Burnout is often discussed in the context of professional life. However, other aspects of daily life, such as education, relationships, or just doing too much overall, can lead to it too.
If the definition of burnout resonates with your experiences, read on. Here we discuss recovery from burnout and ways to restore your motivation and energy levels post-burnout.
This is the first step to recovery. Pay close attention to the following symptoms:
1. It’s difficult for you to enjoy and look forward to things
Have you forgotten the last time you felt proud and accomplished with your work, or looked forward to the weekend? A lack of motivation is a big sign of burnout. If it drags on, you may even lose sight of long-term goals and a sense of self.
2. You feel mentally drained
In some people, this manifests through difficulties being present in conversations with loved ones and coworkers, whereas in others, it may look like irritability and frustration. You may also get tired of doing activities that usually give you joy, such as hobbies.
3. You are physically exhausted
Burnout can impact you physically, not only mentally. It all begins with feeling more exhausted and sleepy than usual. Then it grows into unexplained physical symptoms, such as muscle pain and tension, chronic fatigue, or even insomnia.
4. You’re not as alert and productive as you used to be
You may have issues keeping up with your schedule at work and in life in general. You may also feel like you’ve been rather forgetful, and catching up on missed tasks feels overwhelming.
5. You feel lonely
When you’re in a constant battle of catching up with tasks and constant exhaustion, you may lose sight of more pleasant activities, including socializing with friends and family. This can make you feel very isolated and misunderstood.
Learn more about the symptoms of burnout here - How to Know If You're Headed For Burnout.
Burnout can make you feel helpless and hopeless, but remember one key fact: It's never too late to change. Many people have successfully overcome burnout, and so can you.
Recovering from burnout takes mental work and mindfulness. According to psychologist and researcher Diane Bernier, recovery from severe burnout is a slow journey; it can take as long as 1-3 years. Hence, it’s beneficial to catch it at an earlier stage in order to shorten the recovery time to mere weeks or months.
According to Bernier, every burnout recovery journey is divided into six steps:
1. Recognize that you’re burned out.
2. Identify the stressors and distance yourself from them if possible.
3. Catch up on beneficial habits, such as sleep, healthy eating, socializing, and exercise.
4. Define your value system and identify what makes you feel alive and happy.
5. Align your habits with your interests.
6. Embrace change with a new mindset.
With all of these steps in mind, here are a few practical tips for you to consider:
Most commonly, burnout is related to your occupation. However, a demanding or stressful job isn’t the only possible cause. Relationship issues, an academic career, caring for loved ones with special needs, or just trying to do too much at the same time can all lead to burnout.
For example, many people are juggling work, education, and parenting at the same time, and when the delicate balance between these tasks gets upset, things can become overwhelming. Try and identify the triggers of your stress, even if they're vague, as your further work will target those areas in your life.
Take a few tasks off your plate. You may already know how you can do that. For example, you can ask your supervisor to assign one of your tasks to someone else.
However, some may feel too overwhelmed to identify those areas, so here’s a list of ways to clear your schedule:
Sometimes, you’re too stressed out and tired to even begin addressing burnout. That’s part of the story for many people, and the reason why many resist seeking recovery. This is a good time to reach out for a helping hand, be it from a family member, your best friend, or a neighbor. Anyone you really trust is fit for the job.
So what should they do? Brainstorm ways to help you get back on your feet and feel less overwhelmed. This takes courage and vulnerability, but the advantage of talking to someone who knows you is that they will help you find solutions that work for you.
This is easier said than done – especially if you’re a busybody. However, this skill is paramount for your recovery from burnout, as well as prevention in the future. If you’re acutely burned out and need a break, take a few days off work if possible. You can also meditate, spend more time with your hobbies, and just do nothing for at least a few minutes every day.
However, a luxury like that isn’t available to everyone. If you don’t have much free time in the day, you can practice a bit of self-compassion and self-care. At the base level, this means maintaining a healthy routine: getting enough sleep, eating healthy, moving or exercising, and talking to friends and family. Over time, your routine will bring some much-needed reliability and ease to your life.
Few people truly enjoy keeping a journal, and we get it – it’s just another task that devours your free time. However, journaling has proven to be especially beneficial for people who experience burnout and find it difficult to identify its causes. Journaling is also an effective way to track your growth.
Write down a little bit about your day and how it makes you feel. Read your journal every month or week – this can bring you closer to finding the cause of your burnout.
People experiencing severe burnout can feel so exhausted and joyless that it becomes difficult for them to remember what used to make them happy. When you’re pursuing a joyless career path every day for decades, it’s easy to see how that happens.
To gain back an interest in life, try and recall activities that spark joy in your life. For some, it will be an abandoned hobby or even a meeting with friends you keep postponing. Even small things like relaxing in a bubble bath can be part of this list.
Severe burnout can trigger a lot of negative feelings, such as sadness, helplessness, and a loss of a sense of self. These are hard feelings to process on your own, and it’s always a smart idea to address them systematically and intelligently with a professional therapist or counselor.
If you can’t shake the negative feelings related to burnout, it is also possible that you’re experiencing something more than just burnout, e.g. anxiety or depression. A therapist will be able to identify these conditions and get you the treatment you require.