What you can do if you’re feeling burnt out

If you are feeling burnt out, know that there are steps you can take and supports available to help you to move towards recovery

Written by spunout


Burnout is a complex issue that results from long-term stress and is influenced by the environment around you. While recovering from burnout takes time, know that it is possible and there is support available.

Recovering from burnout

Burnout is a state of physical, mental and emotional exhaustion caused by too much stress over a long period of time. If you are feeling burnt out, know that there are steps you can take to move towards recovery.

Visit your doctor

If you think you are experiencing burnout, it is important to seek professional support. As burnout shares similar symptoms with mental health conditions such as depression, it is a good idea to visit your GP to talk about how you’re feeling. This will allow you to ensure that you’re taking the steps that are appropriate for your situation. Find out more about talking to your doctor about your mental health.

Try to avoid blaming yourself

If you become burnt out, it is possible that you will blame yourself for reaching that point. You may believe that other people are more capable than you, or see your burnout as a sign of weakness.

In our workplaces and wider society, being constantly productive and engaged is usually celebrated, with very little recognition given to the negative effects that this can have on an individual. It is important to be aware that just because certain beliefs about productivity and rest are the norm, does not mean that they are correct or healthy. It is these very beliefs, together with other forms of stress, that can push people towards burnout.

If you are experiencing burnout, there is one thing that you can be certain of: it is not your fault. Read more about how society influences burnout.

Recognise what is in your control when recovering from burnout

In order to recover from burnout, it is likely that you will need to step back from a few things. However, it is important to be realistic about what you can do. This will look completely different for everyone.

In order to pinpoint where you can make changes, make a list of all of your current commitments and activities. This can include work, school/ college, volunteering, sports commitments, caring for a loved one, social time and screen time, for example. If you identify any of these activities as a cause of stress, think about what you might be able to change about it.

While you might not be able to simply drop an activity, there may be something you can do to make it easier to manage as you focus on getting well. For example, if your job is causing you stress, you might not be in a position to quit. However, steps you may consider taking include speaking to your employer about your mental health, asking for a reduction in your work hours and taking leave. If school is causing you stress, you could consider talking to your teachers or guidance counsellor, dropping a level in certain subjects or asking for deadline extensions. Making these kinds of changes is completely acceptable and does not mean that you are less capable or strong than anyone else. In fact, learning to advocate for yourself is a sign of strength.

Sometimes, small changes may not be enough. If you recognise that a job, course or other path is not for you and you are in a position to leave them, know that that is completely ok.

Prioritise simple self-care

If you are experiencing burnout, it is really important to look after yourself and your needs. This is known as self-care. Prioritising self-care is always very important, and even more so if you are recovering from burnout. However, it is important to decide for yourself what self-care means to you. The self-care routine adopted by your friend or someone you follow on social media might not be suited to your own needs right now, or at any time. If it involves additional activities, it might even have an opposite effect and create more stress.

The most effective self-care routine is a simple one. It can include steps such as:

  • Eating nutritious and regular meals
  • Spending time in nature
  • Getting enough sleep
  • Limiting social media and phone use
  • Doing gentle activities that you enjoy such as reading
  • Building a soft routine/ structure into your day e.g. going to bed at 9pm

You might not have the energy to engage in many or any activities at the moment, and that is ok. While it might be hard to imagine now, in time, you can regain the energy and motivation to do things you once enjoyed. The most important thing is to take care of yourself and your basic needs in the meantime.

Embrace rest and sleep

Rest and sleep are really important parts of recovering from burnout. If you are experiencing burnout, it is a good idea to make time for both.

Sleep and rest can both bring you mental and physical benefits but they are not the same thing. Rest allows your body and mind to completely relax. However, unlike sleeping, you are still conscious and aware of your surroundings. Rest can be either active or passive. Relaxation techniques such as mindfulness are considered active rest. Lying down with your eyes open or closed is an example of passive rest.

Sleep is an essential function that allows your body and mind to recharge and repair. It is important that you get enough quality sleep each night, particularly if you are recovering from burnout. Find out more about how to improve your sleep.

Talk to someone

If you are experiencing burnout, it is important to know that you’re not alone. There are people you can talk to about your concerns and who can help you on the road to recovery. This could be a trusted friend, family member, teacher, counsellor, or another person you feel comfortable sharing your feelings with. You can also contact TextAboutIt:

Because burnout is a gradual process, it makes sense that recovering from burnout takes time. It will likely take more than a holiday or a week off work to get better. The amount of time it takes to recover from burnout will vary from person to person and depends on how severe their burnout is. If you are experiencing burnout, it is important to seek support and develop a recovery plan that works for you.

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