After a tumultuous start to the decade, people are left feeling more adrift than ever. And as the lines between work and home blur and stresses pile up, more people find themselves burning out. But how do you even know if that’s what you’re feeling? Better yet, how can you address and recover from burnout?
Don’t worry—we’ll break it all down from classic symptoms to the recovery methods you need to help you get back on track.
Consider this your helpful guide on how to recover from burnout to live healthier and revitalize your passion for life!
Table of Contents
- What Is Burnout?
- How to Get Over Burnout: 12 Ideas for Burnout Recovery
What Is Burnout?
Burnout results from continued mental, physical, and emotional exhaustion caused by chronic stress.
Although it’s most often associated with job-related stress, burnout can develop from many sources that cause persistent—and more importantly, unresolved—stress on a person’s mental, physical, and emotional well-being. In turn, this leads to feelings of constantly being overwhelmed and fatigued.
How Do I Know if I’m Burned Out?
Everyone undergoes some level of stress, whether it’s related to work, relationships, school, caregiving, etc., so at first, it may be difficult to identify if what you’re experiencing is, in fact, burnout.
Burnout is commonly characterized by three main elements:
- Feelings of inadequacy
Exhaustion is typically multi-layered and comes from mental, emotional, and physical fatigue. All of this culminates in a lack of energy and the feeling of being worn out. You’ll often find it impossible to dedicate yourself to your job, responsibilities, or even the things you once enjoyed doing.
Detachment might be more difficult to pin down than exhaustion. That said, it’s usually accompanied by negative emotions toward your responsibilities and those around you, a short temper, and becoming disillusioned with the work you’re doing.
Finally, feelings of inadequacy tend to revolve around the belief that you can’t perform on par with your abilities. As a result, productivity often becomes reduced, and even with the things you succeed in doing, you find yourself experiencing a diminished sense of accomplishment.
If these symptoms sound familiar, you’re likely suffering from burnout. But don’t let this stress you out even further. You can recover from burnout, and we’ll walk you through the best methods for how to do it!
How to Get Over Burnout: 12 Ideas for Burnout Recovery
Just as you don’t suddenly wake up one morning suffering from chronic stress, recovering from burnout is a slow process that will take more than a few days.
It takes time and commitment and requires change, either removing the stresses from your life entirely or adjusting how you respond to them and creating healthy buffers that lessen their effects on you.
If you’re struggling to recover from burnout, or don’t even know yet what you’re experiencing, read on for 12 helpful tips on determining if burnout has happened to you and exactly how to get over burnout so that you can start enjoying life again.
1. Recognize the Signs
To recognize burnout if and when it happens to you, be on the lookout for several signs from a range of areas, including your mental and physical well-being and noticeable changes in your behavior.
Mental Warning Signs:
- Loss of direction
- Lack of motivation
- Inability to concentrate
- Increased irritability
- Frequent self-doubt
- Feelings of helplessness
Physical Warning Signs:
- Changes in sleep habits/patterns
- Frequent illness/weakened immune system
- Increased tiredness/lethargy
Behavioral Warning Signs:
- Decreased productivity
- Use of food, alcohol, or drugs to get by
- Isolating yourself from friends and loved ones
- Ignoring responsibilities/procrastinating
Looking for a clear indicator of severe burnout? If you wake up every day thinking it’s going to be a bad day, then you’re likely experiencing burnout. And that means it’s time to start looking at recovery strategies.
2. Pinpoint the Source
Now that you have a name for these strange feelings and symptoms, you can pinpoint what’s causing them.
WHY are you burned out?
Burnout may be most closely associated with work-related problems, but that doesn’t mean it can’t stem from other areas, including school, single parenting, relationship struggles, caring for an ill family member, etc.
It could also be a combination of these.
Work might be stressful but manageable on its own until you add in the stresses of single parenting: the appointments, the after-school activities, the parent/teacher conferences…
Suppose you have responsibilities piling up in any one area of your life, let alone multiple. Over time, it may contribute to chronic stress, which in turn feeds into all the negative feelings and symptoms discussed earlier.
Take a moment to reflect on where your anxiety stems from, and keep in mind it may not be one specific thing but several that are leading you to feel overwhelmed. Once you sort out why you can start making changes and applying the right methods to help you recover from burnout.
3. Know You’re Not Alone
Know this: there’s nothing “wrong” with you if you’re feeling burned out.
Burnout is more common than you might think, and amid the toll of COVID-19, job burnout has only become more prevalent.
In a 2020 survey, the Harris Poll on behalf of Springfield Health found that about three-quarters of American workers were experiencing employee burnout. Roughly one in nine found themselves suffering from complete burnout.
These findings are supported by similar numbers released in a report by Gallup.
Most people have experienced burnout at some point in their lives due to their professional career, academic life, or other areas of high stress.
Experiencing burnout is by no means a personal failing. It means you’re human, with perhaps just a bit too much on your plate.
4. Talk with Someone You Trust
It can be challenging to open yourself up to others at the best of times, never mind doing so to unload stress and parse through the negative emotions you may be feeling. Make that doubly challenging if you happen to be withdrawing from others as a symptom of your burnout.
But social support may be just the thing you need to help reduce burnout and begin your journey to recovery.
So how can talking help you recover from burnout? Research shows that counselors can positively influence burnout recovery. Additionally spending time with friends, family members, and co-workers can effectively prevent, reduce, and improve academic burnout, employee burnout, and more.
Along with the apple-a-day method to staying healthy, think about incorporating more elements of healthy social interaction into your daily routine.
5. Reevaluate Your Goals
Recovering from burnout requires change.
Think back over how you ended up burnt out in the first place. One or multiple areas of your life introduced persistent stresses that weren’t properly addressed, either due to a lack of time, concern, or the right set of coping strategies.
To remedy the situation, you’ll have to actively work at it. Allow yourself time to address your stresses properly and reduce them.
Ask yourself if your current goals are attainable. Would changing your workload, schedule, or delegating help you manage stress and achieve what needs doing?
Or is it time to reassess and discover new goals that make you happy?
Sometimes, recovering from burnout means you making drastic changes, such as finding a new job, changing majors, or moving on from a relationship that no longer serves you.
6. Establish Boundaries
Often, one of the underlying causes of burnout is a distinct lack of boundaries.
When you feel as if you can’t refuse requests for your time, attention, or help, you take on more responsibilities than you’re able to handle, which in turn leads to increased stress, time pressures, and more severe burnout.
If you want to recover from burnout, you first must focus on everything currently on your plate, not pile on more. It’s critical to learn to say “no” to anything—or anyone—that makes you feel overwhelmed.
That said, setting boundaries can seem daunting and uncomfortable if you’ve never done it before, so it’s helpful to break it down.
- Identify areas in your life that are lacking boundaries: work, home, relationships, etc.
- Outline boundaries that will foster a safe and less stressed environment for you.
- Clearly communicate those boundaries to others.
- Be firm in the boundaries you’ve set.
- Gather support from friends and loved ones.
It doesn’t have to be drastic, and you don’t need to set a bunch of boundaries at once. But you do want to set firm boundaries and ensure that you—and the people you set them with—respect and follow those boundaries.
If you need more help with boundary setting, try this free curriculum provided by the Self Help Alliance.
7. Manage Stress
Burnout can make you feel hopeless, like a hamster stuck on a wheel, spinning and spinning with no way to stop or get off. When it’s outside forces contributing to your stresses, it feels especially true.
In this case, you can imagine yourself taking a step back from the wheel to view your situation as an outsider might.
- Identify what areas you have control over and seize that control.
- Prioritize problems that require immediate attention over those you can do later.
- Entrust others to complete tasks and free up room on your plate.
- Communicate your needs with others so they can support and enable you.
Remember that just because you feel hopeless doesn’t mean you are. No locks are keeping you trapped on the wheel. So, take time to breathe and calmly sort things through to gain a clearer perspective and a more positive outlook.
8. Renew Your Mind
Speaking of positive outlooks, changing your outlook on life can profoundly impact burnout recovery and provide other mental benefits.
Research suggests that engaging in healthy recovery strategies like mindfulness exercises, practicing positive thinking, and even taking more vacations can lead to an improved ability to cope with stress, help you recover from burnout, and reduce it.
Without a doubt, implementing prayer, meditation, affirmations, and other forms of positive thinking into your daily routine can improve your mental health. They can also help foster more positive emotions when stressors arise in your day-to-day life.
So, if you find your days packed with tasks and responsibilities, try to schedule frequent breaks throughout the day to center yourself and engage in some positive thinking.
9. Separate Work from Non-work
You wouldn’t be the first person to take work home with you. Phone calls, text messages, work emails, and assignments you didn’t finish at the office all follow you home like a stray dog—though a dog would be much more fun and a cute surprise.
In a world of more remote work than ever before, separating work from non-work presents an even greater challenge.
That’s why creating a clear delineation between your spaces, both mentally and physically, is key.
Again, this isn’t just about job-related work but anything that causes you stress. Carve out set times for when to leave your “work” and when you can revisit it the next day. Once you’ve reached that time, set your work aside. Leave your workspace, move to another room, and mentally disengage from it.
Find relaxing activities to do and occupy your mind with safe and innocuous thoughts.
As you relax, double-check you’re actively disengaging from your stress. This way, you can be sure you’re giving your mind the rest it deserves and can approach your problems the next day with a mind that’s fresh and revitalized.
10. Find Your Joy
Amid the black hole of exhaustion and hopelessness that suffering from burnout can cause, you might find you’ve lost something besides your energy.
Not just the happiness you used to find in your work either, but the pleasure you found in activities outside of your responsibilities. Things you once held a deep love for are now colorless and passionless.
Rediscovering your joy is an essential step in your burnout recovery.
Think about activities you used to enjoy and make a list of whatever those might be.
- Reading a book
- Taking long walks through nature
- Cooking a new dish
- Watching TV
- Listening to music
Try dedicating as little as twenty minutes a day—or more if you can spare—and fully give yourself over to that activity. No thinking about work, obligations, or anything but enjoying yourself in the moment.
11. Engage in Healthy Habits
Your mental health isn’t the only thing you need to be looking after as you recover from burnout. Practicing a little bit of self-love in the form of healthy habits can get you feeling more like yourself again.
Of course, when you’re burnt out, it can be hard to find the time to dedicate to yourself, so take it in steps.
- Eat well and at structured intervals.
- Get in regular exercise, even in only small amounts.
- Start going to bed and waking up at set times.
Start by making incremental changes and build upon repetition.
Eventually, you’ll be saying goodbye to those bad days and feeling physically depleted all the time. Before you know it, you’ll be saying hello to feeling rested and happier.
12. Use Your PTO
Take a vacation!
In 2018, over half of Americans didn’t use all their paid time off.
Instead of letting those earned days go to waste, make a point to take advantage of your paid time off to ensure you’re taking adequate breaks from work. Not only will this help you recover from burnout, but it’ll help prevent it from happening again!
If you’re worried about work building up after you leave and coming back to even more of it, try scheduling shorter vacations throughout the year. Next Vacay can help you score great flight deals on everything from weekend getaways to week-long vacays.
No matter the length, there are countless mental health benefits of going on vacation, giving you more than enough reasons to plan your next days off as soon as possible!
A few breaks alone won’t protect you from the chronic buildup of stresses that lead to burnout. However, in combination with other healthy recovery strategies, vacations can provide more enriching opportunities for you to disengage from work and relax.
The road to recovery from burnout is a long one, and you’ll encounter ups and downs along the way. But by building up your support system, establishing boundaries, and putting your needs first, recovery from burnout is possible. And more importantly, so is rediscovering the happier version of you hidden inside it.