Wellness·5 min read

How to Recover From Burnout (Without Pausing Your Whole Life)

Woman sitting with her head in her hands
Design: theSkimm | Photo: iStock
Jan 18, 2023

We'll state the obvious: There's a lot to stress about right now. From the economy to your health to balancing work and life. Chances are, that might be leaving you burned out. And contrary to what social media says, most people can’t just quit their jobs and run away to a reset at a resort reminiscent of “White Lotus.” 

So how can you realistically recover from burnout? We called up Celeste Headlee, journalist and author of “Do Nothing: How to Break Away from Overworking, Overdoing, and Underliving" and Barrie Sueskind, LMFT, a psychotherapist who works with clients in California and New York, to find some doable ways to recover from burnout. Sans bubble baths.  

Experts interviewed:

Celeste Headlee

Celeste Headlee is a journalist and author of "Do Nothing: How to Break Away from Overworking, Overdoing, and Underliving."

Barrie Sueskind

Barrie Sueskind, LMFT, is a psychotherapist who works with clients in California and New York.

Can you tell me how to recover from burnout?

It’s all about addressing the causes of burnout and treating the symptoms, according to our experts. Here are some tips for addressing and fixing burnout…

From work

Communication is key here. Whether your burnout is because of your workload (see: quiet hiring), unclear job expectations, or a toxic work environment. Headlee recommends letting your manager know that you’re feeling burned out. And come prepared with some potential solutions of your own. “Your communication should be, ‘Let's problem-solve this together.’ Not, ‘I have this problem, you solve it,’” Headlee said. Example: If your burnout stems from just not loving your job, talk to your manager about shadowing someone in a department that interests you more.

If you have it, make sure you’re taking your PTO. And when you do, “do not answer work calls, work emails, [or] work Slacks while you are on vacation,” she said. In other words: Have clear boundaries between work and life. If you’ve tried it all and nothing has changed, consider updating your resume and looking for a new position that might fulfill you more. 

From home 

Home is usually a place of comfort — especially from work — but for some, it can be a debilitating environment. Sueskind recommends making sure you’re getting enough sleep, eating nutritious foods, and getting some exercise in. 

If you can’t change the source of your burnout (hi, moms everywhere) taking care of yourself is especially important. We know, it's easier said than done. But neglecting your needs can make you feel more easily overwhelmed and drained of energy. Aka the last thing you want if you’re already burned out. 

Headlee’s tip? Ditch the all-or-nothing mentality. Meaning, a 45-minute workout can be swapped for a movement snack. And meditation doesn’t have to take an hour. It can be as simple as a quick walk around the block or practicing mindfulness while you wash dishes. 

Finally, communicate to your partner or support system at home. Tell them that you need help. And if you’re co-parenting, that might mean asking your partner or co-parent “to step up and take on some of the responsibilities,” Sueskind said. 

From socializing

If your calendar has ever been overbooked, you know that social burnout is very real. If you've got too many dinners, parties, or anything else on your plate, practice saying ‘no’ to anything else you don’t have the energy for. Women are “conditioned to accommodate other people,” Sueskind said. “That is a habit that can lead to burnout easily.” 

And speaking of all things ‘social,’ try to cut down how much time you spend scrolling on social media, said Sueskind. She recommends journaling instead.

How long does it take to recover from burnout?

There’s no set length of time to recover from burnout, said Headlee. The time it takes one person to recover versus the next could be very different. Plus, it’s important to take care of yourself holistically — including your physical, mental, and emotional sides — to recover from burnout. All of which will take more than a few days. Especially if you decide to seek out professional help like a therapist. So be patient with yourself and try not to set deadlines for your recovery. 

theSkimm

Recovering from burnout takes time and patience. And the process looks different for everyone. But you don’t have to pause your whole life or take an expensive trip to recover. You can start by evaluating the causes of burnout, address them where you can, and take care of yourself in the meantime. 

This content is for informational and educational purposes only. It does not constitute a medical opinion, medical advice, or diagnosis or treatment of any particular condition. 


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