Are you feeling utterly drained by the time Wednesday rolls around, despite getting a full 10 hours of sleep and hitting the snooze button twice? Have you found yourself retreating from social plans and longing for the comfort of your bed over the weekend? It’s a cycle that can leave you feeling hopeless and exhausted, wondering if there’s any way out of this burnout abyss.
The good news is, yes, there is a way out! Before we delve into practical strategies for recovering from burnout, let’s first understand the basics of what’s going on. Burnout, surprisingly, is a result of chronic stress, a condition that creeps up gradually over time, not overnight. It typically arises from an obsession with meeting the needs of others or pushing oneself to the limit, according to psychologist Carolyn Rubenstein, PhD. While the World Health Organization primarily defines burnout in the context of work, it also extends to other life responsibilities, such as caregiver burnout.
Burnout isn’t just about wanting to escape into the depths of your duvet; it can manifest physically. Sleep troubles, a weakened immune system, and digestive issues are not uncommon for those grappling with burnout, explains therapist Angela Wu, LMFT, who specializes in mental health issues like anxiety, depression, and burnout.
Certain personality types are more susceptible to burnout. Chronic people-pleasers or those who are excessively hard on themselves may find it challenging to set boundaries or take much-needed breaks, says Wu. Additionally, individuals grappling with imposter syndrome or those who feel an overwhelming need to be constantly productive may be at higher risk. The belief that self-worth hinges on productivity can also contribute to long-term burnout.
In the workplace, marginalized identities, including Black, Indigenous, People of Color, and women, may be particularly vulnerable to burnout. Discrimination, microaggressions, bias, sexism, isolation, and a lack of representation can all play significant roles in exacerbating burnout, according to licensed psychologist Nina Polyné, PsyD. Moreover, individuals from these groups may feel additional pressure to defy cultural expectations and stereotypes to gain recognition, making it harder to communicate their burnout to employers.
So, the reality of burnout is far more complex than just being busy, and overcoming it is not as simple as slowing down or doing yoga. Systemic factors can contribute to burnout, leaving individuals feeling trapped and helpless. With that in mind, let’s explore some practical strategies recommended by experts to help you deal with burnout without dismantling your entire life.
1. Acknowledge that you’re on fire: You can’t address burnout if you don’t recognize it. When you start noticing signs like insomnia, increased negative self-talk, social withdrawal, or a lack of enthusiasm for life, take a moment to check in with yourself.
2. Do something pointless: Balance is key. While it might not be possible to reduce life’s obligations drastically, incorporate activities that energize and motivate you into your routine. Even if you’re busy, allocate some time for enjoyable, non-task-oriented activities.
3. Take timed breaks: Schedule regular breaks throughout your day to ensure you’re getting enough mental rest. Set a timer to prevent distractions and ensure your breaks are restorative rather than stressful.
4. Check-in on yourself: Stay attuned to your body’s signals. Incorporate mind-body practices into your routine, like stretching or progressive muscle relaxation, to address stress as it arises.
5. Say no to something—anything!: Practice declining additional responsibilities, even if it feels difficult. Remember, you can’t do everything, and saying no is crucial for your mental well-being.
6. Make self-compassion your go-to: Be kind to yourself, especially when you make tough decisions like turning down commitments. Offer positive affirmations to support your mental health journey.
7. Explore your relationship to work: Reflect on why you prioritize work or other responsibilities over your well-being. Consider what truly matters to you and align your time and energy with those values.
Burnout is a complex and challenging condition, but with these practical strategies, you can take steps to recover and improve your overall well-being. Remember that self-care and self-compassion are key components of the recovery process, and it’s okay to seek support from professionals if needed. Overcoming burnout is possible, and it starts with acknowledging its presence and taking steps to prioritize your mental and physical health.