9 Ways To Recover From Burnout And Love Your Job Again
It seems like lately, more and more people are feeling burned out at work. Burnout, or the overwhelming feeling of mental and physical exhaustion, even affects those who typically enjoy their jobs. The problem has become so widespread that companies are reporting that they are facing an employee burnout crisis.
But being burnt out does not necessarily mean you need a new job. As a career coach, I have had many clients come to me outlining signs of burnout and thinking they need to do a 180 flip on their entire career. While that may be the case for some people, that isn’t always the only solution. Burnout means you need to slow down and take care of yourself so that you can not only love your job again, but be happier in your non-work time as well.
While I work with clients who are on the hunt for clarity on their career path, or a new job, I also have found it’s necessary to tackle their burnout, as it’s a huge block to their purpose and next step forward.
You must first acknowledge that you have reached burnout. Some key indicators are mental and physical exhaustion induced by repeated pressures and stresses in your life. If you feel drained and unable to complete tasks, and if you feel as though your life-force battery is running dangerously low, then you may be burnt out. One indicator of burnout is that after a long night’s sleep, you don’t wake up feeling rested. Psychology Today listed out the telltale signs of burnout as the following:
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If you read through this list and feel it resonates closely with your current state, it’s likely time to recharge and start planning your next steps. If you are feeling these symptoms strongly, and it is affecting your life beyond work, it may be worthwhile to explore professional mental health options.
Don’t be afraid to talk with HR or your boss about your burnout. As mentioned, the burnout phenomenon is well known, and they are likely to sympathize with your plight and will work with you on a solution.
Before you head into the conversation, have a plan in place and already have a few options for what would help you most. If that looks like being removed from a specific project or applying for a leave of absence, have your idea in mind along with a few other options handy. Walking in prepared with solutions will show your manager you are serious and want to take action, rather than that you are simply looking to vent frustrations. Instead of saying “I’m burnt out,” you can consider approaching the conversation like this:
“I wanted to bring something up with you that feels vulnerable to admit, but my hope is that you can help me come to some solutions that will make me perform even better for the company. I’ve been feeling a more severe sense of burnout, and I wanted to see what my options were to refresh my mind so that I can keep contributing to the best of my ability. I read the employee handbook and took a look at my benefits, and here’s what I’m thinking I could suggest: [enter suggestion. ] What do you think?”
During your conversation, consider also emphasizing how much you enjoy working there, but suggest that you might benefit from some time off. If they are good employers, they will understand. If they value you and if you approach the situation with respect and professionalism, they will want to work with you to try to find a solution to keep you happy at your job.
One of the only ways to properly recover is to detach yourself from your work environment for a while. Taking a vacation could in fact be the thing that saves your career to bring you back to rock-star mode.
Work within your abilities and means. Although not all of us are provided a two-week paid vacation, most established corporations and companies provide some sort of time off for their employees. Knowledge is power, so do some research and find out. Employee handbooks and HR are the best resources for this.
But whatever you do, take one. People who take vacations are proven to have lower stress, less risk of heart disease, a better outlook on life and more motivation to achieve goals upon returning to work. It isn’t just about work; overall well-being is improved and—get this—women who take vacations are reportedly more happy in their marriages than those who don’t take time off.
During your time off, you will find yourself immersed in precious moments of much-needed sleep, relaxation and recalibration. It is also a good time to discover ways you can avoid burnout when you return to the office.
Once you are on your time off, take a couple hours every day to reflect on reasons why you are grateful for your job. The scientific benefits of gratitude are real, so try to bring this habit with you even after your break. Trying to deliberately shift your thinking from negative thoughts to more positive ones can help improve your outlook. One thing to note, in one gratitude study it was found that it’s actually the lack of negative emotional words, not the abundance of positive words, that improved mental health. So, if you struggle to think of highly positive ideas to start, simply ensure what you are writing isn’t overly negative. Words influence feelings … and your feelings matter, my friend.
If you need help getting started, remember why you took the job in the first place, and recall the enthusiasm and energy that you once had. While it certainly may be on the depletion-side now, it is not too late to regain it, especially if you can shift your focus to reasons why you are grateful for your job. If you are dead set on getting a new job, use this gratitude practice to notice what aspects of your current job you do enjoy, and be sure to bring those into your job hunt.
Taking on more than you can handle is a surefire way to get burnt out, and it is also the easiest way to get bitter toward your boss or your work generally. Ask yourself, Am I over-exerting myself at work? Get really honest and curious about where you’re saying “yes,” tipping yourself over the edge of your capacity.
When you are burnt out, it may feel difficult to make decisions, largely due to what is happening in your brain. The amygdala, the part of the brain responsible for decision-making, actually has an increase in grey and white matter when battling burnout, depression or anxiety. This increase in matter clouds your ability to make decisions.
What is burnout?
According to WebMD, Burnout is a form of extreme exhaustion that is brought on by stress and that interferes with your ability to perform day-to-day tasks . According to the World Health Organization, burnout is an official medical diagnosis . It can lead to mental and physical health problems if it’s not addressed.
Anything that causes stress in your life can cause burnout, but work-related stress is usually one of the main culprits. Up to 7 percent of people who work may experience burnout at any given time, according to an Austrian study published in 2018 . Psychology Today even called it a “chronic workplace crisis .” Teachers, health care workers, and social workers are more prone to burnout, but it can occur in any field.
Burnout can be broken down into three groups: neglect burnout, overload burnout, and under-challenged burnout. Neglect burnout is when you feel helpless or doubt your abilities and talents. Overload burnout is when you work so hard to achieve your goals, that it affects other aspects of your life. Under-challenged burnout is when you grow bored with your job and feel it doesn’t improve your life in any way.
Signs of burnout
Burnout can cause mental, physical, and emotional exhaustion. It can leave you feeling out of control and overwhelmed. If you aren’t sure if this is something you’re experiencing, take a look at some more of the most common signs:
Common causes of burnout
Stress is the main cause of burnout, but experiencing stress at work and suffering from burnout are not the same thing. When you’re stressed, you can still cope. You can handle it by taking a day off or going home and enjoying a relaxed evening. Burnout runs much deeper and requires more than just a quick fix. The first step is understanding what causes it. Here are some of the most common causes of burnout:
Burnout at work isn’t always caused by something that specifically happens at work. Your lifestyle and personality can actually contribute to workplace burnout. It might be that you:
Identifying your stressors
If you know the common causes of burnout and think you suffer from it, it’s important to identify your specific stressors. That can be more difficult than it sounds. The best place to start is by evaluating your job. Which aspect of it is making you feel the way you do? What one thing would you change if you could? It may be helpful to talk through things with a trusted friend or family member.
You may also want to examine your life beyond your career. Are you also in school with a difficult schedule? Are you overloaded with responsibility at home? Maybe you’re a single parent, or you’re caring for a parent who has a disability or illness. Take a look at your relationships, too. All of these outside factors can contribute to workplace burnout.
The best way to handle burnout is to prevent it in the first place. If you are finding that you’re stressed out more often than not, take steps to reduce it. That might mean forcing yourself to take time off, asking for help, or even considering a new job or position.
Making lifestyle changes can help, too. Make sure you’re exercising, eating a healthy diet, and getting plenty of sleep. Surround yourself with loved ones who are supportive and willing to listen when you have a problem.
The Most Common Causes of Burnout
Stress is the number-one cited cause of burnout. However, that stress can come from a host of different factors. It’s important to know which ones contributed to your condition, as this will make it easier to understand how to recover from burnout.
Sometimes, it can be counterintuitive which factors contribute to burnout. For example, it’s common for people who loved their jobs in the first place to end up burning out. How come? If you put your whole heart into something and don’t experience the results you counted on, you may become disillusioned, bitter, and eventually burned out.
Another common assumption is that working from home helps maintain a work-life balance. Turns out, it does just the opposite for most people. Working remotely actually increases the risk of burnout as it blurs the line between your work and personal life.
How to Recover From Burnout in 6 Steps
Some researchers say that the opposite of burnout is “engagement.” From that perspective, the question of how to recover from burnout becomes a question of how to bring back engagement with your work.
Author and researcher Diane Bernier says that this process can take between one and three years, depending on the severity of burnout. In her work, Bernier identified the six stages of burnout recovery people typically go through.
Step 1: Admit There Is a Problem
You can’t tackle a problem unless you admit that you have one. With burnout, just like with any type of recovery, the first step is about coming to terms with the fact that things spiraled out of your control.
Look at the five stages of burnout in the earlier section, and see if there are any signs of burnout you can identify in yourself. Especially, look for the three main hallmarks of burnout: emotional exhaustion, cynicism, and feeling a lack of accomplishment.
It may also be helpful to look back at your workdays and see if the work you’re doing translates into results and satisfaction. To become more aware of how you spend your time at work, you can use an intelligent time tracker like Rize.
Step 2: Take a Break From Work
To relieve some stressors immediately, consider taking a break from work. It may look very different depending on your situation and burnout stage. For some, it may be a weekend when they don’t plan anything. Others may need to take a vacation, go on sick leave, or even do something as drastic as leaving their job.
This time away from work is a chance to put helpful coping strategies in place to decrease stress levels. This may mean speaking to your loved ones to support you in the recovery process, catching up on sleeping, journaling, going on walks, and other types of self-care. Whatever you do, try to completely detach from work during this time.
Step 3: Take Care of Your Health
Now is the time to put more attention on restoring your health. Especially if you’ve been feeling burned out for a while, your body has long-neglected physical needs that require tending.
One of the best things you can do, especially in the beginning, is to get enough sleep and restore healthy sleep patterns. This way, your body will have a chance to recharge its batteries and start the process of recovery.
Other things you may want to invest in are a better diet and gentle but regular exercise. Physical activity helps regulate stress levels, improves circulation, and has myriad other benefits for restoring balance.
Step 4: Revise Your Work-Related Values
Now that your body and mind are somewhat rested, it’s time to reflect. Examine the ways you used to work that led you to burn out. Then, think about how you’d like to show up at work in the future.
A useful way to do this is by defining your work-related values. What’s important for you to feel good about your work? What factors contribute to your job satisfaction and healthy self-esteem? How would your ideal work environment and culture look? These are the types of questions you want to be asking.
A good framework for your reflection might be Martin Seligman’s PERMA model, which explains what elements people need to experience lasting well-being. Among them are positive emotions, engagement, positive relationships, meaning, and achievement. You can take those elements and imagine how they would translate into a good, burnout-free working style.
Step 5: Explore Your Options
With an open mind, explore your options. Can you stay in your job by negotiating better work hours or pay? Is it that you need to set boundaries on your workload? Or maybe what you need is a change of job or even the industry you work in?
Step 6: Make a Decision and Take Action
Finally, it’s time to decide what you’ll do about your job burnout. By now, you know that you can’t just continue business as usual, or you’ll relapse into burnout. The question is, what change are you going to make?
Depending on your situation, you may hire a coach or therapist to help you make and implement the decision. If not, you can also ask a friend or work colleague to keep you accountable to yourself.