If you want to know how to recover from burnout, this post has lots of ideas to help!
Burnout can happen to anyone, and goes above and beyond typical feelings of stress and overwhelm that many of us experience during busy and challenging times. It’s much more severe, and can negatively impact our physical and mental health if left untreated.
Keep reading for the signs and symptoms of burnout, tips to hep you prioritize your physical and mental wellbeing, and advice on how to prevent burnout from happening again.
What Is ‘Burnout’?
While we all go through periods of stress from time to time, burnout is a much more severe condition that causes significant mental, physical, and emotional exhaustion. It can cause you to feel less joy about things that typically interest you – your career, family, friends, hobbies, etc. – and can make everyday activities feel difficult and exhausting. If left untreated, burnout can make it difficult for you to cope with any form of stress, and it can lead to more serious physical and psychological conditions like depression and heart disease.
What Causes Burnout?
We often think the term ‘burnout’ refers to the feelings of stress and exhaustion we feel when we’re working too many hours on a big project at work and/or juggling too much in our personal lives without taking time off to rest and relax. These situations can absolutely cause us to run out of steam, but true burnout is more extreme and has longer-lasting effects on our physical and mental well-being that require more than a long weekend away.
Here are a few common causes of burnout:
- Your career. Doctors, nurses, therapists, and caregivers are at risk of burnout as they are regularly exposed to extremely stressful situations.
- Your personality. If you identify yourself as being a Type A Personality and/or have perfectionist tendencies, you may be more susceptive to burnout.
- Burning the midnight oil. If the demands placed on you chronically exceed your capacity, you are at risk of burnout.
- Parental burnout. Juggling kids, a career, a home, ageing parents, and other life stressors can also increase your risk of burnout.
- Feeling as though you have no control of your circumstances. Sickness, death, divorce, grief, and witnessing a traumatic event can all cause you to feel as though you lack control over your life and lead to burnout, as can being stuck in a negative work environment.
- Lack of close, supportive relationships. No matter what your career, personality, and life situation is, navigating your way through life without supportive relationships can increase your risk of burnout.
What Are the Symptoms of Burnout?
If you want to know how to recover from burnout, a good first step is to identify your symptoms and rule out any underlying conditions that may be making you feel the way you do.
Common symptoms of burnout include:
- Fatigue, exhaustion, and lack of energy
- Sleep disturbances
- Inability to focus and concentrate
- Difficulty making decisions
- Becoming upset and irritated more easily
- Feeling overwhelmed by basic, everyday tasks
- Depression and/or anxiety
- Withdrawing from others
- Feeling indifferent about things that once brought you joy
- Increased use of vices like alcohol, drugs, and/or food to cope with feelings
- Relationship problems
Burnout can also cause physical symptoms, from tense muscles and backaches, to headaches and gastrointestinal upset, to chest tightness and more frequent illnesses. Remember that each of these can be the sign of a more serious underlying medical condition, and be sure to discuss these symptoms with a medical professional.
How to Recover From Burnout
1. GET BACK TO BASICS
If you want to know how to recover from burnout, a great first step is to get back to basics. Make sure you’re getting enough sleep, nourish your body with the right foods, stay hydrated, find ways to stay active without taxing your body too much, and keep stress to a minimum. While each of these may seem insignificant, an imbalance in one or more of these basic needs can negatively impact your physical and mental well-being over time.
2. PRESS PAUSE
Speak to a medical professional to rule out other medical conditions, and if you are sure your symptoms are due to burnout, give yourself permission to press pause. Taking time away from your usual day-to-day routine will help you clear your mind and gain clarity on what is causing you to feel the way you do. It will also enable you to see things from a different perspective, strategize solutions, and take action so you feel more in control.
3. IDENTIFY THE SOURCE OF YOUR BURNOUT
If you want to know how to recover from burnout, you need to figure out the root cause first. While you may be able to improve your symptoms in the short-term by getting more sleep, spending time with friends and family, and/or taking a few rests days or a week-long vacation, they will eventually return if you don’t deal with the source of your problems.
Keep in mind that the cause of your burnout won’t always be obvious, but taking the time to reflect, think outside the box, and track your feelings can be helpful. Remember that your symptoms are usually the tip of a much bigger iceberg, and since only about 10% of an iceberg is visible to the naked eye, it can take time to dig deep and understand the things that are driving you to feel depleted and burnt out.
Once you know WHY you are suffering from burnout, it’s time to strategize. This can be incredibly difficult and uncomfortable because the solution to your problems will likely require a lot more than indulging in regular TLC. If you are suffering from work burnout, you may need to consider a change in jobs or a different career. If you’re an overachieving perfectionist, you may need to commit to do less and/or lower your standards. If you’re suffering from parental burnout, you may need to ask for help and learn to delegate to others.
5. REEVALUATE YOUR GOALS AND PRIORITIES
This is sort of a continuation of the point above, but it’s an important tip so I wanted to call it out separately. As you are strategizing ways to improve the areas of your life that are causing you to feel depleted, take a moment to reevaluate your goals and priorities. It is so easy to lose sight of what’s truly important to us when we’re operating on auto-pilot, and sometimes we need to step back and put things into perspective to ensure our time and energy is being directed towards the right things.
6. LEARN HOW TO SAY ‘NO’
If you’re trying to figure out how to recover from burnout, learning how to say no will be life-changing for you. If something isn’t personally important to you, doesn’t contribute to your goals, goes against the things you stand for, isn’t part of your job description, etc., it doesn’t belong in your life.
Of course, this sounds great in theory, but if you’re a people-pleaser, saying no can be really difficult. Here are some tips to help!
- Do it quickly. While waiting until the last minute to come up with an excuse may seem a lot less stressful than being upfront and honest from the get-go, remember that it’s highly unfair to the other person, especially if they are relying on you for something. The more notice you give them, the more likely they will be able to find someone else to fill your shoes.
- Be honest. As tempting as it is to fabricate an elaborate lie to try and get out of something, honesty really is the best policy. You’re less likely to get caught in a lie, and the person you are letting down will respect you more in the long-run.
- Don’t dwell. When you’ve made your decision to say ‘no’ to someone, do it as honestly and quickly as you can, and then move on. Get straight to the point and don’t over-explain. The more you dwell, the more you open yourself up for negotiation, which is exactly what you’re trying to avoid!
- Propose a compromise. If you’re really struggling to say ‘no’ to someone, consider coming up with an appropriate compromise to help show your support. It can go a long way in letting someone down gently!
- Stop feeling guilty. The problem with guilt is that it eventually turns into resentment, and while it would be nice to have a never-ending supply of time to commit to every single thing that crosses our paths, doing so is a recipe for burnout. Stop feeling guilty for putting your own needs first.
7. PRIORITIZE REGULAR SELF-CARE
If you are trying to figure out how to recover from burnout, make sure you’re scheduling self-care into your daily routine. Instead of worrying about how you are showing up for others, consider how you are showing up for yourself. When we take care of the physical, emotional, psychological, and spiritual aspects of our lives, we reduce emotional issues like stress, anxiety, and depression as well as the physical reactions they create. Engaging in regular self-care leaves us with more energy and motivation, allowing us to show up well for our family, friends, and colleagues. Finding time to do something that rejuvenates us on the regular is a great way to get comfortable with putting our own needs first.
CLICK HERE for a list of 21 self-care care ideas for women you actually have time for!
8. TALK TO A PROFESSIONAL
My last tip for those who are trying to recover from burnout is to talk to a professional. As scary as this may sound, it’s essential that you learn to take care of yourself, and a licensed medical practitioner and/or therapist can offer practical advice on how to rectify your challenges so you can create and enjoy a balanced, happy life!
If you’re suffering from burnout, I hope the tips and ideas in this post help you get to the root cause and make changes so you can live your best life every single day.