Ways To Treat Burnout

Being productive and ignoring the signs of stress might seem like a great idea until you’ve exhausted all your resources and suddenly find yourself unable to work. Burnout creeps up on you gradually and then suddenly hits you when you least expect it. In the last article, we talked about the signs of burnout and the reasons why it’s so important to recover from emotional exhaustion. Today, we’ll focus on how to treat burnout.

ways to treat burnout

10 Ways to Treat Burnout:

Once you’ve realized that you might be dealing with burnout, it’s time to come up with a plan to treat it.

1. Find the underlying cause of your burnout

While a heavy workload is one of the main causes of work burnout around the world, it might not necessarily be the case for you because there are many other aspects of your job that can make you love it or resent it. For example, you might enjoy what you do but if your efforts aren’t appreciated, it might be difficult for you to approach your tasks with a positive mindset. The first step to overcoming a work burnout is finding the root cause; you can keep a diary where you talk about your day to help you identify the main themes. You might realize that while you don’t mind being challenged at work, the environment stresses you out because you don’t get on well with other co-workers or perhaps because you feel like there’s little room for professional development. The answer won’t come to you straight away but if you write in your diary regularly, you should find out soon enough.

2. Revaluate your routine

In the era of social media that allows you to constantly witness other people’s progress instead of both ups and downs, it’s difficult not to give in to the cult of productivity. Also known as the ‘hustle culture’, this kind of narrative encourages you to be working all the time, even when you’re resting. At first glance, it might seem like a great idea; hard work pays off, right? But in reality, putting too much pressure on yourself can have the opposite effect and eventually burn you out. Even if you might manage a few productive weeks, you’re risking ending up in a slump that’s challenging to get out of. Plus, being burnt out can lead to other health issues such as anxiety and depression that are even more difficult to treat. Before the problem becomes too serious, consider if there’s something in your schedule you can change to ease the stress. When you’re already facing emotional exhaustion, it’s a good idea to decrease your workload and focus on the most important tasks. For example, you can make sure to complete everything you have to complete at work but don’t expect yourself to do anything beyond that. Take it easy and concentrate on doing the bare minimum. 

Read this Next: Burnout Symptoms and Risk Factors

3. Be gentle to yourself

The productivity cult is a scam – just because you aren’t at your best and don’t devote every moment to self-development doesn’t mean that you’re failing or that you aren’t worthy anymore. Unfortunately, this kind of view is often the reason many people struggle to treat burnout and face mental exhaustion – they believe that they have to be ‘on’ all the time and that taking it easy will only make it worse. However, sometimes taking a step back is as important as taking a step forward. So if you don’t feel like doing anything, try not to be harsh on yourself. Accept that you’re in a vulnerable position now and that pressuring yourself to get better straight away will only impede your recovery. Additionally, try to make it your goal to become your best friend. Congratulate yourself on completing basic tasks such as brushing your teeth or getting out of bed and every time you feel too tired to do anything, tell yourself that you deserve to have rest. Whenever you experience negative thoughts such as, ‘I should be more productive’ or ‘I’m just lazy’, simply shut them down with more realistic statements. And always remember to ask yourself; if this was your friend, would you treat them the same way?

4. Make life fun again

Burnout and mental exhaustion look a lot like depression. You might feel like there’s nothing to look forward to, lose enjoyment in your hobbies among other things and feel too drained to do anything fun. However, if you’re wondering how to treat burnout, one of the ways to overcome it is to reconnect with your old self and bring back joy to your life, which requires you to slowly get back into doing enjoyable activities. But don’t worry, it’s all about taking baby steps and learning how to enjoy the moment without tracking your progress. For example, if you like dancing, you can make it your goal to do it for a few minutes every day, without recording yourself or worrying about what you look like and simply enjoying the movement. If you like drawing, try to draw a picture that symbolizes the way you feel without worrying about technique. If you thrive in social situations but haven’t had the energy to go out lately, you can set up a meeting with one friend at a time or plan an activity that doesn’t require too much talking, such as going to the cinema or doing something active. Engaging in activities you enjoy can also lower your stress levels, which is one of the main symptoms of burnout.

5. Learn stress-management techniques

Stress and burnout aren’t the same conditions but they’re interconnected. Sometimes being under constant pressure can lead to burnout and consequently, an inability to be at your best might become a source of a lot of stress, trapping you in a vicious cycle. You might start worrying if you’re going to lose your job since you can’t perform as well as before and that this is your new, permanent reality. This is why one of the most effective ways to treat burnout is learning how to manage stress. There’s no one size fits all when it comes to stress-management techniques because everyone is different and what works for the majority of people might not necessarily be a good solution for you. However, the easiest place to start is yoga. Nowadays, yoga is quite a big thing and you can find endless social media accounts run by influencers who get themselves into bendy poses and promote fancy sportswear – forget about them. Yoga is supposed to be about calming your mind and gaining more mental clarity so don’t worry about looking good or being flexible. You can find a few minutes’ videos on YouTube and follow what the person is doing – they’ll help you become more grounded in the present and decrease emotional exhaustion.

6. Reassess your goals

How to treat burnout? Reassess your goals. If you’re one of those people who are good at setting goals, burnout might come to you as a big surprise. Isn’t being goal-oriented what makes us motivated and fulfilled? However, the key to setting successful goals is making sure that they align with your values. Sure, becoming a CEO or running your own business looks great on paper, but is it really what you want, considering that it will leave you little time for your family or hobbies? To bring back the meaning to your life, have a look at the list of core values and see if any resonate with you. Then make a list of your happiest memories and try to identify what was so special about them. For example, you might fondly remember your trip abroad because you enjoy learning about different cultures and broadening your horizons or perhaps because you got to spend a lot of time socializing and this is what you value a lot. Once you’ve identified your values, compare them with your current goals. If they don’t match, it might be time to consider what changes you can make in your life to make them align more.

7. Keep your body and mind healthy

Burnout is both mental and physical exhaustion so the answer to ‘how to treat burnout’ is to take care of when your wellbeing. When your body and mind are so vulnerable, it’s important to go back to the basics and focus on your well-being. Instead of trying to exceed at work, make sure that your body has everything it needs; drink plenty of water, incorporate a lot of fruits and vegetables into your diet and get enough sleep by improving your sleep hygiene. For most people, this advice might seem obvious but if you’ve been burnt out for a while, chances are that you neglect your basic needs to some extent. If you’re experiencing sleep problems, you should also try to include light exercise in your routine. When you get your body moving, it releases the chemicals called endorphins that trigger a positive feeling in your body and reduce stress.

Read this Next: 7 Simple Ways to Improve Your Mental Health

8. Consider taking a vacation

Going away to relax and doing nothing might seem counterproductive but it’s what you need right now. Staying away from your responsibilities could help you gain more clarity on what you want from life and give you ideas on how to treat your burnout further. First of all, distancing yourself from work can help you decide if that’s where the problem lies. Secondly, spending time visiting new places encourages you to become more mindful and focused on your surroundings, which can help you become more aware of your thoughts. Sometimes we live in denial and try to convince ourselves that our current situation is working but if we look deep inside, we might find out it’s the opposite of what we want. A good idea is to pair your holiday with journaling – putting your thoughts on paper can ease your stress and help you get back on the right track, plus it can be energizing and improve mental exhaustion.

9. Identify immediate solutions

Eventually, try to identify what immediate actions you can take. When you first realize you might be burnt out, this ‘how to treat burnout’ list might be a lot to take in and you might not feel like you have the energy to include everything in your schedule, even if the change is gradual. To see an immediate improvement and to take a step in the right direction, try to think of an area of your life that adds unnecessary stress to your routine. For example, you might be a people-pleaser who constantly agrees to every request – while you might not be ready to set boundaries at work just yet, it’s always beneficial to learn how to turn it down in your personal life. It might feel like you’re letting your loved ones down but your health should be your priority right now. Once you make a small change like that, you might feel more hopeful about the future and more likely to do whatever you can to treat burnout.  

10. Reach out for help

Even though mental exhaustion and work burnout aren’t recognized as mental health disorders, it’s always a good idea to reach out to a mental health professional. Trying to recover on your own can be overwhelming and with the help of the right therapy, you might be able to identify what to change in your life much faster. You should also consider confiding in your loved ones. Letting other people know that you’re struggling can be difficult but it will take a lot of pressure off you; you’ll no longer have to explain why you can’t make it to family celebrations or why you need more time alone than usual. Additionally, having other people’s support can improve your mood and help you become more resilient in the process. Nothing good comes from bottling your emotions up and pushing your loved ones away, and it’s okay not to be able to manage on your own.

Learn more about contributor, Joanna Cakala

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