9 Ways To Recover From Burnout: Moving Forward When You're Exhausted

When you're experiencing burnout, the resultant fatigue, cynicism, and detachment can distort reality so much that peace of mind seems lightyears away. That's because burnout runs deeper than typical stress; it's usually the result of dealing with challenging responsibilities or situations on a chronic basis. The impact of these stressors can accumulate and permeate virtually all areas of your life, leaving you feeling fizzled out across the board. This stress can even make you sick!

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 infiltrating as burnout can feel, recovering is possible.

Here are 9 tips to help you recover if you’re experiencing burnout:

A adult sitting with their head down at a desk in front of a laptop

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.

Studies indicate that actively cultivating self-compassion and empathy can mitigate the impact of burnout. With practice, you can start cultivating self-compassion in your everyday life. This will alleviate existing burnout symptoms and prevent further ones.

Here are some ways to practice self-compassion when recovering from burnout:

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:

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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:

4. Take time to actively reflect on your efforts and accomplishments

In the go-go-go of today's lifestyle, it's easy to tackle one project and leap to the next without taking a breath to acknowledge your victories. But if you view success as getting all the work done in an environment that has never-ending work, you're bound to hit burnout sooner or later.

That's why it's crucial to acknowledge both your accomplishments and your efforts. You don't have to tally up everything you do (after all, if you're burnt out, the last thing you need is another item on your to-do list!). But taking the time to actively reflect can remind you of the value of what you do.

Here are two low-effort, high-impact ways to reflect on your progress:

5. Consider taking time off to hit your "reset" button

If your burnout is severe to the point where you're struggling to function, you may benefit from taking time off so that you can reset and refresh. Taking a trip away, or even setting aside a few days to relax at home, can help.

Remember to turn off work emails or other contacts, since even small notifications can remind you of stressors and impede your relaxation efforts.

If you're not able to take time off, consider taking breaks at work. Bouncing between demanding projects or assignments can perpetuate burnout, so try to remember to go for a walk or practice breathing exercises between tasks.

6. Recognize and replace negative self-talk

We often fall into patterns of self berating during stressful days or weeks. But knocking yourself down in the midst of an already-stressful period won't exactly move you forward! So instead, try replacing your negative self-talk with more supportive, nurturing language. Here are tips for getting started:

7. Adopt an "ownership mindset"

One of the mainstays of burnout is the feeling that things are happening to you, rather than you having control over your own life. Intentionally adopting an "ownership mindset" is a way to remind yourself that while others may have contributed to your current situation, you still have the power to make your own choices (this is empowerment, not blame!).

Small ways to adopt this mentality might be:

With this outlook, you may find that you're more readily poised to see the opportunities and choices you can make to improve your present and future.

8. Grant yourself permission to be an imperfect human

If you consistently hold yourself to high standards without wiggle room, anything less than perfect can feel like a failure. Grant yourself permission to act imperfectly, while recognizing that no single action defines you.

Here are a few ways to speak back to perfectionism, if it is detrimentally affecting you:

9. 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 to protect your energy. For example, delegating tasks if possible and 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:

The experience of burnout feels pretty awful – but burnout is treatable, and the recovery process can be deeply empowering! Working with a vetted therapist is the right next step.

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. While burnout generally is temporary, the growth you experience in being intentional about treating it can be lasting!