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How to Recover from Burnout

First thing’s first: How do you know you’re burnt out?

Here are some common signs.

Signs of Burnout

Physical

  • Loss of or increased appetite
  • Changes in sleep
  • Getting sick more frequently
  • More accidents (anything from bumping into things to car accidents)
  • Headaches or unexplained aches and pains

Mental/Emotional

  • Boredom
  • Irritation
  • Feeling “checked out” or numb
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Difficulty remembering things
  • Mood swings
  • Anger outbursts
  • Difficulty having fun or relaxing
  • Thinking about work constantly
  • Dreading having to return to work
  • Fantasizing about completely switching careers
  • Fantasizing about moving out of the state or country

Verbal

  • “I hate this job”
  • “I’m going to quit”
  • “I can’t wait to get out of here”

Behavioral

  • Frequently venting to others about work
  • Procrastinating
  • Getting very behind
  • Missing a lot of work
  • Looking for other jobs

What Causes Burnout?

Many people assume that burnout is caused by high workloads and interpersonal workplace problems, and this is often true.

The root cause, however, is an inherent and pervasive problem in workplace culture.

Most workplaces (like most of the world), operate from a white supremacist framework, which values:

  • More, bigger, better – at the expense of quality
  • Power hoarding – at the expense of the workers
  • Sense of urgency – at the expense of flexibility
  • Individualism – at the expense of community
  • Perfectionism – at the expense of creativity and inclusion

Kenneth Jones and Tema Okun authored these ideas, and you can read more about them here.

What to Do If You’re Burned Out

1. Take Time Off

You have plenty of good reasons for not taking more time off.

You don’t get paid time off, or don’t get it until you’ve worked a certain amount of time. You have to save your days. You can’t take off because the work will fall on other people, or you’ll lose out on an opportunity or promotion.

However, please know that if you don’t take time off now, on your own terms, you will have to take sick leave or unpaid time later.

Ultimately, the choice is up to you.

Affirmations for Taking Time Off

  • I earned this break.
  • My work will speak for itself.
  • While I’m gone, others will have to step up. If they don’t, it’s not my problem.

2. During Your Time Off, Do Not Work!

When you’re off work, are you really off? Or are you still thinking about work, sending e-mails, making to-do lists, and venting to friends and family about work?

Do yourself a favor and give yourself real breaks from work.

Whether that’s a 7-day vacation, or you turning off your computer at 6 pm. If you are able to take breaks where you actually relax, you’ll feel more productive and inspired when you return.

Affirmations for Not Working

  • Rest is a basic need.
  • I deserve rest.
  • Breaks are necessary.

3. Be Assertive

Are you assertive at work? Do you say “no” to tasks when you can’t take on more? Do you delegate or ask for help?

If the answer is no, start speaking up more. Ask for what you want and need. Tell your boss how these things will help you be more productive.

If you’re already assertive and it falls on deaf ears, consider doing one of three things:

  1. Send everything in e-mails. That way, you have a record of what was said, and can forward those e-mails or bring them out in the future if needed.
  2. Meet with someone who can advocate for you.
    1. HR (though, remember, HR is employed by your employer, and their loyalty will always be to them)
    2. A community organization or union, such as SEIU.
    3. Possibly a lawyer
  3. Look for another job.

Start saying no more.

If the thought of this makes you cringe, read this blog post.

Affirmations for Being Assertive

  • Everyone has needs.
  • It’s okay to say no sometimes.
  • Boundaries are important.

4. Be More Self-Centered

Yep, you read that right: Be more self-centered!

No one is looking out for you but you.

Management has the best interests of the company or agency where you work. Not because they’re evil, but because it’s their job.

And your co-workers? They’re 100% looking out for themselves. If they aren’t, I guarantee they’re just as burnt out as you are, if not worse.

If you can adopt and internalize a self-centered attitude, it will help you with #3: Be More Assertive.

Affirmations for Being More Self-Centered

  • I look out for myself.
  • When my needs are met, I am at my best.
  • When I am at my best, I inspire others.

Summary

  • Look for physical, mental/emotional, verbal, and behavioral signs of burnout
  • White supremacy culture is the primary cause of burnout
  • If you’re burned out:
  1. Take time off.
  2. During your time off, do not work!
  3. Be assertive.
  4. Be more self-centered.
  • Use affirmations to change your mindset accordingly

 
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About Rebecca

Rebecca Ogle, LCSW, is a Licensed Clinical Social worker and therapist in Chicago, IL.

Rebecca provides therapy to people with anxiety, low self-esteem, and people pleasing tendencies. She uses a feminist and social justice lens, and interventions based in CBT, mindfulness, and motivational interviewing.

For helpful, free content, follow her on Instagram @rebeccaoglelcsw or go to her website.

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