Published on May 4, 2020

How To Recover Fast When You Are Burned Out From Work

How To Recover Fast When You Are Burned Out From Work

Professionals who experienced burnout from work are most times unhappy about their lives. They are also dissatisfied about their accomplishments at work.

When you are continually struggling to cope with stress at the workplace, you are placing yourself at high risk of getting burnout.

Burnout can come with physical and mental symptoms. Meanwhile, you can suffer from burnout even if you are satisfied with your job and career. Therefore, learning how to recover from burnout is essential if you want to continue being productive and satisfied in your life and career.

Does Exhaustion Cause All Burnouts?

Christina Maslach and Herbert Freudenberger coined the term “burnout” in the 70s[1]. As psychologists, they independently understudied the impact of burnout on health workers and social service workers. They targeted their respondents based on chronic stress experienced as well as the volume of interaction they had with others daily.

They discovered that burnout is not necessarily about exhaustion. There could be a detachment that comes in the form of displaying cynical behaviors towards clients or colleagues.

Also, It could come in the form of a sense of hopelessness or self-defeat with work.

Christina subsequently came up with the Maslach Burnout Inventory, or MBI. This model is an inventory of 22 things that measure the three dimensions of burnout-depersonalization,emotional exhaustion and personal accomplishment. This model eventually turned out to be a measuring tool or a blueprint in the industry.[2]

Also, a group of Danish Scientists developed a newer model known as the Copenhagen Burnout Inventory, or CBI. This model analyzed burnout on three dimensions: personal, work-related, and client-related.[3]

All the aforementioned burnout models are quite complex, so instead of looking at them, consider these symptoms.

Symptoms of Burnout From Work

You might be experiencing burnout from work if you:

  • Have lost interest in your present job or project but cannot terminate it.
  • Are always exhausted.
  • Need to motivate yourself to carry out the smallest tasks.
  • Are compensated less compared to the value you bring into the job or project.
  • Withdraw from interacting with others.
  • Become short-tempered while communicating with clients and colleagues.
  • Retire to bad habits like drugs, alcohol, high sugar intake, sedentary lifestyle, or overeating.
  • Question life and career choices generally.

Are you battling any of these symptoms?

The good news is that you can come out of it once you become aware of them.

5 Job Burnout Triggers

There are many things that may trigger burnout. Here are the most common culprits.


1. Workload

You can be more productive when you are working on a huge workload that aligns with your capacity. You will face more opportunities to rest and recover. It will also be an avenue for you to develop yourself and grow.

That’s not the case when you are overloaded with work. You will lose the chance of regaining your balance.

2. Absence of Autonomy

The feeling that you don’t have access to vital resources and a say in various decisions that affect your professional life can impact your health.

For instance, do you receive calls from your boss all night? Does your company saddle you with responsibilities beyond your capacity? Do you have what it takes to influence your work environment?

3. Environment

Who do you collaborate with? How trusting and supportive are those work relationships? In some instances, you can’t choose your work environment or colleagues, but you can optimize the relationship.

Your environment can upgrade your engagement or downgrade it.

4. Reward

In case the intrinsic and extrinsic rewards on the job do not align with the level of effort you exert, you may eventually feel your effort is not being sufficiently acknowledged or rewarded.

For instance, you may need a face-time with your employer, positive feedback, or an increase in your compensation.

Find out which reward makes you feel appreciated and seek avenues to receive more of it.

5. Values Mismatch

If you are working in an organization that doesn’t share your same values, you will continue to see a decline in your level of motivation. Motivations and values are inbuilt in people and organizations. For instance, if you strongly believe in making an impact first, before money, you will experience burnout on the job in an organization that prioritizes money over impact.

How Long Does Burnout Last?

A major question most people who suffer burnout from work ask is, “How long will my burnout last?” They want to know, understandably, when they will have their drive back.

For Sarah, she could not say precisely when those depressive episodes started, but her doctor could trace them to March 2015 when she started showing some symptoms, such as random pain, palpitations, extreme fatigue, and other newfound allergies.

“It seems my burnout was around way before then—months or maybe years,” she says. It built up until her doctor advised her to take sick leave.[4]


For Sarah, a kindergarten teacher in her late 50s, it took her over a year and a half, and the recovery is still ongoing.[5]

Other cases may need to go through a one-year rehabilitation program coupled with six-month follow-up.[6]

So how do you recover when you are burned out from work?

5 Strategies to Recover When You Are Burned out

The following strategies may help you bounce back from burnout.

1. Focus On Your Projects

The famous American Psychologist Abraham Maslow, in 1943, reiterated that anyone could achieve happiness as long as they can express themselves and maximize their potential.

This is what he termed “self-actualization.” He warned:

“The story of the human race is that of men and women selling themselves short.”[7]

Successful leaders of companies understand the significance of self-actualization. That’s why they allow their employees to work on personal or social projects. They also enable their workers to come up with and own social projects which they implement as corporate social responsibilities.

In case you’re working at a 9-5 job, ensure you dedicate some hours early in the morning and late in the night on personal projects, such as a blog or an app that solves problems for others.

That way, you can express your values while striving to attain your professional goals.

2. Practice Mindfulness

Meditation is an age-long and time-tested strategy to deal with burnout. According to research from Denmark, sustained meditation is connected to an improved gray matter density in your brain stem.[8]

You can rewire your mind and brain to be more focused and productive by practicing meditation daily. Take a 10-minute break during work or early in the morning to practice mindfulness.

Here’s another strategy you can use:


Anytime you are working on a boring and repetitive task, avoid thinking about something else and focus on the task before you.

3. Detoxify Through Exercise

Toxins are poisons locked up in your system. One way you can detoxify is through exercise. Exercise can increase your heart rate, which pumps blood faster and detoxifies your system.

Have you noticed that you naturally feel better after a prolonged exercise that raises your blood pressure?

Anxiety is one of the major symptoms you will experience when you’re burned out from work, and exercise is a great way to quickly relieve that anxiety.

Joshua Broman, in a 2004 study, revealed that students who practiced exercise became less sensitive to anxiety.[9] Several additional studies have buttressed this benefit.

Incorporate regular exercise into your routine by ensuring you jog or swim before work, take a long and strenuous walk in the afternoon, or spend some time in your gym in the evening.

Once you form a good habit of practicing regular exercise, it won’t be long before you start to experience a significant recovery from burnout.

4. Practice Journaling

Writing can heal. Writing about your emotions and experiences helps you to process them, which can expedite the healing process.

Jeremy Nobel and Heather Stuckey of Foundation For Art & Healing also supported the notion that writing your experiences can generate lasting improvements in your mood and health.[10]

How do you experience this healing when you are burned out from work?

Keep a professional journal!

For instance, you can take a thirty-minute break during your weekends or quiet moments to assess your performance, progress, and the challenges you have faced in the past few days.

Itemize your achievements — the projects as well as the challenges that are holding you back. You can also list some uncertainties or questions about your present work.That way, you can discover patterns in your professional life and reflect on the next action to take.


Journaling can enable you to discover solutions to potential issues before they surface. This technique is highly practicable for those who love expressing themselves. However, if you don’t enjoy writing, you can use the bullet point format or memo feature on your phone to record answers to those questions.

5. Estimate the Tasks

Do you often feel like a superhuman when it comes to working, and then barely complete half of what you have planned to do?

If this is a common problem for you, try to learn how to accurately estimate how much time a task will take and how many tasks you can do in a day. When in doubt, overestimate the time.

It takes practice to become perfect in estimating tasks. Nevertheless, a surefire strategy that you can use to ensure you are working on the most important tasks is called the Eisenhower Decision Matrix.

The Eisenhower Decision Matrix

The Matrix showcases four different boxes on prioritizing tasks.

They are:

  • Urgent
  • Not urgent
  • Important
  • Not important

It also provides further actionable steps for each priority box.

You can recover from burnout by revamping your work strategy using this model. Find out what task deserves the best of your attention and in what order by establishing priorities.

Final Thoughts

Burnout from work is not only about getting exhausted. It is a multidimensional issue that demands a multifaceted solution.

Don’t forget, you need to diagnose the problem first and make the best effort to change. If, despite all, you still fail, then you might need to reassess your work and decide if you’re where you need to be.

More Tips on Dealing with Burnout

Featured photo credit: Doğukan Şahin via


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Leon Ho

Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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Last Updated on August 6, 2020

Why Working 9 to 5 Is Outdated

Why Working 9 to 5 Is Outdated

Bristol is the most congested city in England. Whenever I have to work at the office, I ride there, like most of us do. Furthermore, I always make sure to go at off hours; otherwise, the roads are jam-packed with cars, buses, bikes, even pedestrians. Why is that? Because everyone is working a traditional 9 to 5 work day.

Where did the “9 to 5” Come From?

It all started back in 1946. The United States government implemented the 40 hour work week for all federal employees, and all companies adopted the practice afterwards. That’s 67 years with the same schedule. Let’s think about all the things that have changed in the 67 years:

  • We went to the moon, and astronauts now live in space on the ISS.

  • Computers used to take up entire rooms and took hours to make a single calculation. Now we have more powerful computers in our purses and back pockets with our smartphones.

  • Lots of employees can now telecommute to the office from hundreds, and even thousands of miles away.

In 1946 a 9-5 job made sense because we had time after 5pm for a social life, a family life. Now we’re constantly connected to other people and the office, with the Internet, email on our smartphones, and hashtags in our movies and television shows. There is no downtime anymore.


Different Folks, Different Strokes

Enjoying your downtime is an important part of life. It recharges your batteries and lets you be more productive. Allowing people to balance life and work can provide them with much needed perspective and motivation to see the bigger picture of what they are trying to achieve.

Some people are just more productive when they’re working at their optimal time of day, after feeling well rested and personally fulfilled.  For some that can be  from 4 a.m. to 9 a.m; for others, it could be  2 p.m. to 7 p.m.

People have their own rhythms and routines. It would be great if we could sync our work schedule to match. Simply put, the imposed 8-hour work day can be a creativity and morale killer for the average person in today’s world.


Productivity and Trust Killer

Fostering creativity among employees is not always an easy endeavor, but perhaps a good place to start is by simply not tying their tasks and goals to a fixed time period. Let them work on their to-do list at their own pace, and chances are, you’ll get the best out of your employee who feels empowered instead of babysat.

That’s not to say that you should  allow your team to run wild and do whatever they want, but restricting them to a 9 to 5 time frame can quickly demoralize people. Set parameters and deadlines, and let them work at their own creative best with the understanding that their work is crucial to the functioning of the entire team.

Margaret Heffernan, an entrepreneur who previously worked in broadcasting, noted to Inc that from her experience, “treating employees like grown-ups made it more likely that they would behave the same way.” The principle here is to have your employees work to get things done, not to just follow the hands on the clock.


A Flexible Remote Working Policy

Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer famously recalled all her remote workers, saying she wanted to improve innovation and collaboration, but was that the right decision? We’ve all said that we’re often more productive in a half day working from home than a full day working in the office, right? So why not let your employees work remotely from home?

There are definitely varying schools of thought on remote working. Some believe that innovation and collaboration can only happen in a boardroom with markers, whiteboards and post-it notes and of course, this can be true for some. But do a few great brainstorms trump a team that feels a little less stressed and a little more free?

Those who champion remote working often note that these employees are not counting the clock, worried about getting home, cooking dinner or rushing through errands post-work. No one works their 9-5 straight without breaks here and there.  Allowing some time for remote working means employees can handle some non-work related tasks and feel more accomplished throughout the day. Also, sometimes we all need to have a taste of working in our pajamas, right?


It’ll be interesting to see how many traditional companies and industries start giving their employees more freedom with their work schedule. And how many end up rescinding their policies like Yahoo did.

What are your thoughts of the traditional 9-5 schedule and what are you doing to help foster your team’s productivity and creativity? Hit the comments and let us know.

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