Burnout is a toxic mix of stress-induced exhaustion, depression, and cynicism. Burnout can come from many sources—including work, family obligations, and the uncertainty of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. It’s crucial that you promptly address the symptoms of burnout to avoid putting your hard-earned recovery at risk.
Symptoms of Burnout
The symptoms of burnout aren’t always easy to spot—especially if the stress that leads to the condition has been building up over time. However, if you agree with three or more of the following statements, you may be experiencing burnout:
- You feel emotionally numb and lack interest in your work or day-to-day activities.
- It’s hard to concentrate, and you frequently forget things.
- You’re suffering from headaches or stomach aches with no identifiable physical cause.
- You’re eating significantly more or less than normal.
- You feel as though you don’t have the energy to socialize with others.
- You feel impatient, angry, and irritable.
If you keep a journal as part of your recovery efforts, looking back at past entries can help you see how your mood and behavior have changed over time. Your journal entries can also help you identify the specific causes of your stress.
How Burnout Can Sabotage Your Recovery Effects
Burnout can put your recovery at risk in several different ways. For example:
- Increased cravings. If you normally drank or used drugs to cope with stress, burnout can make your cravings harder to keep under control.
- Decreased compliance with your recovery program. If burnout has left you feeling distracted and forgetful, you might start to skip appointments with your counselor or miss the 12-step meetings that provide a crucial source of accountability for your recovery.
- Social withdrawal. Isolating yourself from your sober support network makes it harder for your loved ones to provide the emotional support that is crucial to maintaining lasting sobriety.
- Inability to focus on the future. When you’re dealing with the symptoms of burnout, simply managing day-to-day life becomes a challenge. This leaves you with no energy or motivation to focus on future recovery goals.
Tips for Coping With Burnout
A proactive approach to self-care is the best way to deal with burnout. This includes:
- Set healthy boundaries. To some extent, stress is unavoidable. However, you don’t need to make the problem worse by allowing yourself to become overextended. You have the right to say no to requests that aren’t in line with your current recovery goals. If you’d rather spend the weekend relaxing at home instead of driving two hours to attend your nephew’s baseball game, politely decline the invitation. If you’re overwhelmed by handling all the chores at home, ask your spouse and children to pitch in instead of taking on the job by yourself.
- Try meditation or deep breathing exercises. Search for “5-minute meditation” on YouTube for quick and easy tutorials you can use to calm down when life gets too hectic. If you own one of the newer Fitbit fitness trackers, the “Relax” setting features a 2-minute deep breathing session customized to your heart rate.
- Master urge surfing. A mindfulness technique used to control cravings, urge surfing can help you cope with burnout-related stress without a relapse.
- Make sleep a priority. When you’re stressed out, it’s tempting to cut back on sleep so you can accomplish everything on your to-do list. This is a major mistake. Sleep heals the body and gives you the energy you need to function properly.
- Cut back on caffeine and sugar. Relying on caffeine and sugar for a temporary energy boost will backfire. You’ll eventually crash and feel worse than before. Keep healthy high-protein snacks in readily accessible places and carry a water bottle with you so you can stay properly hydrated.
- Consider a digital detox. If social media drama or the general pressure of being constantly connected is stressing you out, put down your phone, turn off your laptop, and engage in some screen-free relaxation. Head outdoors if the weather permits, or spend some time enjoying your favorite creative hobby for a chance to reset your outlook.
- Make it easier to remember your to-do list. If you’re feeling forgetful, post reminders for your recovery-related appointments in prominent spots around your home or set alarms on your phone.
We’re Here for You
At St. Joseph Institute for Addiction, helping you be successful in your recovery is our top priority. Graduates of our Pennsylvania residential addiction treatment center have access to a wide range of relapse prevention and continuing care resources designed to ease the transition back to independent living, including ongoing counseling, alumni gatherings, and the Trac9 relapse prevention program. If you’re struggling with the symptoms of burnout, our experienced and compassionate care team can help you find a way to address the issue so you can continue to progress in your recovery.