Recovering from burnout

Reclaim your life from burnout by shifting your stress-recovery balance.

Written BY

Helen Lawson Williams

PhD in psychology, 15+ years in consulting and corporate leadership, respected coach and mentor, committed to solving burnout

All author's posts

November 14, 2023

Burnout is a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion. It leaves you feeling drained, empty, and uninterested in the things you used to care about.

If you're feeling burned out, you're not alone. 76% of workers experience burnout symptoms at least some of the time.

But there is hope. Burnout happens when stress persistently exceeds recovery. That means you can turn burnout around. Reclaim your energy and joy by shifting the balance in a way that works best for you:

Reduce stress:

Set boundaries to put limits on the stress you have to deal with each week. Even small changes can make a big difference over time: try taking a real lunch break, or finishing up at work an hour earlier than normal.

Convert bad stress into good stress by taking regular breaks, especially when you're starting to feel anxious and overwhelmed. When you're in an overwhelmed state, you can't perform well in any case. It's more productive to pause and reset than to keep going - both for the task at hand, and for your long-term health. Once you've taken your nervous system back into rest mode, it will be easier to find the peak performance zone where you to do your best work.

Improve recovery:

Beyond "self-care", effective recovery means getting your body back into its "rest-and-digest" state, where the parasympathetic nervous system takes over from the sympathetic nervous system. When you have good boundaries around the things that cause you stress, you make time for activities that genuinely relax you, like going for a walk or spending time with loved ones.

While you're doing those things, watch for whether you're feeling guilty or under time pressure, or ruminating about what's stressing you: if so, your body will struggle to rest. To overcome these issues, practise mindfulness, for example by naming what's going on ("I notice I'm worrying about work"), and savouring the recovery activity you've chosen.

And remember to take care of your physical health: sleep is the best recovery, and a healthy diet and exercise take the physiological load off your body so it can bounce back from stress more easily.

If you're suffering from advanced burnout, you might find that even the best recovery activities aren't enough to offset your stress. In that case, it's best to take a break if you can, and see your primary health provider.

If you've struggled to change your stress-recovery balance, there are apps that can help. We recommend Streaks to support new exercise routines, and apps like Headspace and Insight Timer to make it easier to learn mindfulness. But we know if can be hard to put it all together into a good system, which is why we're building TANK.

With the right support, you can reclaim your life from burnout and come back better than ever.

Further Reading
the path is the goal - the most reliable way to enjoy the journey, even when it’s hard
tap into your intrinsic motivations to reduce stress and level up on joy
December 19, 2023
how to get what you really need
tuning into your emotions takes practice for most of us, but it's worth the effort
December 19, 2023
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