It’s a longstanding joke on this blog that I’m always in a state of burnout. Or, at least, I have been since sophomore year of high school. But it wasn’t until about a year ago that I finally decided to do something about it. That’s why I’m sharing the best way to recover from burnout.

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As with any advice you find online, your mileage may vary. And depending on what kind of burnout you have, you may find that only certain things work for you.

I know that some places list burnout recovery stages, but for me, I don’t think I ever really experienced them as separate stages. I was just down until I slowly started to feel like a human person again.

Plus, the journey isn’t linear. You’ll make progress and then backslide so many times throughout your burnout recovery process.

Regardless of the cause of burnout, it’s been my experience that they all feel the same. So whether I’m dealing with creative burnout, emotional burnout, or the burnout that comes from burning the candle at both ends, I know I need to slow down and rest.

The Best Way to Recover from Burnout

The hardest part of burnout recovery is admitting you’re in burnout and taking the time to actually recover. I fight this so hard every single time.

And that makes getting out of burnout so freakin’ hard, because the best way to recover from burnout is to stop doing what got you there and do these two things:

001: Slow down as much as possible.

Burnout doesn’t care about your deadlines or the goals you set at the beginning of the year. Burnout only responds to slowing down.

Depending on your personal circumstances, this could be super easy, or it could be nearly impossible. Not many people can take a significant amount of time off work to just rest, but that’s exactly what you need. So if you’re wondering how to recover from burnout while still working, know that your non-working hours are about to get as slow and boring as they possibly can.

Cancel as much stuff as you can and don’t start scheduling stuff until you know you’ve started to recover. Cut out any unnecessary activities. This isn’t a time to mark things off your to do list or to catch up with friends.

Yes, some friend contact can be good, but for the most part, you’re going to need some slow, quiet alone time. And you’re going to have to get as much of that as possible around the obligations you can’t cancel.

Don’t be afraid to come home from work and lay on the couch in your pajamas while some lo-fi beats play in the background. That’s a perfectly acceptable use of your evening.

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And, it should be noted that’s going to help you recover faster than shaming yourself into doing a bunch of chores or social activities. This needs to be a very slow time.

Pretend you’re a Victorian woman who has been sent to the coast to take in the sea air as a sort of cure for your maladies. Go on slow walks in the sunshine, not for cardio fitness, but just so you can feel the sun. Sip herbal tea by the window and stare into space.

This is how you stop burnout from progressing.

002: Find your Chuck E. Cheese’s.

When I was around five or six years old, I had to get four shots in one day. These were your standard childhood vaccinations, but at the time, it felt like the most harrowing experience of my life.

(If I could go back and tell little me that as an adult, I happily go to the pharmacy to get a Covid booster and a flu shot once a year, I think she would freak out.)

My mom took me to get my shots and then, I assume was overcome with parental guilt, because she took me to Chuck E. Cheese’s that afternoon. I remember this day very well, and somewhere in a shoebox in my parents’ house is a picture of little me wearing a Little Mermaid t-shirt with the sleeves rolled up to show off all my sweet shot bandaids. I’m not proud of the shots in the picture. I’m proud that I earned a trip to Chuck E. Cheese’s.

And that’s what you need to help you through burnout. Not an actual trip to the child casino where a giant rat serves pizza. In fact, I imagine the sounds of that place would send you further into burnout.

But you do need a little treat. You’ve earned it for slowing way down and giving yourself some quiet space to get better.

Buy some cozy pajamas to enhance your rest. Pick up a fancy herbal tea to sip while you chill at home. Grab a new record to listen to while you look out the window. Buy yourself something nice.

Do whatever you need to do to reward yourself for being such a good rester. This is how you keep your head in the burnout recovery game.

My Burnout Recovery Timeline

My most recent bout of burnout was one of the worst I ever experienced. It wasn’t as intense as the burnout I felt after working three jobs through grad school. But it was the scariest because I had no idea what I was going to do as a self-employed creative person who couldn’t write a sentence without needing to take a break.

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(More on that in this dear creative self blog post.)

It was like all the things my brain used to be able to do were suddenly impossible.

And when I hit that stage, I knew the best way to recover from burnout required me to stop and get my shit together. Here’s what that looked like:

001: Grinding halt.

Technically, I hit my most recent burnout in December of 2022. And I fought it, thinking I could strong-arm my way through it. I couldn’t. So by June of 2023, I finally quit a lot of my obligations and made myself rest.

Rest looked like sleeping as much as possible. For a while there, I was taking two-hour naps almost every day after getting eight or nine hours of sleep the night before.

I didn’t question it or let myself feel guilty about it. If I was doing it, then I must have needed it.

Needless to say a lot of things ground to a halt. This blog, my social life, and all the progress I’d made with weight lifting.

But in the end, that’s what I needed.

002: Slash with abandon.

Part of grinding to a halt is slashing everything you don’t need from your life. If it was slowing down recovery and I could cut it, I cut it. This included things like alcohol, large gatherings, and a lot of the little bits of life that slowly chip away at my well-being.

A lot of nights were spent at home on the couch with my husband. I mean, that’s kind of the norm for me anyway, but it was the norm even more so.

003: Remember how to be human.

After everything slowed way down and I cut a ton of things out, I had to remember how to be human again.

It wasn’t like I had suddenly become some kind of feral beast. I was simply struggling to figure out how anyone had the capacity to eat three meals a day, do any sort of work, and also maintain human relationships.

That mostly sorted itself out after some time spent in dedicated recovery mode, and I’m happy to say that I’m back to being able to do the walking and chewing gum at the same time parts of being a person.

I also started therapy at this time to help me reframe a lot of my thoughts so I would stop backing myself into the burnout corner all the damn time. It’s been very, very helpful.

004: Fill the well all day long.

Once I felt like I had the capacity to do so, I started refilling the well. I was definitely still in burnout, but I could feel a difference in my mental state. This probably happened around my birthday in October 2023.

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So, I knew it was time to start refilling the well. I had the energy to read books again and I never say no to watching movies.

That’s what I did.

I didn’t focus on stuff that was going to make me a better person or expand my horizons. I just wanted a character arc that made me feel good. I read a ton of romance novels and watched a lot of silly movies.

It felt great though.

005: Connect with humans.

Slowly, I started hanging around with friends again. I’ve been on several lunch and coffee dates, as well as trips to antique shops and thrift stores. I’ve had girls’ night gatherings at my home and attended a few at the homes of friends. Chris and I even hosted a badass New Years party to ring in 2024.

A large part of my burnout was from people. Some of it was because I’m an introvert and have a very small, quickly depleted social battery. And some of it was because I just had some pretty toxic people in my life.

But since then, I’ve really learned what I need in friendships and my social life. And I’m protecting that part of my life in a way that I never have before. Building boundaries as an adult hasn’t been easy, but it’s been so worth it.

How to Recover from Burnout Quickly

I wish this question didn’t exist. I wish we could all just have space and time to create and do what we want to do. It’s bizarre to me that we have one life and one chance to live it, yet so many people spend time and energy believing the economy and credit scores and uplifting billionaires matter.

I mean, I get it. I, too, am surviving late stage capitalism.

But shit, man.

The only answer I have to how to recover from burnout quickly is to slow down way more than you want to. That’s the trick to it. You can’t keep going at the same pace and expect any kind of results. And the more you slow down, the faster your recovery will be.

Burnout recovery is a one of those stay the course sorts of things. You won’t want to keep up with it, but you should. And I have this post on how to keep going when you want to quit to help you through that. Initially I wrote that post to help you keep going on a creative life path, but honestly, a lot of the advice applies to sticking with choosing burnout recovery over more burnout.

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