How to Recover from Burnout & Be Your Best Self
Are you dealing with burnout? Feeling stressed, tired, an unmotivated? Me too. Or at least I used to feel that way. For the past 6 months I was going through major burnout. After taking time away from my business to focus on my healing, I am feeling sooo much better and wanted to share the things I did to recover.
The main reason I am sharing this is because the content I put out is always a direct reflection of what I am doing and what’s going on in my life. I believe in being authentic and giving my tips and advice from a place of real life experience, if I talk the talk I’m gonna walk the walk so when I talk about burnout I am coming from a place of truly having lived it. Whatever advice I give are things that have truly worked for me, I’m not just throwing random stuff out there for no reason.
So what is burnout?
Basically its when you’re doing too much of one things whether its working, dealing with school, taking care of your kids, working out… it’s not just job related it can be dealing with anything that is sucking up your energy physically, mentally, or emotionally and leaving you feeling things like exhaustion, depression, cranky, having brain fog or unable to focus, poor job performance to where it feels like you have no motivation to deal with anything.
The scary thing is burnout is actually associated with numerous health risks, diseases, illness etc because stress lowers your immune system and it can even lead to death! It’s no joke and should be taken seriously. Just because society promotes ideas that we need to constantly be working does not mean its the right way, we have to take care of ourselves first and foremost.
Personally, I think like burnout is the result of a lack of balance in your life, like you’re doing too much of one thing and not making enough space for other areas in your life. Some of the obvious solutions are to go to therapy or go on a vacation (though a vacation won’t address the root of your burnout so that is a temporary fix though it is important to take time off work whenever you have the chance).
That being said vacations and therapy aren’t accessible for everyone. I understand for some people it might feel like you don’t have a choice, like healing is a luxury you don’t have time or money for. I get it, the cost of things are rising, some people work multiple jobs or have kids in addition to their job, or multiple jobs and kids…it can be a lot and make you feel like you literally don’t have time to do these tips I am about to mention so I want to preface by saying that you don’t need to do everything all at once and I’ll give you some pointers on how to incorporate the tips so you can start recovering without feeling stressed about it.
Burnout is all too common and lots of people suffer from it.
I am here to tell you that if you’re feeling guilty about having burn out and not be able to make time for things that are important it is OK! Burnout was already an issue in our culture, especially American culture where many of us don’t have paid vacation, we’re expected to work overtime, or deal with work issues even when we are off the clock…
This hustle culture is already riddled with factors that can lead to burnout and in addition to that we are still in the middle of a pandemic, and thats come with loads of things that are leading to additional burnout…places are short staffed, there’s anxiety about getting sick, anxiety about getting others sick. Things like being mindful of hand washing and not touching your face, social distancing, the grief of things we’ve lost… over a period of time all the extra thoughts and decisions and feelings from this are extremely taxing in so many ways and they are taking a toll on so many of us including me.
If you’re feeling burnout, I am giving you permission to not feel guilty. It's ok and there's nothing wrong with you.
I believe it is super important rather than feeling guilt, go easy on yourself and focus on taking care of yourself, your mental, physical, and emotional health however long it takes for you to just take care of you. That is the best thing you can do for yourself and others right now. You know in a plane how you’re supposed to put the oxygen mask on yourself before the kid, thats what I had to do metaphorically. So I’ll break down all the different steps I took to deal with burnout and how you can implement them for yourself.
My burnout story
I want to talk a bit about my recent experience with burnout and what caused it. I was on unemployment throughout most of 2020 and the first half of 2021 because of all the shutdowns. While I was feeling some emotional and mental burnout from the pandemic, I had lots of free time to work on art, business and my YouTube channel. Flash forward to August when I got a job working as a server at a very busy restaurant.
I went from staying at home to walking between 10k-15k steps a day, dealing with people constantly for hours on my feet, having to stay high energy and it immediately started taking a toll on me. My feet became constantly sore. The energy it took for me to do my job became a lot to deal with and whenever I went home I felt like my tank was just totally empty all I wanted to do was lay on the couch and watch TV.
So essentially I started to feel burnout and didn’t have the energy or motivation to do anything except my job, basically I poured everything in to my work and the rest of my life was neglected. My house became perpetually messy, I wasn’t socializing much, I was eating more junk food because I didn’t have energy to cook or clean up after, I was drinking more alcohol and worst of all I didn’t do anything for my business or YouTube, I didn’t even do any arts or crafts projects simply for fun and when I’m not doing art stuff for fun I know something is wrong because for me doing creative stuff is something I truly love and enjoy, its my passion.
When I don’t feel like doing things I actually love doing, its a sign for me that I need to make some changes in my life and take better care of myself.
At first I really beat myself up for not progressing on any of my YouTube or business stuff but then I sort of surrendered to it and was like its ok, I am not quitting, I am giving myself permission to take a break until I can deal with this burnout, adapt to this life change of having a new job and establish a sense of balance and rhythm with this change.
This permission I gave myself ended up taking 6 months and yeah its a long time and I did feel bad that I haven’t been progressing with my personal passions. In the end I believe everything happens for a reason and though that break went on for longer than I’d like I would rather be able to work on my passions from a place of joy and having enough energy to do it well than trying to burn the candle at both ends and create content that is sloppy or doesn’t reflect my best self.
All that being said, 6 months later I am finally in a place where I feel happy and good and my cup is full, I coped with that burnout and wanted to share the ways that I dealt with it in case you’re going through the same thing.
Some pointers and reminders on burnout recovery
Sometimes having a list of things to do even things that will improve your life such as cleaning or exercising will add to the stress of your burnout. Remember to go easy on yourself and start with whatever resonates with you, whatever seems doable for you.
If any of these tips feel overwhelming, set a timer for like 3 minutes, 5 minutes,15 minutes whatever and once the timer goes off you stop or if it feels easy to keep going keep going. I’ve found that by integrating these tips in small chunks makes them easier to become habits I’ll do intuitively without having to think about it. Taking just a few minutes a day to implement any of these steps will have a ripple effect that will create a positive impact on all areas of your life. Don’t forget making just a little bit of effort on your recovery is better than making no effort at all.
If you’re feeling ambitious and want to try everything right away, I would suggest starting with the most taxing or difficult task for you, the one that takes the most energy for you. If you do all the other steps and save the most draining one for last chances are you won’t have the motivation to deal with it. Personally, I try to deal with things that will take the most energy first, but in the end go with your gut and do whatever feels right for you because this is about your needs and your priorities and whatever you feel is gonna fill your cup up the best.
The biggest thing with recovering from burnout is prioritizing your self care.
Not just things like face masks or pampering yourself though those are important and I will touch on that. Everything I am going to mention are different forms of self care, ways you can support yourself in various aspects of your life, and things you can do to make yourself feel good.
Ok without further adieu here are my tips for burnout recovery.
1. Tidy your home
Maybe you don’t want to hear this because I think most people don’t really enjoy cleaning what they like is the result but hear me out. When I am at home trying to relax, watching TV or whatever, I find that I am able to relax and recharge so much better when my living space is clean. If my space is a mess instead of being able to enjoy the relaxing activity I’m focusing on the dirty floor, or the random stuff that needs to be put away so its taking my mind away from the relaxing and instead I’m feeling bad or guilty because my house is a mess.
Say you’re too tired to do the dishes then when you wake up and go to make breakfast in the morning, the first thing you see is a pile of dirty dishes and then you’re starting off your day with this feedback of guilt and negative energy and that sets the tone for the rest of the day. Or if you go to do a face mask but in the bathroom you’re seeing a dirty toilet its not gonna have the same sort of relaxing spa energy and that activity won’t be as rejuvenating as it could be.
Now again you don’t need to deep clean everything because I understand that it can take a lot of time, but like I mentioned before just set a timer and work for a few minutes.
Tidying is one of those things that even if you don’t want to do it, your future self will thank you and it creates a more positive atmosphere for when you’re doing the other tips I mention.
There are numerous studies that have shown how clutter and mess contributes to stress. When I was first starting to have burnout and didn’t have energy this was the one thing I would especially force myself to do, if none of my other self care stuff got done I would make sure to at least spent a little bit of time cleaning because I knew that when I was gonna veg on the couch I would feel relaxed.
Having a cleaner space really sets the tone so that all these other tips can be maximized and experienced to their fullest so even if you’re stressed about work you won’t have the stress of mess on top of it.
If you do have extra time or feeling motivation, I would suggest decluttering and then organizing as well.
I think decluttering takes more mental energy than cleaning because you have to make decisions about what to keep and decisions can be taxing on the brain. However, decluttering will save you from decision fatigue in the future because you’ll have less things to deal with.
For example if you’re picking out your clothes for the day and half the stuff in your closet you don’t like or wear or it doesn’t fit your brain has to process all of that so by getting rid of the things that no longer serve you you’re eliminating the extra mental energy it would take to think about them in the first place.
The reason Steve Jobs wore the same outfit everyday was because it was one less decision he had to make so he could save that brain energy for more important tasks. You don’t need to go that extreme but by simplifying the decisions you’ll make throughout the day, you’re giving yourself more brain space and will feel less mentally drained. Again you can break this down in small chunks start with a drawer or something small and just make time for it little by little it doesn’t need to all be done at once.
If you’re able to declutter I recommend saving organizing for last because there is no point in organizing things and spending energy organizing things that you don’t want, need or use.
Similar to decluttering, organizing is important for burnout because once it's done you’ve freed up space from things that take time or mental energy away from you. An example for me is if my art supplies aren’t organized and I’m working on a project that requires a special pair of scissors and can’t find them then I have to spend the time looking for them. Stuff like that can be taxing and it does take mental energy as well as time.
I make this point first because for me it feels like the most crucial for coping with burnout, the sort of first step toward recovery. As much as I feel resistance toward it or don’t feel the energy to clean I know that it will have the biggest impact on my feeling better. If you hate cleaning or have no motivation, just do it for 5 minutes at a time, trust me it will make an impact on your mental health.
2. Set boundaries
If you’re feeling burnout you need to push the breaks on the things that are draining you and taking away from your ability to recharge. There are many ways of setting boundaries depending on your situation.
If you’re having work burnout, set a boundary with your availability.
If you’re asked to work overtime or come in on your day off simply say that you are not available, you don’t need to give an explanation.
If you get a work related call or email when you’re off the clock, don’t respond until you are either at work or until you feel like its a more appropriate time for you.
You can also turn your phone on do not disturb or airplane mode if you’re sleeping or doing an activity you don’t want to be bothered or distracted. This is totally ok to do and you don’t need to feel guilty about it.
If you have the energy to socialize, make sure you’re surrounding yourself with people who are positive influences and have positive attitudes. Notice how you feel after you’re around someone, if they drain your energy then don’t be around them or limit your time with them as much as possible. The goal here is to be around people that make you feel good, make you feel recharged and happy after spending time with them.
If you have a friend who makes you laugh a lot, I would also suggest being around them more.
Another thing I suggest regarding boundaries is taking an audit of who and what you follow on social media. Accounts or people that make you feel stressed, anxious, self conscious anything negative just unfollow them. On Facebook if you don’t want to unfriend someone you can simply unfollow them so their posts don’t show up in your feed.
Even things like the news can be stressful and taxing so if you feel like its having a negative impact on your mental health you can simply remove it so its not up in your face every time you check your phone. I have a friend who decided they weren’t going to partake in social media because it was having negative effects on their mental health so thats always an option too and honestly I think its good once in awhile to take a break from it.
Personally I love social media and for me its a fun activity but I’ve made very sure that the content I take in is full of things that either inspire me, educate me, or make me laugh and every few months I go through the accounts I follow and eliminate the ones that no longer serve me.
3. Nourish your body
First off make sure you’re getting enough sleep and staying hydrated that is the bare minimum for body nourishment.
When you’re feeling burnout its easier to reach for instant gratification and unfortunately this can lead to consuming things which aren’t the healthiest. I was drinking a lot of alcohol because it was a quick fix for coping with the stress and made me temporarily feel good but then the next day I would feel like crap. I was eating more fast food because not only did it taste good but I just didn’t have energy to deal with cooking or cleaning up the mess of cooking.
The combination of alcohol and junk food left me feeling overall bad. I had more anxiety, I was bloated, had inflammation, less energy, I gained weight which affected my self esteem and so on. I made the decision to stop drinking about 2 weeks ago and have already felt numerous positive effects from that.
If you drink to cope with burnout I would highly recommend cutting it out entirely but if that is to difficult then try drinking less. The book ‘This Naked Mind’ by Annie Grace was a super helpful aid for me on cutting drinking from my life and it completely changed my perspective on alcohol.
As far as eating healthier goes, again I know that sometimes time can be a factor as its much quicker and easier to get McDonalds drive thru then it is to cook a meal at home. There are a variety of ways to make healthy eating easy. You can do something like meal prepping where you cook your meals for the week in one day so after you get off work there’s a meal ready to go in your fridge.
When you put good things into your body, it will make you much better equipped to handle stress and you'll feel better not just physically, but mentally and emotionally too.
Some things that have helped me are buying frozen fruits and veggies because they are precut so you can simply throw them in a pan without having to wash or cut them and also it doesn’t spoil so quickly. I love this because if I skip my veggies for a day or two I don’t need to worry about them rotting.
Another thing I love thats super easy is making smoothies with an immersion blender, they are pretty affordable mine was like $20-30 bucks and then I just throw my frozen fruits in there with some flax milk blend it up and literally just have to rinse the wand off right after so the cleanup is super easy and hardly takes any time.
Another tip for this is I always have some healthy snacks in my bag like dates, nuts or a power bar. Some of the symptoms of burnout like being cranky or brain fog can be amplified if you’re hungry so having something you can eat quick in a pinch will help to combat some of those bad feelings.
If you already feel like you have a healthy diet and relationship will alcohol or if you want to take this a step further I would suggest implementing some fun physical activities to get your body moving.
Energy and trauma can get stuck in the body so by moving in some way to helps to release not just physical tension but emotional and mental too. It doesn’t have to be traditional forms of exercise. Stuff like yoga, stretching, hula hooping, going for a walk or doing things in nature are some alternatives to going to the gym. Personally I like dancing in my room to a feel good song (music also has healing properties and can boost your mood) or doing pilates videos on Youtube.
4. Treat yo self
While I think all of these tips fall under the umbrella of self care, this one is the one most people probably think of when they think of self care. Essentially treating yourself means pamper yourself, do things that feel relaxing, rejuvenating, or help you with your personal growth. And treating yourself can be done in a variety of ways.
First there are physical ways to treat yourself. One of the most basic essentials for me treating myself is simply taking a shower everyday. Maybe that sounds obvious but sometimes you really can feel too tired or depressed to shower. Personally I feel like even on blah days I always feel a bit better after taking a shower.
You could also get fancy with it and draw a bath, if you don’t have a bathtub you can still make a shower feel more spa-like. Play music you like, light some candles or incense, incorporate aromatherapy, use the special beauty products you only save for special occasions like a body scrub or oil. I also like to do things like face masks, tweezing my eyebrows, painting my nails, or dry brushing before I shower.
After I started my serving job my feet were killing me. I had physical burnout in my feet, so I bought a foot massage machine, I also have a back massager. Those are some of my favorite ways to show my body some extra love and its cheaper than booking a massage appointment if you’re on a budget.
While I mentioned nourishing your body that doesn’t mean you can’t indulge in a treat from time to time if that makes you feel good like a special dessert or meal or drink like a fancy coffee or boba tea.
It's all about balance so if burnout is causing you to feel deprived from things you love from time to time a nice treat is a pleasant mood boost.
As far as things for personal growth ways to treat your mind and soul. Some things I recommend are guided meditations you can find tons free on YouTube or download a meditation app. I also like to journal or read. I find it especially helpful to keep a gratitude journal that I only write positive things in and times when I’m feeling like poo I write down everything I’m thankful for and it helps boost my mood.
You could take a class either in person or an online course or masterclass, there are so many to choose from you can find some about something that you’re interested in. I also find that classes are a great way to socialize with people and I’ve met tons of high quality people through these classes, the type of people that energize me and fill my cup. If you don’t want to commit to course, simply watching a tutorial on YouTube or TikTok for a new skill you want to try can be really fun.
Those are some of the things that helped me but everyone is different so you don’t necessarily need to do these exact things, but whatever treating or pampering yourself feels like for you go with that.
Because burnout makes you feel low energy and low motivation I feel like it can pull you further away from the little things that bring you joy or things that can make you feel taken care of.
Taking time to treat your body and mind to the things you like helps to make life feel more full and serves as a good reminder that you are so precious and important and you deserve the things in life that make you feel like yourself.
5. Limit screen time
I touched on this with my second tip on setting boundaries where I mentioned unfollowing or unsubscribing from content that makes you feel bad. After you’ve done that I suggest becoming more aware of how much time you spend on your phone as the first step and then making an effort to minimize the amount of time you scroll.
Personally I love TikTok and can spend hours scrolling on there (you can find me on there at EverydayAvantGarde). It got to a point where I’d find myself about to go to bed then I would check my phone and scroll on TikTok until super late at night and not get that much sleep.
Social media is designed to be addicting so even if I was physically tired something with the dopamine in my brain kept me wanting to keep scrolling. Also I think the blue light from the phone affects your circadian rhythm so thats one of the reasons people suggest not being on your phone an hour before bed. Anyways, I would end up not getting enough sleep and wasting a LOT of time.
Now while I do still love my social media, one of the baby steps I took toward limiting my screen time is when I go to bed for the night I don’t touch my phone, usually I can’t fall asleep right away which is why I would be on my phone but now I read a book instead of watching TikTok. I still stay up late but I find that I don’t stay up as late in bed reading as I did scrolling and find it much easier to fall asleep.
There are apps that track your time to gain awareness of how much time you’re spending on there, and there are even apps that will lock you out of your socials after your time limit is up. If you want to keep it simple you can just set an alarm and only allow yourself a certain amount of time to go on FB, IG, TikTok whatever. Or you can do what my friend did and just delete all the apps but personally I really enjoy social media plus I use it for my business so I allow myself to use it just for a short amount of time than I used to.
The same goes for TV and Netflix etc. Now more than ever it is too easy to binge watch a show and I can easily spend an entire day watching TV. That’s fine once in awhile but for me because my burnout was draining my energy and motivation for a period of time all I was doing was working then going home and watching TV. Eventually I realized that even though I didn’t have motivation, the amount of time I was spending watching TV or on my phone was starting to take its toll.
I mentioned before I feel like burnout is a result of imbalance from doing too much of one thing and you can definitely get burnout from screen time too. If you find that like me you only have energy for work and a screen then limit your screen time and replace it with the other tips I mention.
6. Do what you love
Maybe this one seems obvious but I put it last for a reason. While doing the things you enjoy feels like an obvious solution to combat the frustrations of burnout and one that should come first, I found that by implementing all these other steps made me able to be fully present and feel more satisfied when I was doing the things I enjoy.
When you’ve taken steps to have a cleaner space, have boundaries, nourish your body, pamper yourself and limit your screen time you’ll find that when do actually do the things you enjoy you feel less guilty about it, mentally your brain isn’t stressed out about other areas of your life and you’ll physically be in a better state too.
Doing things you enjoy feels different for everyone. For me its things like petting my dog, spending time with my husband, working on art projects, playing Animal Crossing, or watching a good movie or TV show.
Now I know I just mentioned limiting screen time, and part of that is awareness of how much time you’re spending viewing a screen. When you've worked on these other steps to recover from burnout and brought some balance to other areas in your life there is nothing wrong about sitting down for an hour to enjoy a good show…thats totally different than spending the entire day bingewatching. The difference is that you make intentional time to enjoy something you like.
Once in awhile I will spend most of the day watching TV and that is OK because I don’t allow myself to do it everyday and I know that the next day I will make progress in other areas of my life so instead of beating myself up and feeling guilty about it I give myself permission to simply relax and enjoy knowing that I will continue taking care of myself and doing the things that will contribute to my growth.
The key to this step is doing what you love with balance, intention, and mindfulness.
I understand if you’re really in the middle of a burnout spell some of these tips might feel like work or overwhelming and it might just feel like its too much to take on any of these tips. I get it, I was there too and for a period of time I was living in burnout land. It got to a point where I realized time was passing me by and I didn’t want to live in a continual state of exhaustion feeling unfulfilled with my life.
There are still days I don’t feel like cleaning, or holding a boundary gives me anxiety, days where I can't deal with doing some of these tips. Sometimes its hard living life but taking baby steps to care for yourself will help get you out of that dark hole.
The harsh truth is that no one is gonna magically make your life less stressful, no one else can cure your burnout except for you, and no one else will ultimately keep you happy in life except for you.
If you feel any resistance toward implementing any of these tips I invite you to change your perspective and instead of feeling like its “work” you need to do, think of it as a gift you are giving yourself. The gift of a happier life, a better future, and the opportunity to become your best self.
Again I want to emphasize that if this overwhelms you just do these tips for a few minutes at a time and remember that recovering is a process and taking baby steps is better than no steps at all.
Be kind to yourself. Give yourself permission to rest and release the guilt because you are so important, your happiness matters and you deserve to live a life you love.
I have a condensed version on burnout recovery on my IG and TikTok @everydayavantgarde as well as an in depth three part series on my YouTube channel.