3 Ways to Recover From Burnout - Tips and Practices For Recovery

The high-speed nature and demands of professional life, along with the accompanying stress of the workplace, frequently contribute to burnout among professionals. The concept of burnout has gained some recent traction in the media, with notable celebrities opening up about their experiences, and scientific discussion as to whether burnout should be classified as a mental health or medical condition. The newfound hype over this term may cause you to wonder, “What does burnout feel like,” “Am I suffering from burnout,” “How long does burnout last,” and “Will it cost me my job?” 

While recognizing the symptoms and signs of workplace stress and burnout is the first step to healing, learning effective workplace stress management strategies is the next. You can learn practical actions that make overcoming workplace stress and healing a reality with the guidance of compassionate, supportive, licensed therapists through counseling in Seattle at Thrive for the People.

What does burnout feel like?

There are common symptoms and signs, but we recognize that burnout transcends industries and can impact everyone differently. Answers to the question, “What does burnout feel like?” may vary, but typically, what burnout feels like is:

  • Feeling drained and unable to relax

  • Headaches, muscle tension, and chronic fatigue

  • Appetite changes and sleep disturbances

  • Persistent cynicism and detachment

  • Forgetfulness and trouble concentrating

  • High frustration and irritability

  • Excessive lateness, vacations, and sick days

  • Decreased motivation and enthusiasm

  • Diminished sense of purpose at work

  • Lack of inspiration, creativity, and emotional energy for work-related matters and relationships

  • Not being present with loved ones or withdrawing from social settings 

Burnout can also feel like grieving for some people.

Some people mourn the loss of enthusiasm for their job like you would mourn death, divorce, or other significant losses. Prolonged workplace stress can make you grieve for the lost energy and space to think, create, and collaborate that you used to have before your workload or environment began overwhelming you. 

1. Recognize the source and symptoms of burnout in your life

Burnout often results from chronic workplace stress and taxing situations and responsibilities, but getting granular about the specific factors that are contributing to your distress is key. It can be helpful to start with a self-assessment. 

  • Am I consistently working long hours or dealing with an overwhelming amount of work?

  • Do I feel unfulfilled or dissatisfied with my work?

  • Am I struggling to balance work and personal life responsibilities?

  • Do I feel like I have little control over my work or the decisions that affect me?

  • Do I feel unappreciated or undervalued for my work?

  • Do I have adequate support from colleagues, supervisors, friends, and family?

  • Do my job responsibilities align with my personal values and goals?

While some people may innately know the specific source of their sense of burnout, others may benefit from conversing with a licensed therapist to develop insight into the patterns that are fueling burnout. Intentional conversations about the messages you received about work, productivity, and what was expected of you growing up can bring awareness to unhelpful work practices and the beliefs that fuel them. To arrive at some of these deeper insights, you may want to ask yourself:

  • Is there a part of me that believes that my worth is tied to my productivity?

  • What am I afraid will happen if I take a step back from responsibility?

  • Am I using my focus on work to distract from other concerning areas of my life?

  • What messages am I telling myself about the current role/workload I have now?

In counseling for work stress in Seattle, we can help you assess why you are feeling burned out in your life and develop the cognitive restructuring needed to unwind these unhelpful beliefs. Your therapist can help you determine where burnout, anxiety, and depression overlap and help you develop targeted burnout management strategies to regain your energy and enthusiasm.

2. Focus on caring for your physical health

The fast pace of your workday may prompt you to skip breakfast, fuel yourself with coffee, forgo breaks, and work up until bedtime. These unsustainable practices will eventually catch up with you. Your body, brain, and work performance, however, can benefit from:

  • Enhancing your diet

Chronic workplace stress triggers your flight-or-fight response, which can lead to fatty and sugary food cravings and overeating. Consider exploring intuitive eating, a practice that emphasizes listening to your body's hunger and fullness cues to guide your eating habits, and making food choices that honor your health and taste buds.

  • Being more physically active

Exercising is effective for improving your mood. Your body could use the movement if you work non-stop, especially in sedentary positions. If your schedule and body cannot permit a full-scale routine, start with walking for a few minutes each day, taking standing breaks, or doing gentle stretches. Investing in a standing desk and walking pad is a great maintenance strategy to multitask your exercise, although it may be better in your burnout recovery to take a break from work and fully divert your attention to your physical form. 

  • Mindfulness

​​​​​​​Similar to exercise, mindfulness meditations or breathing exercises can help give you the reset you need when work has taken over your life. In addition to being an effective in-the-moment strategy for dealing with stress, practicing mindfulness in moments of calm can also help lower your reactivity to stress.

  • Improving your sleep hygiene

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Are you guilty of working late into the evening or checking work-related messages right up until you fall asleep? Your nighttime reset should be a priority to ensure you are energized during the day. Make a goal to develop a calming evening routine where you listen to music, drink a warm beverage, or read something relaxing. 

3. Set boundaries that build balance

The extension of work stress into personal realms exacerbates burnout, making it essential for our clients to learn the art of setting personal boundaries.

Recognize your limits

Overworking yourself or striving for perfection can impair your productivity. Perfectionism can cause you to feel unsatisfied no matter how hard you work or how much you achieve. Working hard to prove you are not an imposter or not asking for help to avoid looking inadequate can exacerbate your workplace stress. Recognize your limits and when you’ve hit max capacity, and make peace with the knowledge that it’s not a reflection of your worth.

Ultimately, this may require a reevaluation of your priorities. Take some time to reflect on where you’re spending your time and energy and whether those things truly matter to you.

Making adjustments to align your actions with your values can help inspire passion as you redirect your energy toward what really matters.

Develop work practices that support balance

How can you be smarter with your time and energy at work, so that you are not leaving fully drained at the end of the day? Our top three tips include:

  • Set realistic goals

Break your tasks into smaller, manageable goals and prioritize them based on importance. Setting realistic goals can help prevent feelings of being overwhelmed and reduce the risk of burnout. Ask yourself, “What can I reasonably accomplish today?” and avoid setting yourself up for failure by setting the bar too high. 

  • Delegate tasks

​​​​​​​If possible, delegate tasks to others to lighten your workload. When your plate is full, it’s a great opportunity to allow someone else to develop their skills. If you’re in a management position, remember that an important part of employee development is learning to problem-solve. You can support someone’s process without giving them the answer. 

  • Celebrate small victories

​​​​​​​Acknowledge and celebrate your achievements, no matter how small. This can help boost your morale and motivation, making it easier to cope with burnout. A practical strategy for this is to keep a “feel good file,” whether it is physical or on your computer depending on the nature of your work. In this folder, collect screenshots of praise for a job well done, a copy of a presentation you’re particularly proud of, or a running note of kind words from coworkers.

Pause as needed to keep a sustainable pace in the workplace and be present outside of it

Take a short break when you notice yourself becoming stressed out or unproductive. Create different spaces for work and play if you work from home to avoid falling into the trap of working 24/7. Become intentional about your end-of-day routine for signing out and winding down at the end of work hours. Make it a personal rule not to take work calls or respond to emails while exercising, eating, or enjoying downtime. 

Regain healthy control by communicating your needs

Sometimes burnout feels like saying ‘yes’ when you should say ‘no’ to meet others’ expectations. Having clear boundaries that prioritize your needs allows you to be mindful and intentional in your ‘yes’. For example, saying no to working after hours with your team so you can say yes to your family and be present for dinner is a boundary that helps you become more aligned with your values. Reviving this sense of control over how you spend your time can go a long way in reducing the emotional strain of burnout. ​​​​​​​

Begin Counseling in Seattle for Workplace Stress and Burnout

Going through the motions from one project to another compounds burnout symptoms. Learn how to be gentle with yourself in your response to workplace stressors. Counseling in Seattle at Thrive for the People is available when you are ready to assess what burnout feels like to you and explore practical ways to protect your mind and body while you fulfill your professional obligations. 

Get started today with a free 15-minute phone consultation, and skillful therapists will begin helping you establish a healthy relationship with work again. We look forward to connecting with you.