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How to recover from burnout

These useful techniques will help you recover from burnout and get back on track.

mental-wellbeing 03 icon
May 10, 2022
6 min read

Have you been feeling stressed or fatigued of late? Burnout is the result of constant overwhelm. In organisational psychology research has shown that burnout can form a vicious cycle of exhaustion, cynicism and reduced self-efficacy within the workplace.

But don't worry, in this post, Positive Psychology Practitioner David Chorlton guides you through how to recover from burnout with these steps:

  1. Connect to your values

  2. Breathwork

  3. Self-compassion

  4. Quality sleep

But first, let's find out what burnout actually involves...

Article breakdown

What are the 5 stages of burnout?

Much like stress, burnout creeps up on you in five stages:

  1. Honeymoon phase. Going above and beyond to prove yourself, and dismissing the early warning signs of problems.

  2. Stress onset. The honeymoon stage wears off, and you begin to notice the signs of stress and anxiety (even if you're still brushing them off). It's vital at this stage to find ways to relieve stress.

  3. Chronic stress. Stress becomes persistent and affects your daily life, yet you feel unable to do anything about it.

  4. Burnout phase. You reach your limit and abandon your personal needs and self-care. At this stage, you can no longer function as you normally would.

  5. Habitual burnout. Burnout becomes a part of your everyday life and may lead to mental illnesses like depression.

Fortunately, even if you reach the final stage, burnout doesn't last forever. There are ways to recover.

How long does burnout usually last?

How long burnout lasts varies greatly from person to person, depending on what stage you're able to catch and tackle the signs of stress. If you've passed into the habitual burnout stage, studies suggest it can take years and even a decade to get over it.

That said, taking an active approach to recovery and putting burnout-busting at the top of your to-do list can help shorten this time as much as possible.

How to recover from burnout

No matter where you are today, there is hope and a brighter future ahead if you follow David's simple yet powerful steps for burnout recovery.

1. Connect to your values

At the centre of how to recover from burnout, is connecting to your core values.

We often chase rainbows and enter the pursuit of happiness. We rarely take time to pause and realise that happiness comes within the journey and not at the top of the mountain. If we live in alignment with our values each day then we can begin to live a meaningful life that is personal and rewarding for us. 

Finding your Ikigai (the Japanese concept of purpose) can be a great start to explore this idea. Living in this manner allows us to understand which direction to take, like a lighthouse guiding a ship. This philosophy can help prevent burnout and also aid your recovery as you act with clarity, and consciousness and partake in activities that naturally energise you. 

2. Breathwork

How often are you aware of your breathing? Is it deep or shallow? Clinical Hypnotherapist Gail Marra says that conscious or mindful breathing allows us to slow down and breathe deeper and slower. This process delivers more oxygen to our cells and organs, which helps our body out of 'fight and flight' mode, and into a position of recovering from burnout.

If you're wondering how to fix burnout, especially as a parent, implementing mindful moments in your day is a useful tool. Find a quiet space each morning and evening to practice conscious breathing. Breath in through your nose, gently and count to seven, taking the breath deep into the abdomen. Then breathe out from your mouth in a very slow and controlled manner. Try this for around five minutes. This state of relaxation will help reduce stress levels and help you think more clearly. 

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3. Self-compassion

It can be frustrating figuring out how to get over burnout and that anger can become directed at yourself. Instead, try taking a self-compassionate approach.

It is often our appraisal of events in life that determine whether or not they are good or bad. This appraisal then creates a broader story and becomes a memory, which can often be partial truth. We all have two lenses in which to view the world; a positive and a negative lens, and they are always present to us.

Next time you make a mistake, or someone criticises you, place your hand on your heart and accept you are only human. Be kind and compassionate towards yourself and look for learnings and growth. Avoid rumination on the things that went wrong, as that prolong burnout.

4. Quality sleep

According to Dr Sophie Bostock, a lack of quality sleep can affect our levels of self-control, learning and memory, and emotional balance. There is a big notion in today’s society about waking up very early to seize the day and to be successful. A good morning routine and using time wisely is particularly good for our health, but sleep is extremely important, and a healthy balance must be struck when recovering from burnout.

A bedtime routine can be extremely helpful. When we go to sleep our minds often create an admixture of our day. It is important that we try to resolve any worries or forms of rumination before we go to bed, otherwise, such worries can act as a marinade as we sleep and result in further anxiety the following day. Avoid negative news and social media scrolling 30 minutes before you go to bed. Practice gratitude, self-compassion and breath work or some form of meditation before going to bed. 

So, how long does burnout take to recover?

Just like the question 'how long does burnout last' that we addressed at the beginning, how long does it take to recover from burnout also has no easy answer. If you build David's techniques into your daily routine, however, you will hopefully start to see the symptoms alleviate.

David says, 'we rarely get time in this busy world to stand still. When we do, we realise that our health, our relationships and our mindful attention on present moment enjoyment are what brings us much of our happiness.

Practice enjoying the learned process of your goals, create quality time for self-care, practice self-compassion, connect to your values and incorporate breath work and a good bedtime routine to help you recover from burnout.'

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About David Chorlton

David Chorlton is a Positive Psychology Practitioner and the founder of online wellness platform Meaningful Paths. David also volunteers to work with communities in developing countries and creates compassion and gratitude educational courses for children in addition to resilience trainings and more for teenagers and adults. 

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