5 Therapist-Approved Tips for Recovering From Burnout
When you’re dealing with burnout, it can feel impossible to add anything to your plate. But, these (therapist-approved) tips will actually help you feel a bit better.
By: Sarah Fielding
Clinically Reviewed By: Don Gasparini Ph.D., M.A., CASAC
October 19, 2023
Table of Contents
Have you ever felt mentally and physically exhausted, struggled to complete daily tasks, or felt uninterested in your relationships? If so, you may be experiencing burnout, a condition in which you’ve depleted your energy, leaving little to no reserve.
Causes of burnout can range from extracurriculars to creating work presentations. Anxieties and additional stressors can also exacerbate it, creating a deep-seated feeling of overwhelming stress. The COVID-19 pandemic specifically brought greater attention to burnout, as people balanced school and work responsibilities with few options to replenish their energy.
Any kind of burnout, whether workplace burnout and chronic workplace stress or school burnout, can be detrimental. However, it’s possible to recover from burnout with the right tools. Keep reading to learn some therapist-approved tips for recovering from burnout.
How to recover from burnout
Burnout is a sign to slow down, something that can feel near impossible with all your day-to-day responsibilities. So, how long does it take to recover from burnout? The answer varies, and the process requires ongoing compassion for yourself. “Recovering from burnout can be challenging as it often requires a lot of patience, a change in mindset, and self-care,” says Saba Harouni Lurie, a licensed marriage and family therapist and founder of Take Root Therapy. But, there are ways to reassess your priorities and improve your well-being. Here are 5 steps to take for burnout recovery.
1. Accept it
We live in a world that all too often encourages people to ignore their stress levels, and that looks down on taking breaks or even discussing workplace stress. While efforts are being made to change this, the overarching ideal can make it difficult to accept you’re burned out — no matter how glaring the signs might be. “Far too often, people struggle with burnout for much longer than necessary because they refuse to accept that they’ve been running on empty,” says Lurie. But, acknowledging that you’re burned out is the necessary first step for recovery.
2. Determine what’s causing your burnout
If you’re unsure what exactly is leading to your burnout—or at least contributing most strongly to it—consider keeping track of your stressors in a journal. “The most important thing to treat burnout is identifying why you feel burned out and how to manage the symptoms or know when to seek help,” says Dr. Julian Lagoy, a psychiatrist at Mindpath Health. He suggests that you write down each stress you encounter, how it impacted you, and how you responded. This practice might give you a clearer picture of your burnout triggers and what areas of your life need to be changed to lessen burnout. Is it workplace burnout, chronic stress, or family dynamics — to name a few potential causes — that are making life itself feel like hard work?
3. Change your habits
The act of identifying and working to change habits that contribute to burnout can feel exhausting at any point — even more so when your mental health is poor. Yet, removing or reducing their role in your life can go a long way toward mitigating burnout now and in the future. “Start trying to change any unhealthy habits you may have developed and look for ways to bring more fulfillment into your daily life,” says Lurie. “Instead of repeating the same routine of coming home, eating, and then watching TV until you fall asleep, for example, attempt to fill that space with an enriching activity like reading, taking a walk, or connecting with friends.” However, she cautions to choose healthy habits you’ll genuinely enjoy, not just because you think you should do them.
4. Prioritize yourself
No, you can’t ignore all your responsibilities to others (though it can be necessary for a day), but you can prioritize your well-being, set boundaries, and remove some stress from your life. “Start prioritizing self-care by ensuring you’re eating healthy, staying active, and getting enough sleep,” says Lurie. “All of this will contribute to filling your tank so that you are less likely to experience burnout in the future.” This self-prioritizing includes taking regular breaks on your journey to burnout recovery and moving forward.
As much as you can, Lagoy recommends trying to separate yourself from people who add to your burnout and cause you stress. Sure, this is easier said than done if it’s a person you have class with daily, a parent, or a fellow employee. But, if you’re comfortable doing so, try discussing how you feel or that you need some space (at the very least, see if you can move to the other side of the room from your classmate).
5. Seek support
Burnout is exhausting, and it can feel insurmountable to tackle this stress alone. Reaching out to friends, loved ones, or a mental health professional for help can go a long way toward improving your well-being. Lurie recommends being open and honest about what you need and how your loved ones can support you as you cope with burnout. “Be prepared for mixed reactions, and try to be persistent in seeking the help you need,” she adds. “Let others show up to try to help, even if it’s uncomfortable, instead of trying to suppress or push aside what you’re feeling.”
Honestly, some people might not understand, same as any other expression of poor mental health. Try as much as you can not to let these people invalidate your feelings and experience. You are the one existing inside your mind and body, not them.
On the flip side, though, you might find that loved ones or peers can pinpoint signs of burnout in you before you’ve taken the time to acknowledge or process them. If someone comes to you with care and concern about your well-being, take it as such and let them help you with burnout recovery. Most people genuinely want to help and aren’t suggesting that you’re lacking or not as resilient as you should be. Burnout can happen to anyone.
If burnout is impacting your daily life, you might want to seek out a therapist if you can access one (a school counselor might also provide guidance and act as a conduit between you and your teachers if school is contributing to your burnout). If you’re experiencing employee burnout, your workplace might have resources you can access.
Who is most at risk for burnout?
Young people new to the workforce
Women and people with multiple children
Anyone can experience burnout, but some populations are more at risk than others. For instance, young people new to the workforce report job burnout at higher rates than their older peers. According to a 2023 study, 48% of workers under the age of 30 feel job burnout. Women surveyed also said they were burned out at a rate higher than their male counterparts — 46% to 37%, respectively.
Parental burnout, defined as chronic stress and exhaustion that overwhelm a parent’s ability to cope and function, is also increasingly common, according to a 2022 study that found 66% of working parents were experiencing the phenomenon (with their burnout symptoms likely compounded by workplace burnout and parenting stress). Research also shows that women and people with multiple children are more likely to report burnout.
Signs of burnout
Burnout is complex and can look and feel different in each person. Unsure if you’ve experienced it? According to the therapists we spoke with, here are the burnout symptoms to look out for in young people.
Mental and physical
- Difficulty focusing
- Appetite disruptions
- Hair loss
- Missed assignments
- Often late to or absent from school
- Lack of motivation
- Poor performance
- Detached from loved ones and enjoyed activities
How Charlie Health can help with burnout
If you notice that your stress level is higher than usual and think you may be experiencing burnout, Charlie Health is here to help.
Our virtual Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) offers more than once-weekly therapy for young people dealing with complex mental health conditions and their families. Our expert clinicians will create a personalized treatment for you (including individual and family therapy plus supported groups) to help you identify your burnout triggers and lower your stress level—all from the comfort of your own home.