How to Bounce Back From Burnout
July 11, 2019
News spread like wildfire a few weeks ago when the World Health Organization (WHO) announced that "burnout" is now considered an official “occupational phenomenon.”
Given the mental—and sometimes physical—toll burnout has taken on many people over the years, it's an acknowledgement that's overdue. But now, with WHO on your side, it might be a little easier to muster up the courage to express your concerns with a boss or supervisor.
But the question still remains: What do you do after you’ve admitted to feeling burned out and the vulnerability hangover starts to kick in?
Thoughts like: “Will my boss no longer think I’m capable of getting the work done?” “Have I now lost an opportunity for a promotion or new project?” and “Will my co-workers find out?” might start to cloud your mind.
If so, that's human. Unfortunately, there's stigma surrounding mental health that doesn't exist when it comes to caring for your physical health.
“There’s this negative connotation with people not understanding that mental health is also health,” Zeahlot Lopez, M.S., L.M.F.T., L.P.C.C, a licensed psychotherapist, tells Shine. “We’re very easily given days off when we’ve say broken an arm or have the flu, but when our heart is broken, or our mind is not at peace, it’s not seen or viewed the same way.”
And although these are valid concerns, it’s important not to let them make you lose sight of the bigger picture. By admitting you're feeling burned out, you're taking care of what’s most important: your wellbeing.
Lopez says when you admit you're burned out, you start to heal yourself out loud. You’ve decided to advocate for yourself and “learn what works for your mind and body, but also to have emotional and physical boundaries.”
And once you do that, you then can set the stage for an even bigger and better bounce back.
To help, we’ve put together a few tactical tips to help you recover from burnout:
1. Remember You're Not Alone
The fact that burnout has become a WHO-recognized phenomenon solidifies that it's a widespread issue.
In a recent Gallup poll of nearly 7,500 full-time employees, 23% of them said they felt burned out at work very often or always, while 44% reported feeling burned out sometimes.
It's easy to feel alone in your burnout because we rarely talk about it openly, but know that it's a human experience and one that so many other people are going through, too.
If you feel comfortable talking about your own burnout with other people, you'll quickly find that friends, family, and co-workers can all relate.
2. Own Your 'Why'
You're taking action to bounce back from burnout because you know you deserve to feel good. But still—self-doubt might creep in about whether it was the "right move" or a sign of "weakness" to prioritize your wellbeing.
In these moments of doubt, lean into your “why” and try to even make it your affirmation.
For example: Maybe your entirely-too-full plate at work is taking a toll on your creativity. You could say to yourself, “I did this to reclaim my creative spark.” Use this affirmation to help you feel more powerful as you care for yourself and ease back into your full responsbilities.
3. Do Things That Nourish You
Once you do get time to bounce back from burnout—whether it's a mental health day or an afternoon off from caring for the kids—you might run into a major question: Now what?
There's no right way to care for yourself when you're burned out, but Anna Rowley, Ph.D., a psychologist and millennial wellbeing expert, says an effective self-care break will engage a few different senses and involve activities that bring you joy. “It's an opportunity to really treat the whole person and have a more holistic view of feeding and nourishing ourselves in different ways,” she says.
Think about which activities can activate your different senses—sight, sound, touch, smell, taste—and will make you feel good. Then, plan to do a few of them. “Plan for it, a bit like a holiday,” Rowley says. “Just as you would go to the doctor to get a prescription, you can take a day where you’re prescribing: I need a warm bath, a good sleep, do yoga, read a good book, curl up and watch a good movie, and I’ll come back to work feeling whole.”
For more tips, check out our Complete Guide to Mental Health Days. There's even a flowchart to help you figure out what practices will help you best rest and recharge.
4. Continue to Communicate
Burnout isn't a one-and-done kind of thing—it can pop up again and again, which is why it's important to stay connected to how your feeling.
As you ease back into things, keep the lines of communication open with the people you work closely with. Maybe that looks like scheduling regular check-ins with your supervisor to keep yourself on track. Or, having a check-in with a partner about the responsibilities on your plate and what feels manageable.
These burnout check-ins will help lighten your load and also showcase your forward-thinking.
5. Lean on Your Support System
A lot of times we spiral into burnout because we aren’t opening up to those around us. That can be your co-workers, who you can turn to for advice on how to handle specific work. Or, your friends and family who can be a sounding board and help you relieve stress when you’re out of the office.
Leaning on a support system can help alleviate stress and prevent you from falling back into burnout.
“Share your story. Confidence grows when shame goes out the window,” Lopez says. “Shame can only exist where there is no disclosure. Once we share with somebody, there’s this human connection that heals that.”
Burnout will not define you. If anything, it shows that you’re willing to stand up for yourself. And the beauty of this is that now, you can only bounce back from here.
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