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How to recover from work-related burnout

Boost your energy, mood and motivation

Always tired and drained?

Feeling overwhelmed and anxious?

Riddled with self-doubt and constantly procrastinating?

You may be suffering from work-related burnout.     

It’s been a stressful couple of years for many people, trying to juggle work, home life and family commitments amidst constant uncertainly and turmoil. The continual stress and overwhelm often leads to burnout.

Learn what causes work-related burnout, the symptoms to look out for and how to recover from burnout to prevent long-term health complications.

What is work-related burnout?

Burnout occurs when you are physically and mentally exhausted due to chronic/ prolonged work-related stress. It can leave you feeling emotionally drained, fatigued and hopeless. Even though burnout is often linked to work stress, you can also experience non-work burnout which can result from situations such as taxing relationships or being a caregiver to elderly parents, unwell family members or children with special needs.

Burnout signs and symptoms

  • Feeling mentally and physically exhausted – getting out of bed is a real struggle
  • Inability to focus/ concentrate or make decisions
  • Anxiety and excessive worry
  • Self-doubt and feeling like you’re not good enough
  • Feeling suffocated and trapped in your work
  • Continual negative and cynical thoughts about your work or workplace
  • Feeling isolated and alone
  • Anger and frustration, and not knowing how to deal with situations
  • Inability to get things done and procrastination
  • Insomnia and broken sleep
  • Reliance on caffeine and sugar to get through the day
  • Drinking too much alcohol
  • Constant infections such as colds and flu
  • Headaches and migraines
  • Stomach and gut-related issues like IBS, bloating, reflux and heartburn

What causes work-related burnout

Burnout is usually caused by ongoing stress due to:

  • Being swamped by your workload and deadlines
  • Constant pressure to hit (unrealistic) targets
  • Lack of support from team members
  • Working long hours with no breaks
  • A dysfunctional workplace
  • Lack of boundaries at work
  • Unclear job expectations
  • Bullying by colleagues
  • Lack of work-life balance – unable to switch off when leaving office
  • Stressful home life due to childcare issues, unwell parents, financial concerns

Burnout recovery: 12 ways to improve your vitality

  1. Identify what is causing you stress. Is it your work environment? Has your work-life balance become unbalanced? Do you need more childcare support? Write down all the stressors and challenges you’re currently facing and list them in order of priority – what challenges are the most pressing and need to be dealt with first?
  1. List down solutions for each of your challenges.
  • Can you put systems in place to streamline your workload?
  • Is there a project you can delegate to another team member?
  • Where can you get additional support?
  • Can you enlist the help of a babysitter to help with childcare?
  • Is it possible to reschedule non-urgent commitments until you have created more space in your day?
  • What support networks can you put in place to create a better work-life balance?
  1. Start making changes immediately. Start with the smaller issues as they may be easier and quicker to resolve, before tackling more complex problems which may take more time, energy and resources. Create boundaries and set realistic expectations – you need to take control back to create the work-life balance you desire.
  1. Take time out to recover. This is crucial and fundamental for your recovery. Dependent on the severity of your burnout, it could take weeks, months or even years to recover. You may not be able to take an extended holiday, but there is lots you can do to ensure you take time out to properly rest.
  • Make time for self-care and focusing on yourself.
  • Have a digital detox. Limit screen time (esp. from social media).
  • Turn off the news and don’t engage in negative media narratives.
  • Take regular walks outside in nature.
  • Get plenty of sleep. Go to bed early and adopt a healthy sleep routine.
  1. Cut out caffeine (coffee, caffeinated tea, energy drinks, chocolate) and alcohol as both of these lifestyle habits negatively impact sleep and trigger the release of stress hormones (adrenaline and cortisol) which puts the body under more stress. When you’re burnt out, you need ameliorate the stress response, not make it worse. Learn more about coffee alternatives.
  1. Eat a nourishing diet that is rich in key nutrients that support the body and negate the effects of stress. Ensure each meal includes plenty of fresh organic vegetables, quality protein (organic eggs, seeds, nuts, legumes) and healthy fats (avocado, flaxseed oil, chia seeds, flaxseeds).
  1. Avoid foods that deplete your body. This includes sugar, refined grains and carbohydrates (bread, pastries, pasta, cereals, pizza, snack bars), damaged oils (fried foods, margarine, vegetable oils), processed and packaged foods and junk food. When you are burnt out, reaching for sugary foods to keep you going is common. This is the worst thing you can do as sugar crashes your blood sugar levels and can contribute to anxiety and low mood.
  1. Exercise regularly (at least 3 times per week) as exercise has shown to improve wellbeing, boost mood, reduce stress and relieve emotional exhaustion. However, when you’re recovering from burnout, it’s best to take it slow and do low impact exercises such as walking, swimming and yoga. High-impact exercise routines may exhaust you further. Listen to the exercise myths podcast to learn how to exercise properly.
  1. Use herbs that nourish the adrenal glands, reduce stress and improve energy such as Ashwagandha, Licorice, Siberian ginseng and Rhodiola. These herbs can be taken as a tea, capsule or liquid tincture. Learn more about herbal medicine.
  1. Increase your intake of vitamin C, magnesium and B vitamins as they are essential nutrients for balancing the stress response, producing cellular energy and supporting the nervous system in times of stress. These nutrients can be found in fruits and vegetables (especially green leafy veggies, avocado and berries), nuts and seeds, lentils, beans, wholegrain rice and organic eggs.
  1. Seek the help of a CNM Health Coach who is trained to support clients experiencing burnout. A Health Coach can help you implement stress management techniques, improve your diet and sleep, create an achievable exercise plan and identify areas of your life where you need more support. With the assistance of a Health Coach, you can set realistic goals to transform your life for the better. Learn more about health coaching.
  1. Try acupuncture to bring your body back into balance and promote self-healing and repair. Acupuncture is a safe and effective modality that encourages healthy blood flow, reduces inflammation and cortisol (the stress hormone), and stimulates the release of endorphins and serotonin (the hormones that improve mood and feelings of wellbeing). Learn more about the health benefits of acupuncture.

Boost your energy and vitality

If you’re continually feeling physically and emotionally exhausted, it’s highly likely that you’re experiencing work-related burnout. It’s not a fun place to be as it can negatively impact all areas of your life. Firstly, you need to identify what has caused you to become burnt out and then you can start taking the necessary steps to recover your energy and vitality. Improving your diet and lifestyle, increasing your nutrient intake and supporting your body with herbs and acupuncture will help support your body through the process.

To learn more about how you can use herbs and nutrition to improve your health, take a look at CNM’s Herbs for Everyday Living short course and Nutrition for Everyday Living short course.

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