December 17, 2019

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Mariah Parker

Recovering From Burnout: What Therapists Want You To Know

If you’re feeling like you may be burned out, you are not alone. Burnout leaves many people feeling depleted, disillusioned, and even hopeless at different points in their careers. However, burnout is treatable and you can recover, even when you can’t leave a stressful situation right away.

If you’re feeling like you may be burned out, you are not alone. Burnout leaves many people feeling depleted, disillusioned, and even hopeless at different points in their careers. However, burnout is treatable and you can recover, even when you can’t leave a stressful situation right away.

We asked our therapists who specialize in burnout some of the most common questions we hear about recovering from burnout. Every one of them wanted you to know that you can learn skills and strategies to reduce your work stress and feel better. Here is our therapists’ advice on dealing with burnout.

Whether you’re burned out or trying to avoid burnout, speaking with a therapist can help you learn new ways to reduce chronic work stress. We know that looking for help can feel overwhelming, particularly when you’re feeling burned out. That’s why we make it easy to find the right therapist. Simply take our quick, free questionnaire and we’ll send you your therapist “matches.”

How can I deal with burnout?

“Take stock of everything stressing you out. Some things you can change and some things you can’t. When you can’t change your circumstance, think about how you can change its effect on you or the way that you react to it. Therapy is a useful tool for helping you develop enough tools to store in your toolbox of coping skills so that when you can’t change your stressors just yet, you are still able to put up a protective barrier between the stress and its impact on you.

If you can take something off of your plate, do so, but make sure it’s in a way that won’t add more stress to your life.

“For example, if you usually book your partner’s travel arrangements because they often wait until the last minute, don’t just stop doing that and then cause more stress in your own life by not being able to get where you both need to go for the holidays. Instead, in this example, enlist your partner to take on some responsibility here so you can focus on higher priority items.

Don’t take on any new obligations that you don’t have to.

If you can say no to something, even if you feel guilty or obligated, practice doing so. Delegate even if you think the people you're delegating to may not do them as quickly or as well as you would.

Limit your time on devices.

Turn off unnecessary notifications and disconnect from stressful stimuli when you can. It may sound counterintuitive when the to-do list can feel endless, but when you are burned out, you’re not doing high-quality work.

Ask for help, whether it’s from your personal support group, a network of peers, or a professional.

There are no extra gold stars for doing it alone.

Take care of your health.

Burnout can run you down and weaken your immune system, making you more susceptible to sickness. Eat vegetables, sleep enough, and drink water. We often forget the simple things when we are overwhelmed.”

- Jenny Maenpaa

My job is stressful for a lot of reasons I can’t control. How can I recover from burnout when I can’t change my professional situation much?

“First, I'd challenge you to reevaluate this feeling of "stuckness." Is this powerlessness characteristic of the way you perceive situations, or is your career controlling your life? Next, practice distraction techniques whenever you can (during your 5 minute lunch break, bathroom breaks, when you go home for the evening, and on the weekends). Rumination is not only not helpful, but will also cause your mind and body to think it is working even when it isn't, which will increase speed and likelihood of burnout. Finally, if professional boundaries are not an option at work, try to set internal boundaries. By this, I mean gaining an of understanding why it is difficult for you to say no, or to not do the absolute best job on every single task, or picking up tasks that others are neglecting to do (even when it is not your job!). From here, you can begin to practice acceptance of others' perception of you. If this feels to hard right now, that is okay! At least starting to make meaning/understand why you push yourself so hard is a great way to generate some sense of internal control.”

- Alyssa Ashenfarb

Is there anything else you would like others to know about burnout?

“Burnout isn’t inevitable. It’s the result of us not listening to our bodies when we receive exhaustion signals for too long. Exhaustion, fatigue, or being temporarily overwhelmed means overworking yourself but knowing that there is an end in sight where you can slow down. Being burned out is feeling all of those things chronically and without an end in sight but pushing past it to the point of feeling empty, mentally exhausted, without motivation, and beyond your capacity for caring.”

- Jenny Maenpaa

“You're not alone! Individuals in any and all professions are susceptible to experience burnout, and the most important step is to not further isolate or focus on the experience of shame one might feel when they find themselves doubting their capacities because "who am I to burn out?" or "I must not be good/skilled/ambitious/focused enough and that's why I'm burnout out and my office colleague isn't." Be careful not to fall into that spiral, and instead really recognize this is something that SO many experience so much that it was identified as an occupational hazard by the World Health Organization in 2019. Recognize the signs, and know there is a way out.”

- Julia Colangelo

“As therapists, we are dedicated to supporting, guiding, and helping our clients gain insight on how to navigate and manage their thoughts and feelings more efficiently and healthily.  We are so committed to our clients, but at times we forget about ourselves, our own health, and may even begin to experience burnout. In order to prevent burnout and reach our full therapist potentials, one must prioritize one's own health. We can't expect our clients to make their mental health a priority if we do not do it ourselves. Mental health is a personal journey, For me, I know that I enjoy cycling, yoga, and journaling. Therefore, I make time each week to fit in these activities in my schedule. Exercising helps me relieve stressors, but I also enjoy daily reflecting and journaling on how I am feeling. There is no right or wrong answer to preventing burnout, but rather it is finding what makes you feel good and not forgetting the importance of focusing on you when work feels overwhelming.”

- Natalie Moore

(Our therapists also shared tips on how to prevent burnout; you can read them here.)

What I take away from our therapists’ advice is that it can be helpful to find the stressors you can reduce, even when your ability to change things in the short-term may be limited, and make space for yourself to rest. Therapy can help you figure out how to make space for yourself and decompress from stressful environments. We take the stress out of finding a therapist by matching you with a few compatible therapists based on your preferences. Share your preferences and find your therapist!

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