How to recover from burnout (and how to spot the signs)

You’ve felt out of whack for a while now. Your motivation is at an all-time low. But is this just a phase? Or are you officially burned out?

Girl with head on table pouring coffee missing the cup

The way the world is right now, burnout is an increasing phenomenon.  With health practitioners seeing a swarth of patients walk through their doors complaining that they’re “running on empty”, it’s important to recognise the signs of burnout and learn about burnout recovery.

What is burnout?

More than a humble brag synonymous with being busy, or a phrase exchanged between tired friends, “burnout” is a genuine medical condition.

According to the World Health Organisation, ‘occupational burnout’ in particular is “feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion along with “increased mental distance from one’s job.”

“Negativism or cynicism related to one’s job” also form part of the official definition.

Signs of burnout

Avoiding work chit-chat

Have you stopped sharing details of your day with loved ones? Or perhaps you suddenly lack the desire to say good morning or goodbye to your colleagues on your company's messaging network? This could be a sign that your cup is bordering on empty.

Working from bed

If working from home has seen you slide the slippery slope of working from your desk, to then your couch, and now exclusively from bed, motivation may have something to do with it.

Changes in sleep patterns

Ironically, burnout can affect the very thing we need most when emotionally and physically depleted. And that’s sleep.

Whether you find yourself waking through the night, unable to get up without multiple alarms, or asleep as soon as you clock off, changes in sleep patterns are telling.

Every day is a “bad day”

When was the last time you had a good day spent working or studying? If you can't think of one, you may be burned out. A relatively good (or OK) day shouldn’t be too hard to come by.

How to recover from burnout?

Taking care of burnout is about more than making it to work on time or meeting study deadlines. Untreated burnout can have adverse impacts on mental health.

The good news is, no matter your circumstances, there are simple ways to reduce feelings of prolonged mental exhaustion.

Reach out within your circle

Speak to someone who can help to shift the amount on your plate. It might feel awkward at first, but the benefits will be ten-fold. This might mean speaking to your boss or lecturer about reducing your workload, or simply confiding in a colleague or friend who can speak up for you.

See a professional

If speaking to someone you know feels too vulnerable, consider making contact with a psychologist or counsellor who can give you an impartial opinion. Chat to your GP about a referral and you may even be able to receive a reduced rate under a mental health plan. Alternatively, call Lifeline on 13 11 14.

Make the most of free resources

There are endless free mediation apps available for you to use daily. And while adding another element to your already exhausting regime may sound counterintuitive, just five minutes of slow breathing each day can do wonders for slowing down, reducing stress and relieving anxiety.

Re-set your boundaries

You’re the goalkeeper of your life. So, sit down and consider whether any of your priorities can shift. Is it possible to work or study slightly less each day? Or set aside one morning each weekend for an activity that relaxes you? The smallest changes can have the greatest effect.

With the events of the past 18 months taking their toll on students and professionals alike, there’s never been a time like the present to take care of our mental health. You have the power to prevent or steer yourself out of burnout with the help of those around you.