Recovering from burnout

 Recover from burnout

Sometimes people are not aware that they are experiencing burnout before they have already past the breaking point, and at this point it is to late to attempt to prevent burnout. It is imperative that you start the journey of recovery as soon as possible if you are experiencing burnout. If you ignore it, your situation will deteriorate and this will cause further emotional and physical damage to you and the people around you. When embarking on the road to recovery from burnout, it is important to recognise that this is a slow journey. The recovery process cannot be rushed and you will need space to recuperate and time to look after yourself. We have written about steps to prevent burnout in the past and although these strategies will still be useful at this stage, a full recovery will require additional steps to be taken. Below we outline strategies that will help with your recovery from burnout. Each person’s recovery process will vary, and you will need to find a balance between practices and strategies that work for you. Don’t be afraid to try a new strategy if you feel that the old one is not working for you. Some of the strategies below might work very well for you, whilst others might not. Strategies to try include:

  • Identifying why – The first step in your recovery is to understand why you have experienced burnout in the first place. Our earlier article on understanding the cause of burnout might help you with this. Sometimes it might appear obvious why, whilst other times this process will require time, reflection, and self-examination. A good place to start is to identify whether you hold any resentment towards your work or others areas of your life. Feelings of resentment may help you to pinpoint if something important is missing in your life. When you discover the root cause of your burnout, explore what changes you can make to your life to improve your situation.
  • Change pace – If you are in the midst of burnout then looking after your health or changing your attitude will not offer sufficient adjustment for you to experience recovery. Instead you will need to change pace by forcing yourself to take a break or slowing down. This will include you setting aside time to reflect, rest and recuperate, and this can only be achieved if you cut back on activities and commitments that you have. See our earlier point on setting boundaries for more information about this.
  • Seek support – When you are experiencing burnout it is natural to withdraw from others and isolate yourself in an attempt to protect what little energy you might have left. Some people may also worry about being a burden on others. However, this strategy is not helpful and will only cause further deterioration in your symptoms. Instead, it would be better to seek support and guidance from your friends and family during this difficult time. Most people will be flattered by your request for support and feel honoured that you trusted them enough to share your difficulties. This could help strengthen your relationship with them in the future. Furthermore, by turning to others for support you will be provided with an opportunity to share your feelings and concerns, and this process could help alleviate some of the stress that you are experiencing. However, don’t expect the people around you to fix your problems, but instead encourage them to be a good listener.
  • Acknowledge what you have lost – With burnout comes loss, and sometimes these losses can go unrecognised. Failing to recognise what you have lost may mean that you are spending a lot of energy attempting to control your emotions to avoid the pain that comes with the losses. This is energy that could be better spent elsewhere, for instance as part of your recovery process. Losses may come in many shapes and sizes, and could include losing friends and a sense of community; your own identity at work or in your private life; physical and emotional energy, your sense of control or self-esteem; your sense of purpose or joy in life; and your dreams and aspirations in life. By acknowledging what you have lost and permitting yourself time to grieve these losses, you will gradually be on your way to recovery.
  • Review your priorities and goals – Transform your burnout into something good by viewing it has an opportunity for you to rediscover what is important to you. Burnout usually occurs when at least one part of your life is not working as well as it could. Taking time out to evaluate what your dreams, hopes and goals in life are will constitute an important step in your recovery from burnout. Spend time reflecting on your behaviour so far, and questions whether you are neglecting something that is truly important to you. Once you have a clear idea of what you want out of your life change your course accordingly.

If you think you are suffering from burnout or would like to learn more about how we might be able to help you recover from burnout, contact City and West Psychology for a free 15 minute consultation here.

Author: Dr Torstein Stapley
Read more about the author here




Preventing burnout

Prevent burnout

Research tells us that your symptoms of burnout will deteriorate if you do not address them, and the earlier you can identify the underlying cause, the better for you. Therefore, it is important to be able to recognise the symptoms of burnout, as well as be prepared to do something about them if you notice them in yourself. You can prevent burnout and a potential full-blown breakdown by taking steps that will help you get your balance in life back again. There are a number of preventative measures that may reduce the likelihood of you experiencing burnout including:

  • Set boundaries – Learning how to say “no” will ultimately allow you to say “yes” to activities that you truly would like to do. By setting boundaries, you will become in charge of your own time and this will help you to not overextend yourself.
  • Practice stress management – Learning how to manage your stress effectively will help you regain a sense of control over your own life. Stress management strategies can reduce your sense of helplessness, and instead bolster your confidence and help instil a belief that you can manage stress better than you think.
  • Implement helpful sleeping, eating and exercise habits – You can set yourself up for success by making sure you are getting enough rest each day, eating healthily, and regularly engaging in physical activity. By covering these three points you will find that you will have more energy and a stronger resilience to deal with most demands that life throws at you.
  • Practice relaxation in the morning – Adopting a relaxation ritual each morning before you face the world can significantly help reduce burnout. Set your alarm to go off fifteen minutes earlier than usual, and spend this time reading something inspiring, writing in a journal, meditating, or practicing gentle stretching exercises. We know getting up earlier than one has to can sometimes be hard, but we believe you will be surprised by the benefits of this step and hope that you will keep this practice up if you just give it a go.
  • Nurture the creative part in you – Creativity can act as a potent antidote to burnout, and you will take one more step away from burnout by nourishing this part of you. We suggest that you choose a creative activity that does not in any way link with your work, for instance by starting a fun project, trying something new that you have always wanted to try, or just resuming your favourite hobby that you may recently have neglected.
  • Give technology a daily break – In today’s society we are surrounded by technological devices that all draw on our attention and time. Although these devices sometimes make our life easier, they can also be a big contributor to stress and pressure. We suggest that you take a break from technology every day by setting a time where you purposefully completely disconnect. This will include you switching of your phone, shutting down your laptop, and not looking at emails, news, or social media.

If you think you are suffering from burnout or would like to learn more about how we might be able to help you recover from burnout, contact City and West Psychology for a free 15 minute consultation here.

Author: Dr Torstein Stapley
Read more about the author here



The cause of burnout

What causes burnout

It is not unusual that people experience burnout as a result of their job. Anyone who is exposed to prolonged stress can develop a sense that they are being undervalued and overworked and this can ultimately result in burnout. Burnout can hit us all, from the stay-at-home single mum who is trying to balance the responsibility of looking after two children, caring for her ill mother and maintaining a pristine household, to the hardworking city office worker who has not received a raise in three years or taken more than five days of holiday. However, burnout is not caused exclusively by too much responsibility, demands at home or stress at work. Recent research tells us that burnout can be brought on by additional factors including your view of the world, personality traits and your lifestyle. How you spend your downtime, the pressure you put on yourself and your view of yourself in the world can all have an impact on whether you experience burnout or not.

As suggested above, a number of factors could ultimately be the cause of your burnout. We can split these into three primary groups; work-related causes; personality traits; and lifestyle causes. Work related causes that could result in burnout include: working in high-pressure or chaotic work environments; experiencing a lack of reward or recognition of your work; facing demanding or unclear job expectations; believing that you have little or no control over your own work; and completing unchallenging or monotonous work responsibilities.  Personality traits that could contribute to burnout include: you having what is called a Type A or high-achieving personality; adopting a pessimistic view of the world, your place within it, and your own abilities; having perfectionistic predispositions and believing that nothing you do is ever good enough; and seeking out a sense of complete control that prevents you from delegating responsibilities to others. Lifestyle causes that could result in burnout include: not getting sufficient sleep; a lack of supportive or close relationships with others; dedicating most of your time to work and limiting the time you spend socialising or relaxing; taking on too many responsibilities and not seeking out support from others; and adopting a position in life where you are expected to hold too many roles for too many people.

In my earlier blog article Identifying burnout, I highlighted how burnout happens gradually, and that it can creep up on you without you even noticing it. If you are not paying attention to the warning signs, then you might already be on the road to experiencing burnout. At first, the signs and symptoms of burnout may appear subtle and they are therefore often ignored, but with time they will get worse and worse until it eventually feels unbearable. Early signs and symptoms of burnout are your bodies way of telling you that something is wrong and it’s putting up a red flag to help you identify that a change needs to occur. If you ignore these early warning signs, then you will eventually burn out, whilst if you pay attention to them and make changes then you can get out ahead of it and prevent a breakdown.

Below you will find some physical, emotional and behavioural signs and symptoms to look out for to prevent burnout:

Behavioural signs and symptoms found in burnout

  • Excessive use of substances, alcohol, or food to deal with stress
  • Procrastinating by focusing on activities that do not need to be completed or spending a long time completing tasks
  • Withdrawing from others and living in increased isolation
  • Arriving late, leaving early or skipping work
  • Shying away from and removing yourself from responsibilities
  • Becoming easily annoyed and directing your frustration onto others

Emotional signs and symptoms found in burnout

  • Feeling alone and detached from others and the world
  • Reduced motivation
  • Loss of a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction
  • Increased self-doubt and sense of failure
  • Adopting a negative outlook of your life and becoming increasingly cynical
  • Feeling defeated, trapped and helpless

Physical signs and symptoms found in burnout

  • Impaired or increased appetite and a change in your sleep habits
  • Regularly feeling sick and a noticeable deterioration in your immune system
  • Recurrent muscle aches, back pain and headaches
  • Reduced energy levels causing you to feel drained and tired most of the time

If you think you are suffering from burnout or would like to learn more about how we might be able to help you recover from burnout, contact City and West Psychology for a free 15 minute consultation here.

Author: Dr Torstein Stapley
Read more about the author here

Identifying burnout

Identifying burnout

You could be suffering from burnout if you feel helpless, completely worn out and disillusioned by stress. Recent government figures indicate that a total of 9.9 million working days were lost in 2014 due to stress and burnout, and that stress and burnout accounted for 35% of all work related ill health cases. Stress and burnout was also the cause of 43% of all working days lost due to ill health. When burnout hits, it can be challenging to gather up energy to care because everything looks bleak and your problems will appear insurmountable. Burnout will lead you to feel unhappy and detached from your own life, and this can often result in a negative impact on your health and your relationships with others. The good news is that burnout does not need to represent a permanent state, but can instead be healed. By seeking professional support, making time to yourself and reassessing your priorities you have the ability to regain a healthy work-life balance.

What is burnout?
Burnout can be described as a state of physical, mental and emotional exhaustion. People experience burnout when they have been exposed to prolonged or excessive stress, for instance by working in an emotionally and physically draining job for a long period of time. Burnout can also occur if you work hard and then fail to achieve the results that you expected or if your efforts at work are not recognised despite all your hard work and effort. Such experiences might cause you to feel deeply disillusioned, overwhelmed and unable to meet future demands. You might have originally felt enthusiastic and motivated when you first begun your job, but as the stress continues, you may start to lose interest and your motivation to keep going is reduced. Burnout causes your energy levels to drop and with that your productivity reduces. This change can leave you feeling hopeless, helpless, resentful and cynical about your future, and you might eventually feel like you have given all that you can. In today’s society we are constantly under a lot of pressure, for instance by meeting work-related targets or juggling multiple roles as an employee, parent, partner, or multiple careers. It is not uncommon to have days when we feel overloaded or unappreciated, especially if the effort that we are putting in is not recognised, let alone rewarded. Understandably, on these days it can feel like a challenge to get out of bed and face our responsibilities. If you feel like this on most days you might, however, be suffering from burnout.

You might be facing burnout or be on the road to burnout if:

  • You feel that every day at work is a bad day
  • You feel hopeless about your work or your life at work
  •  You’re exhausted all the time
  • You find it hard to care about your home or work life and often feel hopeless
  • You think you spend most of your day completing tasks that feel completely overwhelming or mind-numbingly dull.
  • You lose your patience with others easily
  • Your responsibilities in life feel overwhelming and fill you with dread.
  • You have lost interest in activities that you used to enjoy
  • You experience physical symptoms such as heart palpitations, chest pain, sleeplessness or shortness of breath.
  • You engage more frequently in escapist behaviours, including excessive use of substances or other activities that provide a temporary relief.

Distinguishing between stress and burnout
Although burnout is often caused by experiencing relentless stress, it is important to understand that burnout is not the same as experiencing too much stress. When we are stressed it can often feel like there is too much of something, for instance by there being too many tasks, people or activities that are demanding too much of us psychologically and physically. However, when people are stressed they still have the ability to imagine their situation improving, for instance by regaining control of everything. In contrast to there being too much when people feel stressed, when people experience burnout it’s because there is not enough. Being burnt out brings with it a reduction in motivation, a sense of emptiness, and a lack of caring. People are usually aware that they are experiencing a lot of stress, whilst burnout can often sneak up on you without you noticing it. In contrast to stress, where people still can see the light at the end of the tunnel, people who face burnout are often devoid of hope, and they do not believe that positive changes can occur in relation to their situation.

Here are a few more points to help you identify whether you might be suffering from stress or burnout:


  • Results in reduced energy
  • Can result in anxiety disorders
  • Triggers hyperactivity and a sense of urgency
  • Causes overactive emotions
  • Can be defined by over-engagement
  • Severe physical symptoms and damage
  • Could result in premature death


  • Results in reduced motivation and hope
  • Can result in depression and detachment
  • Triggers hopelessness and helplessness
  • Causes blunted emotions
  • Can be defined by disengagement
  • Severe emotional symptoms and damage
  • Could result in in thoughts that life is not worth living

If you think you are suffering from burnout or would like to learn more about how we might be able to help you recover from burnout, contact City and West Psychology for a free 15 minute consultation here.

Author: Dr Torstein Stapley
Read more about the author here