Burnout - What can I do?

EEAST Wellbeing Support

Learn the signs of burnout; make sure you can recognise what is happening before you reach breaking point. Then you can stop, take stock and work to reverse the damage. Although life might look bleak, you can gain back control and take the positive steps we outline here.

Reach out to others to support you. Find the person who is able to listen attentively and non-judgmentally; a good listener is known to help calm your nervous system and relieve stress. Talk to family, friends and colleagues; they will be pleased you trust them and want to help.

Avoid people who are negative or dismissive and if necessary find new friends, or groups, who ‘get’ you, and see life the way you see it. Think about ‘giving’: doing something to help others is always a leveller but be careful you only do what you can!

Try to find balance at work and home. Find the good in your work; what attracted you in the first place. Find people you can chat and joke with during the day. Focus more on what you love at home and spend time on that.

Set aside time to relax, and work to develop positive sleep habits. Exercise regularly, even if you ‘just don’t have the time’ (a 10 minute walk can improve your mood for up to 2 hours!).

Recovery can take anything from 6 weeks to 2 years, with an average of 6 to 9 months, depending on the severity of the burnout. Many people describe it as a life-long journey because recovery includes changing habits, perspectives and beliefs; major life-changes around how you take care of and think about yourselves, your work, and your relationships with others.

Clearly, prevention strategies are the most effective tools for addressing burnout. Here are some ideas:

Personality traits – get to know yourself:

  • Watch how much you expect of yourself. High achievers are at the highest risk of burnout - they always want to do more, and more
  • Know that you can only do your best: you cannot achieve perfection so work towards ‘good enough’ - know that you are enough, just as you are
  • Be comfortable with saying “I don’t know” if you don’t; ask for help
  • Avoid criticising yourself - focus on your achievements instead

Improve lifestyle strategies:

  • Avoid toxic people and situations
  • Have social media free times, shut out negative media
  • Minimize alcohol and caffeine; follow a healthy eating plan
  • Keep physically (and mentally) well: take exercise, walk in green spaces,
  • Keep mentally (and physically) well: garden, paint, meditate, write poetry
  • Treat yourself: you are worth it! Be your own best friend
  • Keep your home – and your workspace - tidy and calm
  • Start a gratitude diary; think of the positives you have in your life
  • Became more involved and connected with friends, family or the community

Adopt new work patterns:

  • Avoid doing too many things at once: focus on one job or one manageable ‘chunk’ at a time
  • Reward yourself for completing tasks as you go
  • Learn when to say ‘no’; set yourself some boundaries as to what you are willing to say yes to, and what you will say no to
  • Know when to stop – and do! Talk to your line managers and ensure they know that this is crucial to your ability to repair and remain at work in the longer term
  • Take breaks, avoid overtime, take leave, leave work behind when you do
  • Ask your manager for realistic goals, so that your expectations are not ridiculously high

Develop a self-care plan to help yourself:

Working on building a plan that works for you. Here are some ideas: customise suit you and your lifestyle. As soon as you recognise the potential for burnout turn to your plan, make time for yourself and find someone to support you if you can.

Self-care strategies

Write here the relaxation, focussed strategies that best suit you

  • writing, meditation, massage, dancing, reading, exercise

Scope out an achievable weekly timetable for each to suit you and your lifestyle

Revisit each week to suit ‘external’ demands

  • Mon, Wed, Fri = 20 mins exercise
  • Sat 10 am = horseriding


Work out your priorities: what can you change/live without if necessary?  what will you not miss?

  • Can change exercise sessions (willing to miss one, move another if necessary)
  • Horse-riding untouchable!

Take time each week to check in with your body and mind: use a body scan technique, or meditation/ mindfulness to see where tension lies


Check Out Early Signs


List what burnout looks like for you (anger, frustration, exhaustion, etc.) so you can identify it early and take steps to prevent a downward spiral

  • Body feels on edge
  • Have to keep going whatever
  • Irritated with everyone around me for trying to stop me

Take action

Identify the people who care about you who you can connect with

  • Partner, Suzy, my dog

List the people you can trust, and ask if they will help

  • Partner, Suzy, HR

Remind yourself to find a way to verbalize your feelings to prevent future episodes of burnout

  • Keep notebook near bed, write when need to

Identify negative and toxic people (and experiences) in your life so you can avoid them – at least for a period of time


Identify relevant seminars, self-help groups and talks on mental health you can call on or learn from

  • Headspace app. Amaravati retreats.

Identify how you will recognise overwhelm, who you will ask for help, delegate tasks to, or reset priorities with

  • Know the signs. Speak to line mgr.  Work out priorities and discuss with team

identify people who can help or support you professionally and clinically if necessary

  • Sources of Support card: OH, EAP and GP no’s



Published 13th August 2020

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