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How to recover from burnout and love your life again

October 25, 2021 - 24 min read

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What is burnout?

How to recognize burnout

14 tips on how to recover from burnout

How long does it take to recover from burnout?

3 types of burnout recovery

Learn how to recover from burnout and get back on track

Feeling completely drained or overwhelmed with stress?

Are you experiencing mental exhaustion, and feeling physically exhausted as well?

You could be experiencing burnout.

Burnout is a form of extreme chronic stress that can manifest in a variety of dysfunctional ways. Especially within the past few years, instances of burnout are on the rise.

In a survey of 1,500 US workers, over half of the respondents experienced burnout in 2021. This is compared to 43% who experienced burnout prior to COVID-19.

If you’re experiencing burnout, it can feel difficult to get back on track. But it’s important to reset your mind and body before you experience the long-term negative effects.

When your mind and body feel overwhelmed for a significant period of time, your overall health and well-being suffer.

Here are some tips on how to recover from burnout and feel like yourself again.

 

What is burnout?

As mentioned above, burnout is when the physical, mental, and psychological exertion from stress takes its toll on your body and mind. This can cause you to feel fatigued, disconnected, and worn out.

On top of its impact on your physical well-being, burnout can negatively affect the way you perceive yourself. Often, it causes a reduced sense of accomplishment and a disassociation of personality.

While burnout is not an official medical diagnosis, there are many signs of burnout to help identify it.

With the rising rates of adults experiencing burnout, it is becoming increasingly important for businesses to recognize the symptoms in employees and support them to learn how to recover from burnout in a safe and effective way.

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How to recognize burnout

Recognizing burnout is the first and most important step in the process of recovery.

Learning how to identify burnout can promote awareness of this common condition. Identifying it correctly teaches you how to prevent it from occurring in the future.

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What makes identifying burnout difficult is the fact that everybody experiences stress in their own unique way.

That said, knowing how to recover from burnout starts with informed recognition. Here are six common symptoms of high stress that could indicate burnout:

1. Feeling emotionally exhausted

Emotional exhaustion is a state of extreme emotional depletion.

While you may not think it, working with other people every day requires a high level of emotional energy. It can be hard work to stay on top of delegation, conflict control, and social maintenance. Feeling emotionally exhausted is a clear signifier of burnout.

2. Physical symptoms

Some people experience burnout in the form of purely physical symptoms.

High stress causes cortisol levels to soar, triggering physical symptoms such as:

  • Headaches
  • Digestive complications
  • Muscle tension
  • High blood pressure

3. Lack of motivation

It is very difficult to remain motivated at work when your body and mind no longer have the stamina to move forward. Many burnout sufferers may try to maintain an optimal level of motivation at work. But doing so often worsens the issue.

Your lack of motivation may be matched by continuous stress, even through the weekends. If you notice your cases of the Sunday scaries are only continuing to get worse, you might be suffering from burnout. 

4. Lower productivity

Productivity is typically the result of a strong work ethic and enthusiasm for your role. It requires stamina and energy, two things that people experiencing burnout lack.

If you notice an uncharacteristic dip in work performance, you may be experiencing a case of burnout.

5. Self-doubt and low self-esteem

Often, as a response to low work performance and productivity, victims of burnout may experience a shift in the way they perceive themselves or their achievements.

Many people get satisfaction from and feel pride in their work. But burnout makes it impossible to perform optimally. This causes self-doubt, low self-esteem, and even imposter syndrome.

6. Feelings of loneliness and detachment

According to a Harvard study, the more exhausted people are, the lonelier they feel.

There are many links found between loneliness and high stress. These links are why burnout is so often a trigger for feeling detached and isolated from the rest of the world.

 

14 tips on how to recover from burnout

Despite the grip that burnout has over so many of us, recovery is possible. While there’s no quick fix to burnout, there are many ways to alleviate stress levels and return to a healthier state of being.

Here are 14 different tips on recovering from burnout that you can easily incorporate into your daily routine.

1. Track your stress levels

If you’re into gadgets, stress trackers are a great way to monitor your anxiety. Trackers also help you to understand more about your personal stress patterns and behaviors.

2. Identify your stressors

Knowing what your stress triggers are will allow you to avoid or reduce interactions with them.

Try paying attention to incidents, people, or situations that consistently trigger stress. Aim to avoid them as far as possible.

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3. Create a habit of journaling

Journaling has proven to be an excellent emotional decompressor. Creating the habit might take some time, but the results will naturally teach you how to recover from mental exhaustion.

4. Seek professional help from a coach or therapist

There’s no shame in seeking help from a trained psychologist or coach. In fact, it’s encouraged.

Therapy dramatically reduces stress levels and can facilitate healing from a mental fitness and emotional well-being perspective.

5. Build a support network

Being able to discuss your struggles with burnout in a safe environment will help to alleviate stress. It will also help reinforce solidarity with those around you.

Don’t be afraid to lean on others for support, whether those relationships are personal or professional.

6. Get enough exercise

Want to know how to recover from burnout while still working? Try implementing a regular exercise routine.

Moving your body will release the tension it holds while producing feel-good hormones like endorphins. Virtual workouts like online yoga help relieve stress without you even leaving the house.

7. Speak up for yourself

Being honest about your situation with a boss or manager may result in a reduced workload and prevent you from working long hours. Don’t be afraid to speak up for yourself to create change that could better suit your mental and emotional needs.

8. Learn stress management techniques

Everyone processes stress differently. Stress management techniques such as mindful breathing, intuitive eating, or cardio can only help if you give them a try.

9. Create a work-life balance

One of the many causes of burnout is an imbalanced relationship with work. Cultivating a work-life balance will help you lead a much more functional and stress-free life.

Start with small daily actions to balance time spent at work and time spent on non-work activities. For example, use time blocking to reduce your screen time and take up a new health and wellness trend.

If you’re a working parent, take enough vacation days to spend quality time with your friends and family. 

As well as prevent burnout, having a good work-life balance will improve your relationships with loved ones, which is a key aspect of your health and wellbeing.

10. Do things that you enjoy

If you want to know how to recover from mental exhaustion, having fun is a good place to start. Committing to things that make you happy will calibrate stress levels and help you reconnect with yourself on an emotional level.

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11. Create a healthy sleep schedule

Not getting enough sleep due to stress poses threats to physical strength, mental focus, and emotional stamina. Try to get at least seven to nine hours a night. This could be done with the right sleep hygiene or even with a sleep tracker.

12. Follow a healthy diet

Eating fresh, wholesome meals can boost your immunity and make you less vulnerable to stress and fatigue. Try to embrace a nutritious diet for more energy.

13. Practice mindfulness and meditation

Many people ask, “How long does it take to recover from burnout?” The answer is that recovery is a process, not a destination.

Life skills like mindfulness and meditation focus on the bigger picture. This encourages people to cultivate a more peace-oriented lifestyle.

14. Set boundaries

Many people struggle to say no when being asked to take on extra work. Learning how to set boundaries at work and in relationships can help reduce the chances of burnout.

How long does it take to recover from burnout?

Recovery from a condition like burnout doesn’t happen overnight. And because the issue is mainly internal, tracking progress is not always easy.

Here are six stages you can actively work through at your own pace to find your calm amidst the storm.  

Stage 1: Admit the problem

You can’t start your recovery process until you recognize that there’s a need for one.

To start, it’s worth sitting down and considering the causes and extent to which burnout is affecting you. From that point on, you can move forward.

Stage 2: Take a break

Taking a break from work is not always possible. But it will help alleviate the strain and give your body and mind the time it desperately needs to relax and gather energy again.

Stage 3: Focus on well-being

If you are experiencing burnout, it may be time to shift your focus from work-related productivity to your general well-being.

smiling-woman-feeling-great-how-to-recover-from-burnout

Anyone who wants to know how to recover from burnout can benefit from placing new importance on personal health and happiness.

Stage 4: Reflect on personal values

When we immerse ourselves in work, we often forget why we started or what we want out of life.

Reflecting on personal values can remind us who we really are and what parts of life deserve our full attention.

Stage 5: Explore new opportunities

There’s more than one way to make money. If your current roles and responsibilities are proving more draining than fulfilling, perhaps it’s time to explore new opportunities and find a career path that better suits your lifestyle and ideals.

Stage 6: Make a change

Although change can sometimes be scary, it’s better than sacrificing your personal health. If you’re experiencing burnout, chances are something needs to change in order to get your mental and physical health back on track.

Recovery doesn’t happen on its own. You may need to make some lifestyle or job changes before you can find relief.

3 types of burnout recovery 

Recovery is different for all of us because everybody has a different relationship with stress. You should use different recovery techniques depending on the situation.

Once you’ve identified a burnout stressor or trigger, you can start looking at the different recovery types and move forward.

Some people are very physically affected by burnout. Others will experience purely psychological or emotional symptoms.

Here are three common recovery types and what they can look like.

1. External recovery

The term “external recovery” refers to ways in which the physical body can recover from burnout.

two-friends-walking-in-nature-how-to-recover-from-burnout

External recovery methods are important for those experiencing burnout in the form of physical ailments. These include headaches, muscle tension, gastrointestinal issues, or chronic fatigue.

In addition to a reduced workload, you can heal this form of burnout through exercise, hydration, sleep, and an improved diet.

2. Internal recovery

This aspect of burnout relates to internal expressions of stress. Examples include low mental focus, poor memory, emotional exhaustion, and feelings of loneliness.

This form of burnout needs recovery methods that improve people’s mental and emotional states.

Therapy, journaling, creative expression, and social bonding can all help reinforce internal recovery.

3. Daily recovery

If you want to know how to recover from burnout while still working, making changes to your habits and daily lifestyle is the way forward.

Not everyone can take time off from work. But making small adjustments to your everyday routine can alleviate stress in the long run.

Building healthy habits like a morning walk, less caffeine, or daily meditation can help you wind down and recover from burnout.

Learn how to recover from burnout and get back on track

Stress is an unavoidable part of life. Everyone must learn to cope with it in order to survive.

The key to unlocking a healthy relationship with work is to invest in daily acts of self-care. By striking a work-life balance, you can focus on your well-being in a way that makes sense for your personal values, ideals, and capacities.

We know this may be easier said than done. Sometimes, you can use a little extra support to stay committed to daily stress management.

Get in touch with one of BetterUp’s expert coaches to discover how they can help you.

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Published October 25, 2021

Erin Eatough, PhD

Sr. Insights Manager

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