Recovery is possible, but it will be gradual improvement over 1-2 years for full recovery.  If the job you have is the cause of the burnout, sometimes finding a new job can help.  Yet this is not always necessary for recovery and also will not make recovery instantaneous.  Recovery will still take time with a new job or not.

Uncontrolled Stress Causes Burnout

Since lack of control is a key factor causing burnout, finding areas of life one can control is a key factor in recovery.  Discover and enforce your boundaries.  Being able to have clear lines between work and home is important.  Taking a break at work, yes even if you work in healthcare, has been proven to give people more energy to do their work after the break and improve and prevent burnout.  If at all possible the break is even more beneficial if taken outdoors.  Eat lunch, ideally a healthy lunch.

Healthy Steps to Take

Prioritizing sleep is one of the most important actions you can take.  Adults need between 7-9 hours of sleep nightly.  Since stress can interfere with sleep, this may temporarily need more intervention than simply allowing enough time for sleep.  The only time our brains can “take out the trash” is when we are deeply asleep.  Shorting ourselves on sleep impedes our ability to remember things, and does some amount of damage to the brain over the long term.  Thus sleep is critical to recovery.

Light exercise such as cardio, strength training, and stretching can bring renewal.  Intense exercises such as boot camps cause stress to the body, increasing cortisol levels.  These are already higher for those under excessive stress and experiencing burnout, therefore are best to avoid during recovery.

Deep abdominal breathing, or diaphragmatic breathing as slow as 6 times per minute actually can increase oxygen levels in the blood and helps tell your brain to relax.  Coupling this with slower relaxing music can make it even more beneficial.  (for a video explaining this breathing, click here)  Ellen White also recommends deep breathing:  “In order to have good blood, we must breathe well. Full, deep inspirations of pure air, which fill the lungs with oxygen, purify the blood. They impart to it a bright color and send it, a life-giving current, to every part of the body. A good respiration soothes the nerves; it stimulates the appetite and renders digestion more perfect; and it induces sound, refreshing sleep.” Ministry of Healing p. 272

Time outdoors in the fresh air and sunshine is healing and increases immunity which is decreased with stress.  The benefits of sunshine and fresh air are being shown more and more in research.  There is far more benefit than I can possibly explain in this format, so I suggest watching these videos by a doctor from Loma Linda.  Shorter one; longer one but worth it!  The outdoors (even looking at pictures) has been shown to decrease stress.

New Skills

Interestingly mastery of a new skill has been shown to help with burnout. This could be picking up a new hobby or renewing an old one.  This may be in part due to having control.  It also is stimulating to the brain and gives it exercise.

Because burnout is a problem manifested mostly in the brain, there are steps to improve mental health that are crucial to recovery and prevention.  We will look at those in the next post.

Previous posts in this series:  What is Burnout?,  Burnout in the Brain

If you are feeling suicidal, please call 988 for support, go to your hospital’s emergency department, or call 911.  God is not done with you yet.