Updated: Mar 17
Written by Health Writer Gerda Venter
Medically Reviewed by Dr. Daniela Steyn
Burnout is a state of physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. When you are experiencing Burnout, you can no longer meet your normal productivity levels or goals. Burnout can lead to physical symptoms like heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes and can be fatal if left unchecked.
Classic symptoms of Burnout include feeling overwhelming stress, exhaustion, cynicism, and feeling unappreciated. You may also have trouble focusing, feel irritable, feel hopeless, and have difficulty sleeping.
As someone who has experienced Burnout, I can tell you that it's not a fun place to be. Burnout can leave you feeling emotionally exhausted, stressed, and unmotivated. If you experience Burnout, whether job Burnout or personal Burnout, don't worry - there is hope.
Here are ten ways to recover from and prevent Burnout and get your life back on track:
1. Manage Stress
Stress is a natural part of life that everyone experiences at some point in their lives. It's essential to learn how stress affects your body and manage stress before it directly impacts your well-being.
When your body or mind perceives a potential threat, hormones get secreted. This stress response prepares you to physically fight, flee or freeze depending on what looks like your best option for survival.
Research suggests that stress can be good at times (for example, when you are in a life-threatening situation), but stress can also be bad for you. When stress is bad, it might lead to stress symptoms, anxiety, and depression. You may get stress symptoms like headaches or sleeping problems. Anxiety might make you feel worried all the time. Depression might make you feel negative feelings. It might make you sad, tired, or not care about anything anymore.
If stress goes on for a long time without anything else to help it go away, this could lead to Burnout which means that your body and mind are just too tired and stressed out from the constant pressure to recover fully anymore.
One of the best ways to de-stress is to take frequent breaks. This may mean taking a few days off work or simply taking some time for yourself each day to relax and rejuvenate. During your break, avoid stressors as much as possible and do things that make you feel good, such as spending time with friends and family, reading, listening to music, or spending time in nature.
Remember, for these stress management techniques to work; you must incorporate some "me time" into your schedule.
Meditation has been practiced for many years in many religions. There are many benefits to meditation. Meditation:
Promotes better sleep.
Reduce stress, anxiety, and depression.
Reduce pain, especially in chronic pain syndromes, chronic illness, migraines, fibromyalgia, and irritable bowel syndrome.
Meditation boosts your memory, protects against cognitive decline (ageing of the brain), sharpens focus and concentration, and improves creativity.
It improves cardiovascular health.
Meditation mitigates the effect of stress on your hormones.
Our minds race at 200km per hour during the day and often at night. It does make sense to teach your brain how to become calm and focus on one thing at a time. When you feel overwhelmed and stressed, one of the bests ways to reduce your stress is to start meditating.
3. Set Boundaries
Do you struggle to pay attention? Do you find it hard to complete tasks? Part of the reason you may be feeling overwhelmed and stressed is that you are taking on too much. The coping strategies we have discussed so far are excellent to make you strong, healthy, and resilient. However, if your workplace environment and job demands are such that you need to respond to emails and answer your phone 24/7, and you can't set boundaries at work, you might need to reconsider a new career.
Even more importantly, you need to assess your boundaries at home. Who nourishes you, who drains your energy?
There is a saying, "You can't pour from an empty cup." One way to reduce stress (and fill your cup) is to set boundaries and limits on what you are willing to do. Say no when you need to, get that new job, and learn to delegate tasks to recover from Burnout effectively.
Regular exercise is critical for mental and overall good health. One of the first things we do at our Wellness MD Health Clinic is establishing how much time a new client spends exercising. We recommend to most new clients that they should be exercising more. According to the Center for Disease Control, only one in three adults gets the recommended 2.5 hours (150 minutes) of moderate-intensity physical activity each week.
With our Burnout clients we take an individualized approach. Instead of recommending more exercise to everyone, we look at the type and amount of exercise you do and your body’s response to the exercise.
Much research proves that exercise is beneficial for everything from keeping your body in shape, preventing cardiovascular diseases, and increasing attention and memory. The mental benefits are also significant.
However, more exercise is not always better. We have found many of our clients who do regular exercise, might be training to hard for the stage of burnout that they are in. To them we might suggest a different type of exercise, different exercise goals or a targeted heart rate range. Regular training is a great way to burn off stress and fatigue, but only a moderate amount of exercise is needed to release endorphins, which can help improve your mood and outlook on life.
5. Eat healthy foods
Nutrition is one of the most critical components of healing from Burnout and avoiding Burnout in the future. One of the most vital factors on your burnout recovery journey is to start living the best life possible with optimal health and energy from the food you eat and the harmful foods you avoid.
Poor nutrition is alarmingly common, and there has been a specific area of inadequate nutrition in each of the burnout clients we have treated. Even our clients who are medical doctors and professional athletes have unhealthy dietary habits directly harming their health.
Our bodies need food to survive. We need good nutrition to thrive. Most people gain weight during Burnout due to constant stress. Stress makes you gain weight independent of what you are eating. However, if you go on a restrictive diet to combat weight gain, this will slow your metabolism while depriving yourself of nutrients essential for healing. So, it is necessary to identify underlying issues and keep a healthy balance.
Eating unhealthy foods can make you feel tired and stressed. When you feel burned out, it is essential to eat a healthy diet. This means eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and healthy fats. You will be amazed at how just one week of eating nutritious food will bring a healthier balance to your life.
6. Get enough sleep
Sleep is the ultimate key to optimal health. Sleep influences every function in your body. It affects how your body processes food, how it regulates blood sugar, processes cognitive information, and reduces inflammation. Feeling rested is critical for optimal health. Getting enough good quality sleep at the right time can help you feel your best and be high functioning during the day.
Not sleeping well does not only affect the next day but also the following couple of days. It can make you experience brain fog, feel depressed and even feel sick. Sleep deprivation has been linked to developing chronic diseases such as obesity, heart disease (increases your risk by 48%), cancer, arthritis, overactive/underactive thyroid, stroke, Alzheimer's dementia. It triples your risk for type2 diabetes. It depresses your immune system; you are four times as likely to get a cold with sleep deprivation.
Burnout directly affects your sleep quality and quantity. One of the best ways to recover from Burnout is to get enough rest. Most people need around 7-8 hours of sleep per night. If you have trouble sleeping, try implementing some of the following tips:
Avoid caffeine and alcohol before bed.
Establish a regular sleep schedule.
Keep your bedroom cool and dark.
Practice relaxation techniques before bed.
7. Shift your focus
Wherever focus goes, energy flows. Every moment of your life, you have to consciously decide what you will focus on. Most people focus on what is wrong with them, their disease, and their illness. What you are afraid of, and whatever you focus on, you feel. So if you keep focusing on your fear and symptoms and your brain fog and tiredness, you will exacerbate this in your life.
Try to focus on positive things only. Focus on feeling calm and energized. Focus on being healthy and balanced. Focus on enjoying your children at the ages/phases that they are in now. Focus on raising compassionate kids. Focus on caring for your body. Focus on having the mental space to form strong bonds with your friends. And most importantly, focus on your mental health.
8. Connect with others
When you feel burned out, it is vital to connect with others. This may mean talking to friends and family members, going to a support group, or simply spending time around people who make you feel good. Spending time with others can help reduce stress and fatigue and improve your mood.
9. Be kind to yourself
One of the most important things you can do to recover from Burnout is to be kind to yourself. Create your abundance. You are the author of your life and control your destiny. You are where you are now because of your choices in the past. Five years from now, you will be in a place of abundance or Burnout, depending on your choices today. Choose abundance. Choose calm. Choose wellness.
Calm your inner critic, develop self-compassion, self-care, and self-empathy, extend gratitude and create positive emotions. Spend time with loved ones.
10. Seek professional help
Finally, if you feel overwhelmed and stressed to the point where you feel like you cannot recover on your own, it may be time to seek professional help. There are many things you can do to combat Burnout. Exercise, meditation, and time in nature are great ways to reduce stress.
However, severe Burnout often requires more than the discussed lifestyle changes. Many professionals specialize in helping people recover from Burnout, such as therapists, coaches, and energy healers. At Wellness MD Health, we will help you identify the root cause of your Burnout and develop strategies that will benefit you.
Burnout prevention is critical today because Burnout has become an epidemic in the workplace. Many people's work performance has declined; they are overworked and stressed to the point where they experience physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion. Burnout can be a life-threatening condition if left unchecked.
If you are experiencing Burnout and you would like to learn how you can take control of your own health and recover from Burnout, you can register for our online course today!