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  • Laryssa Levesque

Feeling Burned Out? Here’s How To Prevent and Heal from Burnout

When you’re feeling burned out, it’s easy to feel stuck, with no way out of your situation. But in reality that is far from the truth: burnout is a temporary state, and there are solutions to both prevent burnout and recover from it. Healing from burnout requires you to develop self-awareness and to hit the pause button so that you can allow yourself time to destress and recharge, whereas preventing burnout is all about cultivating new ways of living that are conducive to a healthy work-life balance and promote sustainable wellbeing.

how to treat burnout

6 Steps to Recover from Burnout

Healing from burnout can be a long journey and it definitely requires effort and consistency. This is not to deter you or overwhelm you further, but rather to help you manage your expectations in what it truly takes to banish burnout for good. Think of burnout recovery and treatment as recharging and restoring balance. Here are 6 steps to help you recover from burnout:

1. Acknowledge that you’re experiencing burnout

So, you have reached the point of burnout: you’re exhausted and no longer feel motivated to work, or perhaps you have even gotten to the stage where you are having difficulty carrying out day-to-day tasks. The first step to recovering from burnout syndrome is to acknowledge how you’re feeling. Once you have recognized that you have reached burnout, it is easier for you to take the steps you need to overcome it.

Pro Tip: Be gentle with yourself during this initial step by bringing self-compassion to your situation. It can feel like you have "failed" or weren't "strong" enough to deal with life's stressors, but that isn't necessarily true. Thoughts are not facts, so watch out for any negative self-talk and compassionately reframe your thinking. It takes great courage and strength to ask for help, and besides, you didn't choose or wish to be burned out.

2. Pull back and prioritize

Burnout often arises from neglecting our personal needs and putting work first. Although work is important and a big part of our lives, we need to realize that it is not our entire lives. Take a step back to re-evaluate how much time and energy you are devoting to various aspects of your life. Ask yourself, "Is there something I am missing or craving in my life?" "What would I rather be doing with my time?" "Is my job getting in the way of my personal life?"

As well, from a basic stress management perspective, you may want to consider delegating tasks or limiting the amount of overtime you put in each week. If your burnout is really severe, a stress leave might be warranted to really give yourself enough time to recharge and develop a sustainable routine and effective coping skills.

3. Self-care is the secret

The secret to recovering from burnout is self-care. You need to carve out time for yourself to implement a self-care routine. Remember that you set the rules for yourself, not your boss, not your partner, and not your children. Take some time to do what you want to do, preferably something you find enjoyable and relaxing. It is also good to incorporate activities that give you a sense of accomplishment to help find value and fulfilment in life (this is an empirically supported technique to help mood). The time you invest in yourself is time spent wisely. And remember, it is not selfish to preserve your health; you need that strength in order to help others.

Ideas for self-care:

  • Reading a good book

  • Having dinner with friends

  • Journalling

  • Playing with your dog/pet

  • Taking a vacation day

  • Watching your favourite show on Netflix

  • Going for a walk

  • Mindfulness meditation

Pro Tip: Think of "self-care" more like "self-preservation" - what things in your daily/weekly/monthly/yearly routine can you do to help preserve your wellbeing? Self-care doesn't have to be extravagant or is usually the small, "trivial" things we do in our lives that make the world of a difference.

4. Practice saying “No”

One of the most critical skills for avoiding burnout is to practice setting boundaries. If someone is pressuring you to take on a task, ask yourself: “Is this something I really want to do?” If not, do yourself a favour and politely decline. It can be especially hard to say no in the workplace if your supervisor asks you to do extra work or to stay late. It’s okay to stay late every so often or to offer help when your workplace is shorthanded. But if you say “yes” every time you are asked, people will expect you to always agree to doing them favours, and you will end up feeling drained and burnt out.

Setting appropriate boundaries in the workplace is one way of avoiding burnout, but being able to say no to social plans when you're exhausted is just as important. Don’t push yourself to accommodate others’ plans just because you are afraid of disappointing them. And if saying no to others continues to be difficult for you, try working on assertiveness with a counsellor.