How to Recover from Burnout and Work Stress

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We live in such a fast-paced and busy society of which its main purpose is to reach a singular definition of success and happiness. When we can’t live up to these standards, it causes us to feel frustrated, overwhelmed, and stressed. 

Chronic stress is something that many of us struggle with. And although it’s pretty much unavoidable in our current world, prolonged exposure to stress can be extremely harmful to a person’s health and could lead to burnout. 

What is burnout? 

The term “burnout” was first coined by author Herbert Freudenberger in 1974. 

In his book entitled “Burnout: The High Cost of High Achievement,” he defined burnout as:

“…the extinction of motivation or incentive, especially where one’s devotion to a cause or relationship fails to produce the desired results.”

In other words, burnout is the reaction we have when we’re under too much stress from work or responsibilities. When we’re overwhelmed and overstressed, we feel exhausted, irritable, and unable to do our job. 

Burnout can be significantly detrimental to a person’s performance in life, at work, and within relationships. 

Common symptoms of burnout

Burnout can manifest itself differently from person to person, which is why many don’t realize they’re burnt out until it’s too late. Still, there are a couple of preceding symptoms that could help you identify if you or someone you know is close to burnout. 

Here’s what you should look out for:

  • Emotionally distancing yourself with work-related activities
  • Constantly feeling drained or fatigued, even after a long night’s sleep
  • Lack of energy to get work done
  • Reduced performance at work and with other responsibilities
  • Feeling excessively negative about tasks
  • Constantly experiencing headaches, stomachs, and intestinal issues

Individuals who are suffering from burnout are also at a higher risk of developing other mental health conditions such as low functioning depression

Different ways to recover from burnout

Although stress and overwhelm are almost inevitable in today’s society, there are ways we can recover from them. 

Here’s how to recover from burnout and work stress:

Find the source of your stress

The first and most important step to recovering from burnout is identifying the source of your stress in the first place. After all, you can’t find a solution for something that’s hidden or tucked away. 

Different people will have different triggers. 

Maybe for you, it’s taking on too much responsibility than you can carry. In that case, a solution to your problem may be to delegate some of those responsibilities to other capable coworkers. 

For some people, the anxiety during periods can also manifest as irritability and frustration, which can very easily turn into stress, especially when at work. In this case, finding ways to control your reaction, e.g., deep breathing or counting to ten before you respond to someone/something, can help. 

Analyze your options

Once you’ve identified the root of your problem, it’s time to find an effective solution. Addressing burnout is not always a straightforward and easy process. It will require a couple of rounds of trials and errors. Still, the benefits of the experience more than makeup for the effort spent in searching.

Don’t be scared to try out different self-care routines you find interesting or uplifting. It’s the only way you’ll be able to find a regimen that works for you. 

Set boundaries

Being too available for your bosses, employees, or coworkers can potentially lead you to feel chronic stress and burnout. 

Setting healthy boundaries in terms of the work you’re willing to do and the time that you’re willing to spend doing it is important. 

When you’re stuck doing other people “favors” that you think are necessary to be kind or a team player, the less time you have to do the more important things e.g., pursuing hobbies, creating new projects, and socializing with friends. 

So, the next time a coworker or client asks you to get on a Zoom call past working hours, don’t be afraid to say no and reschedule.  Taking calls that light at night is a surefire way to feeling zoom fatigue.

Practice self-compassion

Besides poor boundaries, perfectionism is another reason many people feel stressed or overwhelmed by certain responsibilities. 

People who feel a gnawing need to always be perfect are more likely to feel burnout. This is because they are less likely to accept results that are less than ideal. 

They often feel like a failure or a loss is equivalent to their careers ending. 

Practicing self-compassion and self-love can significantly a person’s need to always be perfect. It can help a person to overcome their fear of failing and losing, and teach them how to accept results as they come. 

Put your needs first

As the old saying goes: 

“You can’t give people what you don’t already have in yourself.”

As much as possible, focus on meeting your needs first before coming to other people’s aid. 

If a coworker needs your help filing a report that’s out of your job description, but you still have other tasks to take care of yourself, politely tell them that you don’t have the time to help. 

Talk to a professional

If at any point your symptoms become too much for you to handle, talking to a professional like a counselor or therapist can be helpful. They can advise you on the best ways to deal with your condition and symptoms. Furthermore, they can help you stay on top of your recovery, so you don’t get sidetracked by other activities.