Preventing and Recovering from Burnout
Updated: Feb 5
Do you feel like you’ve lost all interest in your work? Like there’s just nothing left to give and you’re just going through the motions? Feeling exhausted even when work is over? If so, you might be experiencing burnout. This article will cover a few common signs of burnout and explore some proactive strategies to prevent and recover from burnout.
What is Burnout?
Burnout is a constant feeling of mental, emotional, and physical exhaustion that can happen when you’ve been pushing yourself too hard for too long. It can make you feel overwhelmed, stressed out, or depleted, and burnout can even take away that drive and ambition you once felt about your work.
Burnout can make it harder to concentrate or get things done, and you might even start making mistakes at work because even the little things now take so much work. It drains your energy and can leave you feeling helpless and resentful. Every day at work feels like a grind and things you once found interesting may now seem boring.
Burnout can happen to anyone and sometimes it's hard to spot the signs. For more info on the signs and symptoms of burnout, check out this article here.
When and how to deal with burnout
Most of us will have the occasional bad day where we feel tired and unappreciated. But when we start to notice that there have been more bad days than good, and our exhaustion is like a storm that just won’t pass, it may be time to make a change or seek support. Although it’s tempting to wait for things to pass, burnout may only get worse over time if the underlying causes of stress are not addressed.
When left untreated, burnout can lead to a range of long-term physical and mental health problems so it’s really important to reach out for support when it starts to feel too overwhelming.
If you start to notice signs of burnout, here are a few strategies that can help prevent burnout from taking over your life. It’s important to remember that prevention and recovery from burnout will be different for everyone so if you’re finding it rough, working with a Psychologist can help you find the right strategies for you.
1. Identify your priorities in work, life, and play.
Burnout is often a real sign that something about your work or other responsibilities just isn’t aligned with how you want to live life. Figuring out the things that give you meaning in life can be a starting point to help make effective long-term changes.
It doesn’t have to be as drastic as a career change, but even a small change – like spending 30 minutes a day on things you like doing – can make a big difference in managing burnout. Remember that your life and personal interests are just as important. It's completely okay to spend your time doing whatever you feel like doing!
2. Set boundaries and make time for your needs.
Setting appropriate boundaries can mean the difference between pushing yourself to work an extra weekend or taking extra time for yourself to rest and recover. It can sometimes be a difficult conversation when you need to put yourself first and assert your needs, but there are some really effective ways to do so. If you’d like to learn more, check out this page here.
3. Put some downtime in your diary every day.
It can be difficult to take time off and care for yourself when your diary is jam-packed weeks in advance. See if you can find 10-15 minutes in your diary every day to do something that brings you joy. Maybe it’s going for a short walk, watching some videos, or texting your mates. Block this time off in the first week, put it in your calendar, and let people know that this time is for you.
In the next week, see if you can extend the 10-15 minutes to 30 minutes every day and put it as a recurring event. Slowly but surely, you’ll start to wrestle back time for yourself to rest and recover.
4. Remember that it’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon.
There can be stigma these days around taking time to rest and recover. Some people may tell you that taking time off is lazy or inefficient, or that you’ll fall behind if you don’t push yourself. But the reality is that it’s not a sprint, it's a marathon. Every professional sportsperson, doctor, and coach will tell you that rest days are just as important as training days to maintain peak performance.
Just like your body, your mind needs the time to rest and recover to perform at its best. Those extra 15 minutes you take for yourself can mean the difference between a productive and satisfying afternoon or another bad day at work.
5. Take your time getting back into the swing of things.
The feeling of burnout is rough and it can make us rush back into things before we’re ready, especially when we felt like we were working at our best before. It can be tempting to jump back into the swing of things as soon as we get a bit more fuel in the tank. But doing so too early will only restart the cycle and make us feel like we’re running on empty again.
Try and be patient and take your time getting back into the swing of things. There’s no ‘normal’ period for recovery from burnout – it’s different for everyone, so try and take the time that you feel you need. It’s okay to take a few weeks, months, or years off while you rest. Just like a physical injury, rushing in before you’re ready can put you at risk of hurting yourself again.
When to reach out for support with burnout
Preventing and recovering from burnout can be challenging, but that doesn’t mean you need to do it alone. Reaching out to others can be an effective way to get things back on track. Whether it is support with chores around the house or checking with your work to make things more manageable, reaching out to the people around you can help give you room to rest and recover.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed with burnout, please remember that you’re not alone and that support is out there. If you’d like to learn more about how a Psychologist can help support you with burnout, please click here.