Burnout is a state of exhaustion—emotional, physical, mental exhaustion due to an excessive amount of stress. You might experience burnout after working long hours at work, partaking in an ongoing battle with your significant other, or enduring an especially busy or chaotic week. Whatever the cause, burnout isn’t fun and it can negatively impact your health and wellbeing. This is the only reason you need to properly address and recover from this state of exhaustion. Follow our 10 steps to recover from burnout:
1. Take a timeout.
To recover from burnout, you immediately need to take time to decompress. Aimee Bernstein—an executive and personal coach, psychotherapist, mindfulness-in-action teacher, and author—gives suggestions for doing so: “During this stage, you need to practice breathing from your center of gravity, which is just below your belly button, instead of breathing shallowly. Meditate, take walks on the beach, get plenty of sleep, laugh, so your body can heal and you can re-energize.”
2. Sleep, sleep, sleep!
Another immediate step you should take to recover from burnout is catch up on any lack of sleep. When we’re stressed and overwhelmed, we often skip out on sleep, don’t get the amount that we need, or the quality of our sleep suffers. “Get as much sleep as possible. It’s crucial that you try to make sleep a priority,” says Lauren Cook, with a master’s in Marriage and Family Therapy. “They have found that depriving people of sleep is a form of torture and, in fact, it is just as dangerous to drive when exhausted as it is to drive under the influence. Whether that means taking naps or sleeping at odd hours, try to get your sleep quote of 8 hours a day if possible.”
3. Define a healthy balance.
After you’ve taken the above immediate steps to recover from burnout, it’s time to define what a healthy balance is for you, so that you don’t continue to experience burnout. “When you are feeling burnt out, you need to quickly define what a more balanced life will look like,” says Carolyn Ball, Licensed Professional Counselor and Owner of Elevate Counseling + Wellness. “Forget what balance means to someone else. What does balance mean to you? Is it finding time to spend with your children every night? Is it being able to work hard during the week and unwind on the weekends? The more you can identify your actual goal, the easier it will be to create a reasonable path towards achieving it.”
4. Create structure.
When you come up with your plan for creating a healthier balance, implement it! “You must have structure in your life,” as explained by Kimberly Lou, Life Coach, Corporate Mentor, and author: “In a pack of wolves, you will notice that every day those wolves walk up to ten hours a day (exercise). Every wolf has a job in that pack (purpose), and every day those wolves hunt (structure). Even if they are not hungry. Why? They need that routine to create a sense of safety. On a side note, have you ever seen a wolf in the wild with anxiety? When they know what they are going to do every day, they don’t have to think about what’s next.”
5. Spend some time in nature.
You can also spend time outside as part of your plan to recover from burnout. Christine Scott-Hudson, Licensed Psychotherapist and Owner of Create Your Life Studio gives some suggestions for doing so: “Watch the sunrise or sunset. Take a walk in the woods. Sit at the beach. Feed the ducks at a lake. Eat lunch in a park. Watch the clouds go by. Tend to your garden. Pet your dog or cat. Feed some wild birds. Reconnect to the earth. Remember that you are more than your productivity numbers. You have a life beyond your work, you have a soul beyond what you do, and you matter.” Christine Scott-Hudson
6. Allow yourself many mental health breaks.
Think back to our first couples steps to recover from burnout: they revolved around taking a breather. Be sure to do this constantly, even daily. “These can be small breaks throughout the day, such as a cup of coffee alone, or breaks that include days off and vacations. I have encountered so many people that work so much they do not take vacations and barely see their families,” says Licensed Psychologist Derek Mihalcin. “What are you working for then? The reason we work is to have money for things outside of work. If we are all work and no play, then burnout is likely. Plus, you will have added the stress of neglecting family and friends to your work stress, which is a recipe for disaster.”
7. Evaluate your relationships.
Also, if you’re experiencing burnout often, you could benefit from evaluating your relationships. Judith Orloff, M.D., author of “Thriving as an Empath: 365 Days of Self-Care for Sensitive People” explains: “Practice sensing the energy around various people with whom you interact. Pay attention to how it feels when people emit positive energy. Does your vitality increase around certain people? Do you feel relaxed or uplifted? Then notice what negative energy feels like. Ask yourself, ‘Do I feel anxious, sick, or exhausted?’ If certain people zap your energy or leave you feeling overwhelmed, factor this into your choices about being around them at work, in a relationship or in other areas of your life.”
8. Consider a job or position change.
To recover from burnout (and prevent it from happening over and over again) you might also want to consider a job or position change. Doing so helped Briana Hollis, Licensed Social Worker and Self-Care Coach: “I was in the midst of burnout last year and one of the solutions that I came up with was to change positions. You may absolutely love the work that you do or the population that you do it with, but you may need a change. If there are openings in your organization, see if you can change to one of them. Or, if you have the ability, see if you are able to create a new position that leverages what you love to do.”
9. Take some time off of work altogether.
Or, instead of a job change, you might just need a vacation. “I left my job for a month to completely recharge my batteries and take my mind off work for enough time to get some results. It went great because I returned to work with new energy and ready to take on 2019,” says Olga Mykhoparkina, Chief Marketing Officer at Chanty. “Turned out, my team managed beautifully without me as well. I recommend taking a sabbatical to anyone who needs time to unwind from work—as long as your CEO allows it.”
Finally, once you have taken the time you need to decompress and you’ve determined a plan for living a healthier, more balanced life, direct your energy to re-focusing. “Re-focusing includes finding alternative ways to support yourself moving forward,” says Ben Barrett, Clinical Social Worker and Addictions Counselor. “This may be rekindling friendships, getting financial help, or whichever you need to do to refocus and tackle your problem in a more positive manner.”