it, we’re here to chat — free, confidential, 24/7. Give us a call on 1800 667 877 or email us.