4 Ways to Recover From Burnout

Burnout is a common affliction that those in college and those in the workforce face. Burnout usually refers to a form of exhaustion likely occurring from being swamped or overwhelmed with work. Many people attribute a lack of work-life balance to burnout. As a result, some leave their jobs because of it. But, burnout can affect those who love their jobs too. With the demands and pressures from work and even in daily life, it is no wonder we are all exhausted. 

While leaving your job can be a solution, for some, taking some time to rest and recharge is the most effective solution for burnout. 

Below are four ways to recover from burnout. 

  • Acknowledge it.

Burnout feels a lot like fatigue because, well, it is. However, some of us quickly attribute it to something else– stress, events, or normal fatigue. 

Some indicators of burnout are chronic fatigue, impaired concentration and attention, difficulty making choices, and insomnia. Burnout can also weaken your immune system and cause you to feel more anxious or depressed. While these symptoms are comorbid with other ailments, these symptoms are a product of prolonged stress. These physical symptoms usually are ignored.  

The longer left unattended burnout can get worse. Eventually, it develops and instills in you a sense of hopelessness, cynicism, apathy, and detachment. These psychological symptoms can get more severe if you continue to ignore them, which is why acknowledging your burnout is vital. 

Acknowledging burnout can help you seek help. 

  • Reach out to your boss or professor.

It may seem daunting to talk to your boss about burnout. However, with a renewed consciousness about mental health, seeking accommodations when necessary is and, in some places, encouraged. Burnout is a common plight, so they will likely sympathize and help you find a solution. 

Before broaching the subject with your boss or professor, have a plan in place. Also, offer several options that could work for both of you. Having some plans ready shows that you are serious and that this matters to you. These plans can vary. They can look like asking to be removed from a project or extending a deadline. Regardless of what you plan to do, approach your superiors with confidence and a willingness to work together. 

If you are hesitant and do not know how to bring up the topic, you could start with ” I would like to speak to you about something that, at the moment, I feel a bit vulnerable to discuss with you,” or some derivative of that. During your conversation, make sure you emphasize how much you enjoy your work there but mention that you might benefit from some time off.  

  • Take breaks 

It sounds a bit sacrilegious to ask you to take breaks when you are busy. Who does that?! The whole point of working or studying is to be more productive, or else why would you eat at your desks, multitasks, and avoid social interaction. 

Well, studies show that taking small breaks throughout the day improves productivity. The part of your brain responsible for productivity, your prefrontal cortex, needs breaks to continue performing tasks that require sustained attention. 

So, go ahead and take a walk outside. Maybe even treat yourself to an extra 30 minutes during lunch. Your brain needs it!

Also, while you are on break, try not to do work. Working while taking a “break” does not count as taking a break. 

  • Know your limits and learn to say no.

Stress is the primary spark for burnout, and one of the reasons you may be stressed out is because you have not learned how to say no. I will admit that I am guilty of doing this. I overestimate myself and try to finish five long-term projects in one day. That is neither smart nor healthy.  

A great way to avoid burning out is by knowing where your limits are and respecting them. If you are in tune with your body, you might easily recognize the signs that you are overexerting yourself. But, you could also ask yourself out loud. Sometimes, you need to hear the question out loud for the reality to sink in. Answer yourself honestly and without trying to come up with excuses. 

Burnout can also have neurological effects. Areas like the amygdala, anterior cingulate cortex, and mesial prefrontal cortex experience thinning in the gray and white matter when subjected to periods of prolonged stress. 

The neurological effects of burnout make it more difficult for you to make decisions. Hence, you may find yourself saying yes to more tasks or find it difficult to concentrate. To avoid being swamped, make a list. 

In a pen of your preferred color, write down all your official duties at work and what you need to do in your position. In a different color, list the tasks that are not necessary but that stress you out. This list will help you visualize all the extra work you carry on your shoulders. Doing this may motivate you to commit to set boundaries and learn to say no. 

We, especially women, often are afraid of saying no because we fear being seen as rude, lazy, selfish, or unprofessional. But, learning to say no can save you a lot of headaches down the road. 

You feel bad about saying no at work, but there’s nothing worse than saying yes to something and not doing it well. If you frame your no in a way that does not cast doubt on your capabilities but highlights your other commitments, people will be more receptive and respectful of your boundaries. 

Setting boundaries will help you avoid feeling burned out in the future. 

  • Delegate

The last tip to recover from burnout is to delegate. Delegating does not mean having others do your job. It means to learn what is your responsibility and what is not. Often, we take on more than we can because we approach things with the mentality of “if I don’t do this, no one else will” or “If you want something done well, you’ll have to do it yourself.” No. Just no. Allow others to do their work. Don’t take everything on. It will just stress you out. 

Boundaries and having a clear idea of what you are responsible for will help you from being swamped and burned out.

Your health, physical and mental, should always be your priority. I hope that these tips have been helpful to you and that you take care of yourself. 


Bourg Carter, S. (2013, November 26). The tell-tale signs of burnout … do you have them? Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/high-octane-women/201311/the-tell-tale-signs-burnout-do-you-have-them. 

Golkar, A., Johansson, E., Kasahara, M., Osika, W., Perski, A., & Savic, I. (2014). The influence of work-related chronic stress on the regulation of emotion and on functional connectivity in the brain. PloS one9(9), e104550. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0104550

Gorvett, Z. (2019, March 12). The tiny breaks that ease your body and reboot your brain. BBC Worklife. https://www.bbc.com/worklife/article/20190312-the-tiny-breaks-that-ease-your-body-and-reboot-your-brain. 

Hendriksen, E. (2021, May 10). 7 ways to recover from burnout. Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/how-be-yourself/202105/7-ways-recover-burnout.

Jones, C. (2020, November 18). “I can’t do this anymore” – what happens when we burn out? CMI. https://www.managers.org.uk/knowledge-and-insights/blog/i-cant-do-this-anymore-what-happens-when-we-burn-out/. 

Raypole, C. (2020, March 30). Dealing with BURNOUT? These tips and strategies may help. Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/health/mental-health/burnout-recovery. 

Stahl, A. (2020, November 10). 9 ways to recover from burnout and love your job again. Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/ashleystahl/2020/11/13/9-ways-to-recover-from-burnout-and-love-your-job-again/?sh=461e1cb124a5. 

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. (2011, February 8). Brief diversions vastly improve focus, researchers find. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 30, 2021, from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/02/110208131529.htm

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