What is Burnout and How to Recover From It

Burnout can be a real thing. You may have heard people talking about burnout before and wondered what it was, or maybe you’ve been there yourself. If you’re someplace in the middle, working through a particularly hard month and beginning to feel overwhelmed or exhausted, let’s talk about burnout and how to recover from it.

What is burnout?

Burnout is a stress-related reaction that can cause feelings of exhaustion and an inability to cope. While burnout isn’t a mental illness, it can be caused by work, parenting, relationships,  school, or being a caregiver for a loved one. 

Based on the recent ELMO Employee Sentiment Index, 46% of Australian workers are suffering from burnout which is highly attributed to increased workload and responsibilities.

Burnout occurs when the brain’s natural chemicals are exposed to excessive stress either at home or at work over time. The body and mind’s reactions to this prolonged exposure include:

  • Having no energy left in your body after completing tasks you normally wouldn’t find tiring (like cleaning up after dinner or taking a bath)
  • Insomnia or having trouble sleeping
  • Negative self-talk
  • Feelings of emptiness and hopelessness
  • Weight loss or gain
  • Frequency changes in bowel movement
  • Changes in appetite 

Stages of Burnout

Burnout doesn’t just happen overnight. It’s when you continue to ignore it that it becomes worse. In the recent episode of Happiness Co’s Upside Podcast, Barry shared his burnout experience and ran through the five stages of burnout:

1. Honeymoon Phase 

It’s basically the same as the first phase of a relationship wherein you are excited and energised about the new things that you are experiencing in your life.

2. Onset stress 

At this phase, you slowly become aware of the stress mentally and physically. You also think about what your stressors are and what you can do about them.

3. Chronic stress 

This is the stage where you experience stress for a long time. Symptoms are also becoming more difficult at this point. 

4. Burnout

This stage is the most critical stage wherein you may feel hopeless and think that there is no way out sometimes. 

5. Habitual burnout 

At this point, burnout has become a way of life. You may also be used to the feeling of hopelessness and emptiness that you start to think it is normal. 

Tips to Manage Stress and Recover from Burnout

If you’ve ever felt overwhelmed by your responsibilities, or if you’re struggling to find the time to do the things that matter most to you, then burnout is a real possibility. 

The good news, it is possible to recover from burnout! It can be managed with appropriate self-care and support from others. Here are some tips to manage stress and recover from burnout:

  • It’s important to find time in your day to do something that makes you feel empowered or positive, even if it’s just small.
  • Schedule self-care. Make it a non-negotiable. 
  • Go for a walk and talk with someone who makes sense of the world differently than you do.
  • Listen to music or read a book when there isn’t anyone else around.
  • Go out for coffee alone or with friends.
  • Talk with a friend or family member. A problem shared, is a problem halved.
  • Set healthy boundaries – both professionally and personally. It’s okay to say no. 
  • Seek professional help from a coach or psychologist who specializes in mental health issues like depression, anxiety or PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). Your doctor may also be able to refer you for counselling if they believe that it would benefit you.
  • Talk with your boss about how his/her company could benefit from having more employees who are happy at work.
  • Negative self-talk is a sign that you’re experiencing burnout, as well as feelings of emptiness and hopelessness. If you find yourself saying things like “I’m so tired,” “this is way too much work,” or “I can’t do this anymore,” it’s time to take a step back and evaluate your situation. You may be in need of some extra rest or a break from the job—and perhaps even consider switching careers if nothing else works out for you.
  • Journal before bed. Getting your thoughts out of your head and onto paper can provide a sense of release from ‘mind clutter’. 

These activities may seem small at first glance, but taking care of yourself is an important part of being able to recover from burnout and thrive again!

Experiencing the early signs may help prevent it from progressing into something more serious.

Pay attention to what your body is telling you. If you feel like something needs to change, don’t ignore those feelings! Your body knows best and will let you know if something’s wrong with how much time and energy you’re putting into work. 

If a stressful situation is causing your stress levels to rise, then do some research on ways to reduce those stressors in your life so that they don’t continue taking over every aspect of life—from relationships with loved ones who rely on us for caretaking duties; through interactions with colleagues who expect certain things out of us at work; all the way down into personal interactions with friends or family members whose well-being relies heavily upon our own efforts not only physically but also emotionally (and vice versa).

While burnout is a serious condition that can affect your mental and physical health, it’s also possible to manage or even recover from burnout. By recognizing the early signs of burnout, you can take steps to prevent a full-blown case of the blues. 

If you think you may be experiencing burnout, you may reach us through wecare@happinessco.org to talk to our Coaches or you may seek support from medical professionals through therapy or medication if necessary. 

Listen to the whole episode podcast about burnout here

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