Stressed? Unhappy? Depressed or anxious? Never feel satisfied with your progress or happy with your job, hobbies or friends? You may be suffering from burnout.
While "burnout” is a buzzword that you may hear floating around corporate America, it's a very real issue and, when not addressed, can lead to major health concerns. If you think you’re suffering from or near to experiencing burnout, there are a few ways you can avoid burnout and/or recover from it.
What is Burnout?
“Burnout” is essentially another word for a kind of extreme exhaustion. Usually, burnout begins as mental exhaustion but then manifests as physical exhaustion as well. Burnout can result from a variety of sources, but most often is tied to some sort of personal or work-related stress, even if you don’t feel you’re in a particularly stressful situation.
The Symptoms of Burnout
The symptoms of burnout differ from person to person, but you could be experiencing burnout if you’re exhibiting some or most of the following:
- Dissatisfaction with your everyday responsibilities
- Mental and/or physical exhaustion most of the time, regardless of how much you sleep
- Feelings of depression, hopelessness or a lack of fulfillment
- No interest in your normal routine or hobbies and activities that once brought you joy
- Feelings of anxiety or being overwhelmed by seemingly simple tasks or responsibilities
- Increased irritability and anger, at yourself, at others or just at a situation
- Increased use of unhealthy coping mechanisms
When experiencing these symptoms, it can feel like there’s absolutely no way out of them. You might feel like you’re going crazy or like you need to be on some sort of anxiety or depression medication.
If your symptoms are serious and you don’t feel that you could be experiencing burnout, it can be wise to see a therapist or doctor. If, however, you feel that burnout may be a potential cause of your symptoms, it’s worth trying to alleviate and recover from that burnout on your own through a variety of lifestyle changes.
How to Recover from Burnout: Look at the Root Cause
The first step to recovering from burnout is, of course, looking at the root cause of your burnout. What’s behind your symptoms? Sometimes, the root cause of your burnout is difficult to identify.
For example, you may think your burnout stems from your challenging job, but maybe it’s not the challenge of your job that has you feeling the above symptoms. After all, that challenge might’ve been what made you fall in love with your work in the first place. Maybe instead, the burnout comes from the excessive demands your job makes on your time and personal life.
In this case, the root cause of your burnout wouldn’t be your job — it would be your lack of time. So, to start alleviating the symptoms of burnout, you wouldn’t want to quit your job entirely. You’d want to look for a way to gain more time for your personal life, whether that comes from more remote working, a less-demanding schedule or another solution.
Before you make any snap decisions to alleviate the symptoms of burnout, make sure you’ve identified the true root cause of your feelings.
How to Recover from Burnout: Practice Conscious Self-Care
Everyone touts the benefits of self-care and you probably see all kinds of mantras on your social media encouraging you to practice it, but self-care is a lot easier said than done. True self-care requires a conscious decision.
Instead of waiting until you feel at the end of your rope to indulge in a little self-care, prepare for those times, you’ll need it ahead of time. Practice self-care when you feel fine, so that it’s second nature when you’re stressed, feeling burnt out or anxious.
You might take up a virtual or in-person yoga class. You might schedule time in your schedule once a week to go on a walk at one of your favorite spots, whether it’s a state park or a museum. Even adopting a few house plants can be seen as self-care.
How to Recover from Burnout: Change Your Diet and Exercise Routine
It’s easier to succumb to burnout if you’re not taking care of your physical health. If you live a primarily sedentary lifestyle (like most who work behind a desk) and you don’t take caution with the way you fuel your body, then your body won’t have the fuel it needs to protect both your physical and mental health.
You don’t have to commit to a potentially stress-inducing workout routine and diet, though, to ease your feelings of burnout. Even small changes help. Go on a walk around the block a few times a week. Opt for a healthy snack versus fast food.
How to Recover from Burnout: Learn to Say “No”
This can be one of the hardest parts of recovering from burnout — learning to say “no.”
It can be easy to say “yes” to everyone, especially in a work environment where you’re trying your best to succeed. However, you need to learn your limits and then respect those limits (and ask others to respect them as well!).
There’s nothing wrong with saying “no” and, if you’re not overextending yourself by saying “yes” to everything, then you’ll be more productive overall and produce better work and results — a more positive outcome for everyone in your life.
How to Recover from Burnout: Find Support
All these lifestyle changes can be difficult to take on, on your own. Find a support team or buddy, whether that’s a friend, partner or colleague. They might not know exactly what you’re going through, but as long as they can lend a listening ear, they’ll prove valuable as you work toward your burnout recovery.
How to Recover from Burnout: Evaluate Your Goals
And, lastly, if you’ve tried all the above and you’re still experiencing symptoms of burnout, you may want to evaluate your goals and what you’re working toward.
Will achieving those goals really make you happy? Are they really what you want and are those goals worth what you’re putting yourself through to get them?
The threat of burnout is an unfortunate side effect of modern life, but you don’t need to allow it to rule your life.
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