Dr. Kristen Donnelly & Dr. Erin Hinson: The Culture of Burnout

58m | May 5, 2024

“How are we not supposed to burn out? That’s what our culture wants us to do: produce, make and do until we can’t anymore,” says Dr. Erin Hinson who, with Dr. Kristen Donnelly, joins the FRIED podcast to discuss the origins of burnout culture in the United States. Early religious tenets have formed our attitude toward hard work and individualism, those tenets evolved into modern-day capitalism and the resulting false and damaging beliefs remain hard-baked into the American identity. Drawing from their bestselling book “The Culture of Burnout,” they’ll discuss the dangers of equating hard work with morality, basing one’s self worth on what they are able to produce and the myth of the lone conquering hero. 

While no one is immune from this type of social conditioning, female-identified and non-binary people tend to be targeted the most by this propaganda. Dr. Erin discusses caregiver burnout, the gender roles we perpetuate that we aren’t even aware of. Dr. Kristen points out the hypocrisy of American culture demanding we be individualistic while also telling us not to trust ourselves and the emotional bonds that are formed when we ask for help. 

We are not beholden to the stories our culture creates for us. With the tiny changes we make with each new day, we have the chance to write our own.


  • “There are shades of this in other cultures all over the world, we are never going to say that America is the only culture that has burnout ever because that’s a lie that someone would use to sell more books and that’s not who we are. But what we will say is there’s a specific flavor of it here that’s so tied to the wellness industrial complex and the process of making money for other people that we need to call that out.” (10:25 | Dr. Kristen Donnelly) 
  • “How are we not supposed to burn out? We are supposed to burn out because that’s what the culture wants us to do. It wants us to produce until we can’t anymore. It wants us to make, it wants us to do, until we can’t anymore.” (12:12 | Dr. Erin Hinson) 
  • “America just thinks the myth of the individual hardworking hero is the archetype we should all live up to, and not only is it a lie, but it kills a lot of us every year.” (14:03 | Dr. Kristen Donnelly) 
  • “We are all just figuring it out as we go along and we can ask for help. We have to, because none of us know what we’re doing.” (38:04 | Dr. Kristen Donnelly)
  • “I should figure it out, because I can. I should do it by myself because I don’t want to be a bother. That’s my thing. I don’t want to bother anybody. Everybody else is stressed out; everybody else is busy. I don’t want to be stressful, I don’t want to be a bother. I didn’t realize how deeply ingrained that was until we wrote this book.” (44:33 | Dr. Erin Hinson)


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Fried. The Burnout Podcast