Burnout is usually a slow and gradual process – one that tends to rob people of their passion, their motivation, and energy, leaving them instead with feelings of exhaustion, disillusionment, and frustration. But as overwhelming and infiltrated as burnout can feel, recovering is possible.
Here are tips to help you recover if you’re experiencing burnout:
1. Strengthen active reflection and self-compassion practices
When helping individuals recover from burnout, I highly recommend extra self-compassion and patience, as well as reflective exercises to see the big picture of what may be going on.
Here are some ways to practice self-compassion when recovering from burnout:
- Be patient – give it time and focus. Reminding yourself healing from burnout is a process.
- Notice and reward the effort you are putting in, not just the outcome.
- Consider taking an ownership mindset. Look for the opportunities and choices you can make to improve your present and future.
- Remember and reflect on the system you are in! If you view success as getting all the work done in an environment that has never ending work, you are bound to get stressed and feel terrible about yourself. Take a step back and think of how you can protect yourself, improve the system, and/or find another system that fits your needs.
2. Create action items for systemic changes
Action items that fit your schedule and demands can help make lasting systemic changes in your daily life. Here are some everyday ways to effect change in your work life, preventing further burnout:
- Set work boundaries: When you notice yourself being unproductive, take a short break. If you work from home, set up a work space and a play space so you associate home with more than just work. Similarly, set a schedule so that you know you can “turn off” at a specific time.
- Stress reduction list: Make a list of some of the things that stress you out, as well as a list of things that re-energize you. Jot down a couple of actions to reduce your stress every few days or every week. If creating this list is stressful, I recommend setting boundaries on the task (5-10 minutes), and remembering that burnout recovery is a process.
- Make meaning: Give yourself time to reflect and reconnect with your values, goals, and priorities. You might be in this demanding job because you want to help people, you might also be working hard to provide financial security for your family. When we remember and connect with why we’re doing something that is difficult, it makes it easier to do the task. If you notice that your values or goals are shifting, that’s okay – you can come up with a plan to help you address this shift proactively.
3. Develop daily strategies to prevent burnout
Recognizing and replacing habits that may be fueling the burnout is a great way to prevent it from controlling your life. Take some time to check in and reflect with the following everyday exercises:
- Take care of your body: Really important! Get some form of exercise, eat when hungry, sleep when you need to. When in recovery, it is particularly important to not push past your limits.
- Unwind before bed: Set aside time before falling asleep to unwind. Listen to music, read something relaxing or meaningful, reflect on the important moments of your day.
- Disconnect from screens: Technology makes us more accessible, which can be wonderful yet demanding thing. Find realistic small ways to get some separation from screens.
- Create a gentle reflection practice: Could be a thoughtful conversation with a good friend, or a quick journal entry - I love the 2 minute journal, which includes a gratitude practice.
- Create a practice of staying present/mindful: Most people think of meditation, which is a great idea, but it doesn’t work for everyone, especially at first. Mindfulness could be watching a basketball game, eating a snack, or a taking a 5 minute walk around the block with the intention of practicing being present and nonjudgmental.
4. Seek professional support through therapy
Therapy is a wonderful space to assess what burnout looks for you, what components of burnout are particularly challenging for you, and what factors are contributing to your experience of burnout.
For example, if you notice that your detachment is impacting how you show up for work or home, you can work on strategies to improve interpersonal concerns.
These strategies may include steps protect your energy, for example, delegation of tasks if possible, as well as working on communication, such as setting boundaries with respect rather than with irritation.
A therapist can also help you sort through and address the factors impacting burnout, since each factor might need a different approach.
When looking for a therapist for burnout, look for a therapist who:
- Is familiar with burnout recovery literature
- Is able to help you build towards short-term and long-term goals
- Has skills helping clients distinguish between burnout, depression, and anxiety
- Helps you feel comfortable with and understands the context of your experiences
- Has an understanding of systemic issues such as workplace discrimination if these are big factors in your experience of burnout, as not all of us are trained in culturally competent counseling
The experience of burnout feels pretty awful – but burnout is treatable, and the recovery process can be deeply empowering!
Through recovery, you can become more in touch with your values and goals, feel more confident in your ability to manage stress, and learn to implement practices that will help you play the long game well.
Ready to tackle burnout recovery with a therapist? Get started at Zencare.co.
In NYC? Dr. Snehal Kumar can help you manage stress and recover from burnout.