19 Mar 2024

Bouncing Back from Burnout: A Friendly Guide to Recovery

By Fiona Hewkin, Counsellor at The Eaves

If you have found yourself on the brink of burnout you are not alone. We live in a fast-paced world, and it is so easy to get caught up in the hustle and forget to slow down.

Understanding burnout

We hear a lot of people talking about burnout and it’s something that comes up regularly with my clients. Quite often we ask ourselves is this really burnout or is it just the usual work stress? So, what exactly is burnout? It’s more than being tired. It’s like hitting a wall of physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion. The World Health Organisation classified burnout as a “syndrome conceptualised as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed” WHO have recognised it, it’s a real thing! It’s not that you are lazy or a bit flaky or any of the other things we say to rationalise the feelings away.

How do we know it is burnout?

How do we differentiate between a bad week at work and burnout? Try asking yourself some of the following questions:
Am I feeling too exhausted to do my job well?
Am I avoiding going into work or avoiding certain tasks at work?
Do I feel negative and cynical about my job?
Have I noticed a drop in performance either at work or in my personal life?

Am I having health and sleep problems, taken time off sick?
If you can answer yes to any of the above it is worth considering that you may have burnout

What Causes Burnout?

• Over work. This is the primary cause of burnout. Working too many hours, not taking breaks, or just committing too much time to work without balance. If you feel like you are not even making a dent in your workload despite working so hard it might be time to pull back a bit and have a rethink.

• Lack of career growth – Working your backside off and not going anywhere? It doesn’t take long for burnout to kick in at this point, and it can lead to feelings of resentment and negativity.

• Toxic workplace – This can very quickly lead to burnout. If you are dealing with a bully, bad managers, misogyny, or unkind coworkers it can be difficult to stay focused.

• Work-life imbalance – Ok getting perfect balance is often not possible but when work is spilling over into your down time it can affect relationships and your social life. At this point it’s really important to find a way to manage that stress.

How does Childhood Trauma Connect with Burnout?

There has been some research into how childhood trauma can influence our chances of burnout. (Grist & Caudle, 2021) One is that trauma can lead to changes in the structure of the brain. This can change how we process and respond to stress. Another theory is that childhood trauma can alter the levels of stress hormones in our bodies making us more susceptible to stress and burnout. Also, it is possible that as trauma can make changes to our immune system, we can be more susceptible to burnouts physical symptoms

How to Recover from Burnout

Now we have worked out what burnout is, how can we recover from it?

Hit the Pause Button

The first step is to hit the pause button. Give yourself permission to take a breath, step back and breathe. Whether it’s a day off, a weekend break or a quiet moment with a cuppa, give yourself the time to think!

Reflect and Revaluatee

Once you have hit pause it’s time to think. What got you to this point? Is it the workload, personal stuff, or a combination? Use this time to consider the root causes and consider some adjustments. It is normally at this point that we all shriek a bit and say I can’t put anything down it is ALL important. Newsflash, it’s not as important as your health!

Set Boundaries

I know I bang on about boundaries all the time, that’s because they are really important! Learn the magic word – “No.” It’s okay not to say yes to every request, project, or social event. Establishing healthy boundaries is essential for preventing burnout in the future. If you find this really difficult you can read more about boundaries in a blog here.

Sort out your self-care

Self-care is more than a buzzword and it’s more than getting your nails done and a bubble bath, although I am a HUGE fan of bubble baths! It can be as simple as eating right, getting enough sleep, and doing a bit of exercise.
Find something you like doing, that makes you smile and do more of it. I know we are all busy but make the time.
Social Support – Talk to people! Your manager, your friends, family, even a professional therapist. You are not as isolated as you might think you are.

Leave Work at Work – We are all connected to our phones. Emails, WhatsApp, so many ways to work. Wherever possible turn it off. Have boundaries around what is work time and what is your time.

Gradual Return to Routine – When you feel ready, ease back into your routine. Start with smaller tasks, and gradually take on more responsibilities. Remember, recovery is a process, not a race.

Burnout is a modern epidemic. Feeling empty and dissatisfied with your work and your life is a horrible feeling. Finding new ways to be can be really difficult. Do reach out for help if you are feeling like this.

Grist, C. & Caudle, L., 2021. An examination of the relationships between adverse childhood experiences, personality traits, and job-related burnout in early childhood educators. Teaching and Teacher Education, Volume 105, p. 103426.

The Eaves Counselling and Psychology

Fiona Hewkin, Counsellor and Psychotherapist at The Eaves, is based at our Haslemere practice. To find out more about Fiona, or to enquire about her latest availability, please visit her profile here

The Eaves Counselling and Psychology Ltd is a select professional body of Counsellors, Psychotherapists and Psychologists, providing high quality psychological care Monday to Saturday between 9am and 9pm from our practices in Guildford, Godalming, Farnham, Haslemere and online.

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