Recognizing the Signs, Avoiding and Recovering from Burnout

Recognizing the Signs, Avoiding and Recovering from Burnout

While there is not a general accepted definition for job burnout based on the DSM – 5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition), it is well accepted that burnout is a real thing. The term was originally defined by Herbert Freudenberger when he observed his high-achieving patients who had lost their passion, optimism, and sense of purpose. Burnout is normally a hazard for high achieving individuals that they just don’t see coming.

So What Exactly is Burnout?

Working long hours with extremely heavy work loads all while reaching for perfection can be a recipe for burnout. So what exactly is burnout? Burnout is a reaction to prolonged and chronic stress that causes physical and emotional exhaustion. Often it comes along with a sense of lessened accomplishment, cynicism, detachment, and feeling ineffective. Burnout often starts as exhaustion that never seems to go away, and can lead to an inability to function effectively on a professional level. A study conducted in 2009 showed that 50% of employees reported some loss of productivity due to stress and that statistic rose to 60% in younger workers.

What Steps Can You Take to Avoid Burnout?

Luckily there are multiple steps you can take to avoid burnout and get back up to speed. The following are small steps you can start to incorporate in your life that helps to reduce stress:


Exercise is one of the more popular ways to reduce stress, and it doesn’t have to be high intensity. Exercise can help to reduce mental fatigue and stress while improving concentration and cognitive functioning. Just exercising for five minutes can start to eliminate anxiety.

Downsize Your Work Load

If possible, speak with your supervisor about possibly reducing your workload. If that is not a possibility removing or delegating unimportant tasks from your schedule should help. At the start of the day, write down to the top five important task and complete them. During this frees up time throughout the day for a task that requires less brain power and possibly time.

Take a Mental Break

Disconnect from the world for a moment each day can assist with clearing your mind and inducing relaxation. Use this time to complete some self-care techniques such as journaling, reading, etc.

How to Recover From Burnout?

Unfortunately, once you are actively in burnout, it is harder to recover. Also, this can be a moment to rediscover yourself and new activities you may like and enjoy.

Take a Vacation

Countless studies have shown that taking vacation alleviates job stress. Taking a vacation immediately diminishes the levels of stress and eliminates burnout as you are taking much needed time to completely shut down and recover.

Return to Work and Take It Slow

When you return to work, take it slow. Handle those items that are most important and take important breaks. If need be, handle some small and easy task to free up some mental space.

Recovering from burnout is a slow process, and you want to make sure you don’t fall deeper into burnout. Knowing the signs makes it easier to avoid in the future. Making sure you have a healthy work-life balance can help to prevent burn in the future. Personally, I discovered that organizing my day the night before helps me to feel less overwhelmed. Have you experienced burnout before? Let me know in the comments what you did to recover?

1 Comment

  1. Coalmine Hospital Comics
    January 10, 2023 / 8:16 am

    Been there, done that. Changed to a different job and even moved across the country to be closer to family and to have more opportunities for outdoor recreation, and I worked hard on improving my work efficiency. If you are burned out, take courage that things can get better when you seize the reins and make the necessary adjustments.

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