How to identify and recover from burnout
By: Anika Dilawri
Do you feel like you’re dragging your feet through life lately? With burnout, everything can feel like work-- even the things you usually enjoy like talking to friends or moving your body. Basic tasks like showering, picking up, or even getting out of bed stop feeling straightforward and start feeling like another drain on your limited energy supply.While burnout has been a bit of a buzzword lately, it’s not without reason.With life finally getting back to a bit of “normal” we’re noticing that our nervous systems have been on high alert-- likely since the pandemic started. At first, all that stressful energy gave you a boost to keep going, but now it’s like you’re trying to run on empty-- and that’s why you’re not getting too far. Simply put, burnout is when your body’s stress systems have been too active for too long.
If you’re wondering what burnout looks like, common symptoms include, but are not limited to:
- Constantly feeling over-tired
- Emotions feeling closer to the surface and more difficult to control
- Struggling to focus on, or complete tasks
- Getting frustrated easily or having a shorter fuse than usual
- Trouble remembering
I’ll be honest, there’s no quick fix when your body and brain spent the last two years running on overdrive. Be gentle and kind to yourself; your body has been working really hard for you.
Here are some tips to begin burnout recovery:
1. Scaling back:
When you’re experiencing burnout, look at your daily routine and find places you can do less. Think about your activities and responsibilities, reflect on your family and friendships, and consider anything else in your life that asks for your time and energy.Then I encourage you to ask yourself: What is really and truly essential? What could I let go of? (Even if it feels like I can’t or I don’t want to.) Pushing pause isn’t permanent, though it can feel frustrating to pull back on things we care about or enjoy. However, saying no to a commitment for a month, asking a partner to take on a chore for a while, or letting a manager know your workload needs adjusting for a few weeks are all temporary choices that allow your body to get the rest it needs and deserves. Burnout is your body letting you know you need a break. Let’s do our part and listen.
There’s no blueprint for self-care—especially during burnout. In fact, let’s just stop using the word self-care for a moment, and let me ask you a question. What feels restorative for you?
Curling up under a blanket and looking out the window? Soaking in the tub? Taking a nap? Lacing up your worn-out running shoes and running 5K after work? Getting out a board game and playing with your kids after dinner while the dishes sit? Honestly, any activity can be self-caring if it leaves you with a little more room to breathe.You don’t need to think about what you “should” find restorative or compare yourself to those around you. When you’re burnt out, doing what truly feels good, restful, and restorative for you and your body is an essential part of regaining your energy. The heart of self-care has never been bath bombs, scented candles, or an “Instagrammable” cup of coffee. It’s finding what feels restorative to you and doing it. Simple as that.When you feel low, tired, and burnt out, ask yourself this one question. What feels restorative for me?
Starting the process of burnout recovery might mean:
- Recognizing your individual burnout symptoms
- Slowing down and exploring what restorative self-care means to you
- Working with a professional to look more closely at your core beliefs and what experiences or patterns may have contributed to burnout.
I know that it can feel a little overwhelming to get your recovery started—especially when common symptoms of burnout include feeling over-tired, overwhelmed, and unmotivated.
A mental health professional, like a registered psychotherapist, can help you wade through the emotions, fatigue, and thought processes that often accompany burnout. If you’re experiencing physical symptoms from burnout, support your whole system and check in with your medical or naturopathic doctor. With time, a little space, and support for your mind and body, you can recalibrate and find your balance again.