In our day-to-day experiences, it’s so common to hear ourselves and others say, “I’m burned out” – however, usually that’s about it. We just acknowledge it and sometimes, so casually and cavalierly that we move on in the same ways that have brought about the burnout in the first place.

In 2019, the World Health Organization (WHO) acknowledged burnout as a medical diagnosis.

Once you have had an episode of burnout, you are more likely to experience the next episode even quicker, which makes it so important that you address and change the behaviors that have led to your burnout episodes. It’s the only way that you will recover from it and prevent it in the future. Otherwise, you can get into cycles of burnout where you only get a little bit of relief (only enough to reconnect with and reengage your the work) and then re-experience it in quick succession.

Recovering from burnout takes:

  • Noticing the habits and ways that you work that contribute to your burnout (e.g., overwork habits)
  • Resetting expectations for yourself and others (i.e., supervisors and colleagues) about work hours and workload
  • Accepting your accomplishments and skills and staying away from habits that are about proving yourself over and over again
  • Setting better boundaries at work and with the people in your life
  • Structuring self-care that is replenishing and consistent (embedded in your day-to-day life)
  • Working on delegation, not volunteering for everything, and being conscious of how you are managing your workload
  • Developing good task management and project management skills

You have to make sure, as you work on your burnout, that you get enough relief to feel like you have bandwidth again, but just because you have the bandwidth and feel your tank being filled again, doesn’t mean you should go back to all the bad habits again although it can be tempting.

To prevent burnout from happening again, it’s important to:

  • Know your signs of becoming depleted (e.g., Do you feel irritable when additional things are asked of you? Do you start having nightmares about work?)
  • Don’t replace overwork with procrastination (i.e., short-bursts of overwork)
  • Value your well-being with actions and not just words
  • Know your triggers to overwork (e.g., a demanding and withholding manager and workplace cultures) and choose different ways of responding to the trigger besides overwork
  • Be aware of Burnout Cultures and Bosses!

Burnout culture typically looks like environments where:

  • Organizations expect you to be available 24-7
  • There is no support or space for your personal life
  • There is no tolerance for mistakes and understanding that it’s a part of growth
  • Embarrassing people or talking behind their backs when they take their vacation and sick days

These can be some of the boss types that can be particularly triggering for those with Impostor Syndrome to overwork and burnout (see image).

It’s important when you notice that you are experiencing burnout to do something strategic about it so that you can begin the recovery process. In addition, it’s critical to understand what has gotten you to this place so that you can make the personal changes and sometimes the plan to make organizational changes that will be critical to make your burnout cycles a thing of the past.

What have you been doing to work on your burnout? What’s been effective? What do you need to continue to work on?