To Be Burned Out – No-nonsense Chinese Idioms

If you’ve been paying attention over the last few weeks you would have seen the ongoing series of posts about “The Burnout Cycle”, if you’ve managed to miss them then quickly catch up by checking out the first 3 stages here:

Anyway, you might have noticed that even though we’ve been translating the stages of burnout that we’ve actually forgotten to define the word for ‘burnout’ itself:


Pinyin: jīng pí lì jié
English: to be burned out, to be exhausted

Image from the amazing The Oatmeal online comic

This is actually an easy idiom to break down into understandable parts:

First, 精 is short for 精神(jīng shén) which means “spirit”, while 疲(pí) means “tired” or “weary”. When you are burned out you don’t have any spirit, your spirit is essentially tired. In the second half of the idiom, 力 stands for 力量 (lì liàng)or “strength”, and 竭(jié)means to “exhaust”, or “use up”. Literally translating as “strength exhausted”.




〈Gōngzuò de wèntí〉 de zuòzhě tèbié tíchū yī zhǒng yǒuxiào chŭlǐ jīngpílìjié de jìshù, chēngzuò “sànbù”.

The author of Work Problems specifically suggests an effective technique of dealing with burnout, known as “going for a stroll”.