2 April 2024

Recover from burnout: tips and strategies

Woman looking worried as her team is struggling with burnout

Understanding burnout is the key to avoiding it in your work life. What is it, how can you recover from it, and how can you make sure it doesn’t take root in your organization?

In the simplest term, burnout is a syndrome that’s classified as an ‘occupational phenomenon’ by the World Health Organization. It’s a state of exhaustion that typically comes after exposure to stress over a prolonged period.  

Burnout is a word that gets tossed around a lot, often used synonymously with stress. While excessive stress can lead to burnout, they’re not identical. Burnout has some very specific symptoms to look out for, which include: 

  • Forgetfulness  
  • Frustration, leading to irritability 
  • Physical symptoms including muscle tension, fatigue and insomnia 
  • Losing a sense of self 

In the long term, this can lead to reduced work performance and some major health concerns, including increased risk of type 2 diabetes, depression and heart conditions.  

One huge problem is that it can prevent you from truly enjoying time outside of work, as you’ll take less of an interest in.

Nearly 89% of Americans have experienced burnout. Anyone from any background can suffer from burnout, although women and young people tend to report higher levels of it. 

There are many things that can lead to a higher risk of burnout, but some of the most important factors to consider include: 

  • A lack of control over your workload and schedule 
  • No clarity over what’s expected of you 
  • Personal conflicts 
  • Boredom 
  • Being too busy 
  • No support for both work and personal issues 
  • Poor work-life balance 


Recovering from burnout

Once burnout has struck, recovering from it can be a difficult proposition. One of the biggest problems is that we’re so focused on the thing causing us stress, we don’t deal with any underlying issues, and we don’t take the time for ourselves to relax. This can be especially problematic for people who have caretaking responsibilities in addition to work. 

The first step is acknowledging you’re truly burned out. That means taking the time to self-reflect, potentially through journalling. This can help you unpack what’s triggering these feelings and identify possible solutions. 

From there, developing coping mechanisms and stress management techniques is a lot easier 

Forcing yourself to take timed breaks while at work is one popular technique, especially if you find it difficult to do so organically. Nobody can give 100% of their energy 100% of the time, so forcing yourself to have downtime is vital. In those breaks, consider avoiding doing things because you think they’ll be useful. Consider a walk, or having a chat with a friend, or reading a book.  

For a long-term fix, you may want to consider what parts of your work are causing most issues, and what can be changed. Do you have a positive work-life balance? 


Seeking support and assistance 

One way to make changes is to reach out to the people around you. It’s a lot harder to burnout out if you have a network of friends, family and colleagues who can give you support.  

If you’re an employer, offering mental health first aid and other wellness tools (including health insurance that covers private therapy, or employee assistance programs (EAP) is critical to help employees manage burnout before it becomes a huge issue. Teaching your managers to nurture positive relationships and to take a compassionate approach. That means when employees sense they’re starting to burnout, things can be put in place to help them before it’s too late. 


Preventing burnout

Prevention is always better than cure. Recovering from burnout is a difficult process, but making sure it doesn’t happen to you sets you up for long term success.  

Finding your workplace stressors and working with your manager to remove or mitigate them is one tool. Ensuring your goals and deadlines are given realistic expectations are another. 

The most important is to figure out where your boundaries are professionally, and advocate for yourself. 

For employers, there are a range of tools that can help prevent burnout. This can include promoting wellness, such as through healthy eating vouchers, gym memberships and allowing time for mindfulness exercises. Good workforce management and talent management will also factor in the potential for burnout, spotting warning signs before they become major issues. 

Where possible, offering extra flexibility can also help. The ability to work from home can help employees feel like they have more control over their work-life balance, for example. Flexitime reduces the strain of other commitments (particularly for caregivers). Talk to your employees about what works for them. 


Maintain long-term balance

Avoiding burnout is all about creating sustainable habits. As an employer, creating a supportive environment where no employees are bearing too much of the brunt of things can pay off for years to come. 

Organizations have everything to gain from fostering a supportive and healthy work environment. Absenteeism drops when employees are less burned out, as physical and mental wellbeing improves. That leads to better customer experiences, improved efficiencies and lower employee turnover. 

Sometimes an employee might feel the only solution is to look for a new employer. This focus on long-term balance will help mitigate that feeling. 

If you’d like to learn more about how you can support your employees through burnout, and avoid it, take a look at what our talent management solutions have to offer. 

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Emma Reid headshot

Emma Reid

Content writer at MHR

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