Many people face burnout throughout their careers. Over the last 25+ years, I’ve burned out, overcame burnout, and prevented burnout from happening when I recognized the signs. This is such an important topic that I wrote a book about burnout recovery, which will be released soon.
To help you find ways to overcome burnout in your professional life, we asked working professionals and business leaders about their experiences and advice. There are several burnout recovery tips and stories shared to demonstrate what steps you could take to lift yourself up and overcome this problem in your own life.
Here are nine tips these professionals shared from their personal experiences on overcoming burnout:
- Learn to Say No
- Switch to a New Career
- Reset Your Priorities
- Stir Up Other Areas of Your Life
- Reassess Your Ideas About Success and Find a Support System
- Stop Trying to Fit into Someone Else’s Box
- Update Your Resume and Look for a New Job
- Learn to Take Care of Yourself
- Set and Respect Your Boundaries
Learn to Say No
I remember the day that I hit my breaking point. I was working on a project that I had been dreading for weeks, and I just couldn’t seem to make any progress. As the deadline loomed closer, I felt myself becoming more and more stressed. Finally, I reached a point where I just couldn’t take it anymore. I was Headed for a nervous breakdown. I knew that I needed to make a change. I took some time off work to focus on my mental health, and it was during this break that I realized what was causing my burnout. I was trying to do too much, and I wasn’t taking enough time for myself. Once I made the decision to start saying “no” to some things and to prioritize my own well-being, I started to feel better. It didn’t happen overnight, but eventually, I was able to overcome my burnout and get back to enjoying my job.
Switch to a New Career
I had been a teacher for over 7 years and recently made the switch to go full-time into my own business. I had been working on a few online projects while also teaching (on the weekends, holidays, summers, etc.) and started to find that those projects gave me more energy, while teaching was draining my energy stores. Now that I do not spend the majority of my days with kids, I find that I am much more emotionally charged and excited to work on projects.
I think that we often talk about “fixing” burnout with strategies that don’t include making too drastic of a change, such as scheduling time for relaxation or taking more personal days from the office, but these don’t always get to the root of the problem. For me, I was absolutely burnt out with my profession and was ready to take on a new career that challenged me in a way that made me feel valued and in charge.
Reset Your Priorities
Burnout leads to disorientation and a loss of focus. To regain control, it is important to reset your priorities and redefine your goals. Rather than trying to accomplish everything at once, set priorities and focus on one task at a time. I like to sort my tasks by importance and urgency. This allows me to see what tasks are the most important and need to be done right away, and which ones can wait or be delegated. I relegate the less important tasks to my team or to a later date.
In addition, I make sure to schedule time for myself every day, even if it’s just 15-30 minutes. This time can be used for anything that brings you joy or relaxation, such as reading, taking a walk, listening to music, or spending time with family and friends.
Stir Up Other Areas of Your Life
One of the things I remember from my own burnout was losing sight of the bigger picture. I felt no motivation anymore, and almost everything in my life revolved around this apathy and a feeling of being lost. What finally made me snap, in a good way, was waking up one day to some good news. A friend called and said she got engaged, and I should already brainstorm what kind of dress I will wear to her wedding. At that moment, I realized there’s so much more to life than just work, and that trading professional success for declining mental health was not worth it at all.
Reassess Your Ideas About Success and Find a Support System
One of the things that helped me overcome burnout was taking a step back to reassess my goals. I realized that I had been chasing after an idea of success that wasn’t realistic, which was a big part of why I felt so burnt out. Once I realigned my goals and started taking steps to achieve them, I began to feel more motivated and engaged in my work again. Additionally, seeking out support from my family and friends was crucial in helping me to overcome burnout. Knowing that I had people who cared about me and wanted to see me succeed was a significant source of motivation during tough times. If you’re struggling with professional burnout, know that you’re not alone, and there is hope for recovery. Identifying the root causes of your burnout and developing a plan to address them is an excellent place to start. With time and effort, you can overcome burnout and get back on track with your career.
Stop Trying to Fit into Someone Else’s Box
For many years, I didn’t have a career. I lived in survival mode and didn’t have the time or energy to think about what I wanted out of work. This put me on a fast track to burnout, especially when faced with several instances of job loss that put me behind financially and forced me to accept the first job I found just to pay the bills. Once I did find a decent job, I had more security and more time to think about how I wanted my career to look. That’s when I quit and started my own business. It was the best step I’ve taken career-wise. I was able to build my own box that fit me vs. trying to fit into someone else’s box that didn’t feel right. Venturing out on my own allowed me to choose my own work hours, salary, duties, and other specifics that help me to own my career and avoid burnout – or at least address feelings of burnout before they take over.
Update Your Resume and Look for a New Job
My previous job stopped making me happy. Even worse, I felt more and more frustrated every day. There were no chances for me to move any further. I just couldn’t grow in that career. At some point, I reached what could be reached. And nothing would change. Tomorrow, next year, in a decade’s time. No surprises, and no challenges. Working with my eyes closed wouldn’t make a difference. Stability of that kind is something many people dream about, I know. Still, I’m not one of them. As I didn’t enjoy my duties anymore, I felt burnt out and not motivated enough to stay there.
Update your resume and start looking for a new job. It may sound like zero-sum thinking, but considering the number of options in the labor market, I honestly believe that’s the best tip I could give. I decided to quit and haven’t regretted it ever since. I’m happy now. A fresh start gives an energy boost, motivation, and a broader perspective. Life is too short to waste it doing a job that takes your mental peace away.
Learn to Take Care of Yourself
One thing that helped me to overcome burnout in my professional life is learning to take care of myself. This is a lesson I learned the hard way, but it’s one that has made a huge difference to my ability to focus on the things that are important and get the job done. I used to think that if I just worked harder and longer, then everything would be fine. But I was wrong – and now that I know better, I’m determined not to make the same mistake again. The truth is that when you don’t take time for yourself, you can’t be your best self or do your best work. And if you’re not doing your best work? Then it doesn’t matter how much effort you put into it – you’ll still end up feeling like you’ve failed.
So, what does this look like in practice? For me, it means making sure that I get enough sleep every night, taking regular breaks during the day (so that my brain doesn’t overheat), and getting out of the office at least once or twice a week (so that I can stay connected with friends and family).
Set and Respect Your Boundaries
Professional burnout is almost always caused by a lack of boundaries around what is and isn’t acceptable. It’s important to check in with yourself and be deeply honest about the life you want to have, the life you’re currently living, and what needs to change.
For me, as a recovering people pleaser, I needed to be honest about the fact that I wasn’t bringing my best self when I was burning the candle at both ends. I needed to set healthy boundaries around my work/life balance. I work in a fast-paced industry so not checking my email outside of work hours didn’t feel feasible but I do not respond to anything outside of work hours that isn’t urgent. I turn my internal team comms to “do not disturb” outside of 9 – 5. I don’t check emails on vacation. I take more time off. My job also ebbs and flows, there are weeks I have 45+ hours of work, so in the weeks when things are slower, I take the time away from my computer to enjoy it. I stopped making myself feel guilty for not being chained to my computer.