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Tools and Strategies for Burnout Recovery

Continuing on from my previous blogs, here are some tools and strategies for burnout recovery. The road to recovery is slightly different for each one of us – what works for you, might not necessarily work for me, so it is sometimes a matter of trying a few things, doing more of what helps, and less of what doesnt.

  • Ask For and Accept Help

This might be difficult for us.  It might mean making an appointment with our GP, talking to a sympathetic manager or mentor at work,  talking to partner, family and friends. Help can come in many guises. Almost always asking for and accepting help is the most important and yet the one we resist the moment. Nagoski (see links below) says: “The cure for burnout is not self-care. It is all of us caring for each other. We can’t do it alone. We need each other.”  

And “When independence and performance are personal values, it’s especially difficult to make that distinction, let alone to actually ask for the help you need. When I think what I need is more grit, what I actually need is more help. And “When you think you need more discipline, what you need is more kindness.”

  • Monitor Stress Levels

Knowledge is power and taking the time to note when you’re most stressed can help you find patterns and formulate solutions. When you’re burnt out, you may find that you have a stress reaction to situations that wouldn’t normally bother you: Do you get a knot in your stomach when you open your email account and see 20 new unopened messages? See your boss’s name come up on an incoming call?  Do you find yourself snapping at your children every night when they leave their stuff all over the floor? Do you always seem to find yourself laid low with tummy trouble the night before big meetings? Monitoring internally, or keeping track on your phone or in a notebook (see next paragraph) – even noting “on a scale of 1 to 10, how was my stress today?” You might notice, for example, that on days where you take proper breaks, your stress levels are lower than others when you work 8 or 9 hours straight with little break. 

  • Make a Habit of Journaling

One way to track your stress levels, mood and other burnout symptoms is by keeping a journal. You don’t need to write in complete sentences,  writing or good grammar – this is for your eyes only. The goal of journaling — at least, when you’re recovering from burnout — is to get what’s in your head (jumbled as it may be) onto paper. Writing down what’s happening in your life, how you feel about it, your goals or even a to-do list can be very cathartic. 

  • Set Boundaries

Get comfortable with saying no. Easier said than done, but it definitely becomes easier with practice. Saying no doesn’t mean being rude. You can even write down one liners to re-use whenever you’re in such a situation, such as “I would love to help, but I currently have a lot on my plate and won’t be able to give this the time it deserves.” Don’t over explain, be brief, confident, and clear. You don’t need to give a long explanation of why you won’t be able to help. Just say you’re sorry you’re unable to help at that time. Keep it polite and to the point. Most people will understand.

  • Eat a Healthy Diet

Long-term stress triggers our fight-or-flight response, which, in turn, can make us crave comforting carbs and sugary snacks. Hard as it may be to resist the temptation to indulge, eating a healthy diet can boost your mood. You can also fight fatigue and increase your energy with a few adjustments to your eating habits.

  • Make Time for Exercise

Some exercise is better than no exercise, so do whatever your schedule and body permit. Carving out five minutes for a brisk walk or some gentle stretching is a great start.

  • Practice Good Sleep Hygiene

Due to its restorative function, sufficient and good quality sleep might be particularly important. Try to aim for at least 8 hours of sleep per night and implement healthy sleep habits. 

  • Do Things that Make You Happy

When you’re burnt out, it can be hard to enjoy life. One way to address that is to start making time for your hobbies. At first, making time for your hobbies may feel more like work than fun. But eventually, you’ll start looking forward to — and genuinely enjoying — that time.

  • Protective Factors for the Future

Having experienced burnout once, most people are desperate to find ways of avoiding it in future. It is worth spending time thinking about what it might be helpful to have in place to make it less likely. These could be the things you have in your life that help you through tough times such as a network of close friends, financial stability. It could be internal factors such as people pleasing, or perfectionism, that can themselves cause us to feel stressed. The healthy coping mechanisms and support systems you have in place can’t necessarily prevent burnout from happening, but they can help you rebound faster.

For More Information     for the Burned Out, Fried and Exhausted    Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle by Emily Nagoski Ph.D. and Amelia Nagoski, D


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See also: What is Burnout?Warning Signs of BurnoutSelf-Care isn’t the Answer!