The ultimate psychological guide to burnout recovery

goal hierarchy

The ultimate psychological guide to burnout recovery

As a passionate entrepreneur, your business means everything to you. But it’s that high-achiever “I-can-do-everything” personality that makes you particularly prone to job burnout: working exceptionally long hours, taking on heavy workloads, and putting huge amounts of pressure on yourself is par for the (entrepreneurial) course. All the more reason you can benefit from a burnout recovery plan.

We’re here to teach you how you can recover from a state of burnout. We’ll provide you with three goal-based tactics to shift your motivation and get on the path to burnout recovery as soon as possible. The recovery plan includes three steps, best remembered by the 3 Rs: Reorganize, Reframe, and Rebalance.

As always, these methods are based off of established academic research. Our team of PhDs have gone through a number of papers in the psychology and neuroscience fields. The recommendations come from theories on the psychology of goal-setting, motivation, self-control, and willpower.

How to know when you’re in need of a burnout recovery plan?

Job burnout is a real problem nowadays. Job stress costs the U.S nearly $300 billion a year through employee turnover, decreased productivity, absent employees, as well as medical, legal and insurance fees. It’s estimated that over 46% of employees have experienced or are currently in a state of job burnout.

We can all agree, then, that burnout is dangerous (both in terms of personal well-being and business success). So, first question is: How do you know if you’re burnt out? What does that even look like?

It’s common to feel tired after a long day, or to feel you need a couple extra days off after a month-long sprint to a deadline. But constantly being tired, feeling emotionally drained, having a lack of enthusiasm about the work you’re doing, and feeling cynical could be signs of something more serious.

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Whether you’re at risk for job burnout or overcoming it, this plan is for you (even if it’s for a later time down the road). The 3 main signs of burnout mentioned above (exhaustion, cynicism, and inefficacy) are best dealt with through three steps of goal-setting tactics. These help shift your motivation and realign your purpose to get you back on track:

You’re probably wondering, “what do my goals have to do with burnout recovery?”. Effective goal-setting underlies the fundamental aspect of your motivation and keeps stressful situations at bay. If you don’t set goals in positive, attainable ways, it will take us into a cycle of stress and negative emotions, hindering your decision-making, breeding a lack of creativity, and eventually making you feel mentally exhausted and burnt out.

Many of us are aware of the importance of goal-setting in terms of productivity, but now with this framework you’ll learn how you can take advantage of attainable goal-setting to aid your burnout recovery.

What does burnout look like?

Burnout doesn’t always appear as painful desperation. Some signs of burnout include feeling cynical about the way your life is going, the conviction that nothing you do matters, and a pervasive sense of helplessness. You might say:

Burnout often causes you to feel as if the entire world is against you. You might think that your situation is “rigged,” and that you’re being crushed under the massive weight of that horrible thing we call “life.”

But even after years of grinding, you might feel as if you’re still stuck in the same place. Your passion, enthusiasm, and charm get sucked into a black hole, traded for cynicism, pessimism, frustration, and constant, crippling self doubt.

Making sure you’re not overworking can be step 1 in avoiding burnout. Keep track of your work hours with Toggl.

Your story is probably a lot like that of Mr. Incredible–once the hero, your rosy world suddenly got swapped for a colorless cubicle. You’ve woken up from a simple dream, and found yourself working for corporate machines who care about nothing except the best ways to maximize profits. Instead of helping others, your time is spent helping them squelch as much cash as possible out of the little guys.

New York magazine eloquently describes it as “a problem that’s both physical and existential, an untidy agglomeration of external symptoms and private frustrations.” (Basically, you can feel burnout in your body as physical exhaustion, and suffer from the brain fog it causes as well).

9. Seek professional support through therapy

Therapy is a wonderful space to assess what burnout looks for you, what components of burnout are particularly challenging for you, and what factors are contributing to your experience of burnout. For example, if you notice that your detachment is impacting how you show up for work or home, you can work on strategies to improve interpersonal concerns.

These strategies may include steps to protect your energy. For example, delegating tasks if possible and working on communication such as setting boundaries with respect rather than with irritation. A therapist can also help you sort through and address the factors impacting burnout, since each factor might need a different approach.

The experience of burnout feels pretty awful – but burnout is treatable, and the recovery process can be deeply empowering! Working with a vetted therapist is the right next step.

Through recovery, you can become more in touch with your values and goals, feel more confident in your ability to manage stress, and learn to implement practices that will help you play the long game well. While burnout generally is temporary, the growth you experience in being intentional about treating it can be lasting!

Snehal Kumar, PhD


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