You’re exhausted, irritable, and you just don’t feel like doing anything (except if “anything” means laying on the couch, binge watching anything). Yep, you have burnout. Now what?
“Burnout is feeling one or more of these three things: (1) emotional exhaustion, (2) being negative and cynical toward. s the things that are causing you stress, and (3) feeling a reduced sense of accomplishment (regardless of whether that is true),” Dr. Haley Perlus, PhD, an expert on sport and performance psychology, tells SheKnows. “Unfortunately, when you are experiencing burnout, it leads to further emotional exhaustion, cynicism, and a low perception of self.”
The good news, she says, is that treatment for burnout will also work to prevent burnout in the first place.
Below, expert tips on what to do when you’re already burnt out so you can recover quickly.
Eat nourishing foods and get some rest
Giving yourself an extra dose of TLC is a really important way to recover from burnout. Erin Treloar, wellness coach and founder of Raw Beauty Co., recommends starting with the basics: getting quality shut eye and eating nutritious food.
“Sleep is vital for restoration, recovery and mental health and it will help your body reset. Since eating is something we do multiple times a day, it offers a great opportunity to practice little acts of self care,” she says. “Choosing beautiful, nourishing foods and eating mindfully can impact every part of your physiology, changing the way that you feel from the inside out. The foods we nourish our body with have the capacity to balance our blood sugar levels and hormones, restore vitamins and minerals that may be depleted, aid sleep and give us energy.”
Treloar recommends fueling yourself every two to three hours, including eating lots of healthy proteins, fats, fibre and a wide range of colors. Limit stimulants like caffeine and alcohol and be mindful of how much sugar you are consuming. “Also tune into how you are eating. Try slowing down, chewing your food up to 15 times before swallowing and scanning all five of your senses while enjoying your meal. Eating mindfully is shown to reduce stress and help us tune into our hunger and fullness signals more clearly.”
Implement mindfulness and meditation into your day
“When I hit burnout, it’s usually because I’ve disconnected from myself. Either through overwhelm with work, travel etc. But it’s always the same — I haven’t made space or time for myself,” says Ashley Wray, mindfulness coach and CEO of Mala Collective. “By coming back to myself through meditation I am slowing down, breathing, honoring myself, creating space… basically everything I wasn’t doing that led to me hitting burnout!”
According to Wray, meditation or being more mindful doesn’t need to be complicated (after all, this is what we’re avoiding in recovering from burnout). Here are some of her tips to return to the present moment and connect with your breath.
- Try tying your meditation routine to a habit you’ve already built. Building a new habit, or trying to carve out more time can often be a barrier. Attaching it to a habit that’s already been built makes this much easier. For example, when you turn on the tea kettle in the morning (or the coffee pot) , use that as the moment to sit and meditate.
- Start small. Like I mentioned earlier, meditating for only a few minutes still has a great impact. Your practice doesn’t have to be 20-30 minutes to bring you the benefits. The more you meditate, the more you will want to come back to yourself and create the time. Start small and grow from there.
- Don’t be so hard on yourself. When we meditate, we are quick to judge ourselves for having too many thoughts. It’s normal. Instead, when your mind wanders, take this as a chance to practice self love. Instead of “I’m the worst” try “Okay, my love, come back to your breath.”
Try some variety
An essential step to recovery from burnout, according to Dr. Perlus, is adding some variety to your routine. “Variety is essentially offering yourself an opportunity to recover from one task while engaging in another task that requires a different type of energy. For example, physical activity provides positive stress for your body while creating wonderful recovery for your emotions and mind.”
Another example she gives is stepping away from your computer for 10 minutes and folding laundry while listening to calming, peaceful, and happy music can provide mental recovery. “If you take advantage of it, your mind will escape from the computer and the music will help with emotional recovery (as long as you don’t focus on the pressure of getting chores down and, instead, enjoy crossing laundry off the list while enjoying your favorite music).”
Integrate more self-care practices into your daily routine
Implementing a self-care routine is another excellent way to help reset your body and mind from burnout and help you move forward in a more caring and calming way.
“There are so many beautiful ways that we can practice self care and sometimes it can feel overwhelming knowing where to start,” says Treolar. “I always recommend a layered approach where you pick one new practice to incorporate into your day and you work on mastering that before adding in a new one.”
She also finds it helpful to attach a new habit to a habit you already have. “So if you want to be better about taking supplements and you’re used to brushing your teeth in the morning, attach the two practices and pop your Omega 3’s right before you scrub away.”
Below are some of her quick self-care tips and tools for recovering from burnout. Pick one to focus on this week.
- Trade high intensity workouts for gentle movement like yoga or walking
- Aim to be in bed by 10pm at the latest, getting at least 8 hours of sleep (I find I need 9-10 hours so check in with yourself)
- Grab groceries including brain supportive foods like almonds, avocado, salmon, olive oil, whole grains and fruits and vegetables
- Limit caffeine to one a day, before noon
- Limit alcohol
- Try meditating
- Drink more water
- Try a 30-second cold shower to stimulate the vagus nerve
- Practice saying no to things you don’t want to do
- Do a social media detox
- Trade in the news and social media for uplifting shows or books that make you smile
- Take time off work or school to allow yourself to reset
“Find little ways to weave self-care into your week even if it means saying no to other things,” says Treolar. “All those things pulling at your attention will feel impossible to do if you get to the place of burnout so be proactive!”
Pour on some self-compassion
“I think we are quick to judge ourselves in life and in meditation,” says Wray. “I like to look at meditation as a chance to practice self love, compassion and gratitude. Oftentimes when our minds wander we judge ourselves. When you notice your mind has wandered, that’s the moment you can practice self love, compassion and kindness. It’s a far more enjoyable practice than self judgement. Be kind to yourself. Forgive yourself. Slow down. Breathe. And when you hit burnout, try again from the top.”
A version of this story was published November 2021.