How To Bounce Back From Burnout and Love Your Work Again

By Emily Bissel

Feeling like you're running on fumes, struggling to make it through the workday? (Raises hand!) Burnout is becoming all too common, especially among leaders and women in the workforce. The World Health Organization even recognizes it as an “occupational phenomenon.”

Here’s what’s happening:


  • About 82% of employees are at risk of burnout this year
  • 33% of employed women say they experience burnout very often or always, while 25% of men say the same
  • 48% of employees have confidence in their employers caring about them in 2023—down from 56 percent in 2022 and 59 percent in 2021


But there's hope. With the right strategies and support, you can bounce back from burnout and fall back in love with your work.


Recognizing the Signs and Symptoms of Burnout

Burnout doesn't happen overnight. It's a gradual process that can sneak up on you if you're not careful.

Some common signs and symptoms include:


  • Feeling exhausted and drained, both mentally and physically
  • A sense of disillusionment or cynicism about your job
  • Decreased productivity and effectiveness
  • Increased irritability and frustration
  • Withdrawal from work or social activities
  • Physical symptoms like headaches or stomach problems


If you’ve “lost your spark” at work, then you might want to think about talking to those around you about what you’re experiencing. Having people you trust that you can turn to when things feel tough can make a big difference when it comes to battling burnout.


Beating Burnout with Peer Support

If you're feeling burned out at work, it's important to open up and talk about it. But before you schedule that conversation with your boss, consider if they're part of the problem.

Here are some common causes of burnout:


  • Work-life balance taking a hit
  • Unreasonable expectations about how much you should work
  • Feeling unsupported by your colleagues or other teams
  • Stagnating without any personal or professional growth
  • Not getting recognition for your hard work


When you do decide to talk to your leader, pick a good time for a private conversation. Explaining what's causing your burnout can help them see things from your perspective. Once they’re aware that you are feeling burnt out, here are some things they could do to make things better:


  • Bring in extra help if they can
  • Make working from home easier and more effective
  • Cut down on the amount of daily/weekly meetings
  • Encourage everyone to use their vacation time
  • Make sure nobody's workload is becoming unmanageable
  • Keep an eye out for signs that someone's struggling
  • Provide professional development in situations where people may feel unequipped


But really, it's not just on you to speak up. Businesses need to create a workplace where burnout isn't a constant threat.

Instead, businesses should be actively working towards creating a positive workplace culture. Peer support plays an important role here. It provides a safe space for sharing experiences and building trust. Facilitated conversations, like those offered by Inclusivv, foster empathy and belonging, benefiting both individuals and teams.

When workplaces take steps to prevent burnout, everyone wins! They become more productive, employees are happier, and they can retain their top talent, giving them a leg up on the competition. Who doesn’t love that?


We Need Human Connection

Human connection isn't just a nice-to-have—it's essential. In a world where loneliness is becoming an epidemic, connecting with colleagues, friends, and family provides a sense of belonging and well-being.

Human connection also improves teamwork. When we invest in relationships with our colleagues (or have leaders that understand the importance of allowing time and space for conversation), we are better able to communicate, collaborate, and avoid conflicts. These moments for meaningful connection also equip us better to manage the emotional weight of our demanding jobs, and our coworkers understand it better than anyone else.

Research shows that being socially isolated leads to:


  • A 29% higher risk of heart disease
  • A 32% higher risk of stroke
  • A 50% higher risk of developing dementia for older adults
  • A 60% higher risk of premature death


This shows just how important strong social connections are for our overall well-being, on par with taking care of our physical and mental health. Whether it's chatting with coworkers, spending time with friends, or connecting with loved ones, these relationships can help shield us from burnout, depression, and other challenges.


“[Workplaces] must facilitate more opportunities for their employees to come together and support each other. We need to change our culture so that time spent nurturing relationships is valued, not seen as a distraction or frivolous.” — US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy


The only way this will happen is if workplaces start making space for human connection a priority in their daily routines.


Tips for Meaningful Connections at Work

Building meaningful connections at work doesn't have to be complicated. Even with busy schedules, there are small steps we can take every day to foster human connection.

Try dedicating a few minutes each day to connect sincerely with someone. Whether it's a quick phone call with a friend or colleague, a lunch with a mentor, or meeting a new peer in your department, give them your full attention.

Throughout the day, be present in your interactions. Make eye contact, put away distractions, and listen actively. Show empathy by acknowledging their feelings and responding thoughtfully.

Don’t forget that gratitude can go a long way. Take a moment to thank someone who has helped you, check in on a stressed colleague, offer support to a new team member, or simply reach out to a friend for a chat.

If you're feeling overwhelmed, don't be afraid to ask for help. Reach out to peers, mentors, loved ones, or professionals. You don't need to have all the answers—just let them know you need support, and the conversation can flow from there.

For a consistent and budget-friendly way to encourage team connections, consider Inclusivv Membership. It offers monthly community conversations on important topics, providing intentional time for your team to connect and grow together.


Inclusion and Belonging Journey: Inclusivv Membership


5 Ways To Recover from Burnout and Love Your Work Again

#1. Acknowledge that you are burnt out

It all starts with acknowledging that you're experiencing burnout. Look out for signs like feeling mentally and physically exhausted, struggling to complete tasks, and not waking up refreshed even after a good night's sleep.

Psychology Today listed out the signs of burnout as:


  • Chronic fatigue
  • Insomnia
  • Forgetfulness/impaired concentration and focus
  • Increased illness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Depression
  • Anger


If you read through this list and feel like it hits close to home, it’s likely time to recharge and start planning how to bounce back. If you are feeling these symptoms strongly, consider seeking professional support if the burnout is impacting your life beyond work.  


#2. Open up to your boss about burnout

Try not to be afraid to talk with HR or your manager about your burnout. They're likely to understand and work with you on finding a solution. 

Before you chat with them, take some time to think about possible changes to make. Maybe it's adjusting your workload or taking a short break. Showing that you're proactive about solving the issue will show your manager you are serious and want to take action, rather than just venting frustrations.

When you're ready to talk, don't just say, "I'm burnt out." Try something like:


"I wanted to talk about something that feels vulnerable to admit, but my hope is that you can help me come to some solutions that will improve my well-being and performance. I'm feeling a more severe sense of burnout lately, and I'm hoping we can figure out some ways to help me feel better and contribute to the best of my ability. I've looked into our policies and benefits, and here are a few ideas I have: [share your suggestions]. What are your thoughts?"


During your conversation, remind them how much you enjoy working there, but also mention that some time off might be beneficial. Good managers will understand and want to find a solution that works for both of you. So, approach the conversation with respect and they'll likely be eager to help.


#3. Reconnect with your passion

Take advantage of your time off to indulge in some much-needed rest, relaxation, and rejuvenation. It's also a great opportunity to explore ways to prevent burnout when you return to work.

Start by taking a moment for intentional reflection and try out journaling—it can be surprisingly therapeutic!

While you're on your break, set aside a couple of hours each day to think about why you're grateful for your job. Science backs up the benefits of gratitude, so make it a habit even after you're back at work. Shifting your mindset from negative to positive thoughts can really boost your mood. Interestingly, one study found that it's actually the lack of negative emotional words, not the abundance of positive words, that improved mental health. So, if you're struggling to think of something super positive, just make sure you're not dwelling on the negative. Remember, the words you use can affect how you feel, and your feelings are important!

If you're not sure where to start, think back to why you took the job in the first place and try to recapture that excitement and energy. Even if it's faded a bit, it's never too late to reignite it, especially if you focus on the things about your job that you're grateful for. And if you're considering a new job, use this gratitude practice to figure out what you really enjoy about your current one—those are the things you'll want to look for in your next job too.


#4. Know what size “cup” you have

Taking on more than you can handle is a surefire way to get burnt out, and it's also the easiest path to bitterness toward your boss or your work in general. Ask yourself, "Am I over-exerting myself at work?" Be brutally honest and curious about where you're saying "yes," pushing yourself beyond your limits.

When you're burnt out, decision-making can feel like a daunting task, largely due to what's happening in your brain. The amygdala, responsible for decision-making, actually undergoes changes in gray and white matter when dealing with burnout, depression, or anxiety. These changes can cloud your ability to make decisions.

That's where list-making comes in handy. It has the potential to help you take action and transition from burnout to joyful living.

Grab your journal and a colored pen of choice. Write down your official work duties, only listing what's essential for your position. Then, in a different color, jot down tasks that aren't necessary but stress you out—things you do because saying no is tough.

Once you visually see all the extra and unnecessary work you've been doing, make a commitment to yourself to start tactfully saying "no" to honor your limits. If you're gearing up for a conversation with your boss, consider completing this activity first. Then, armed with a list of tasks where you've strayed from your lane, discuss ways to realign your role responsibilities.

For a more eco-friendly approach you can do this activity in a document, spreadsheet, or interactive board like Miro. There are many more pantones to choose from online!


#5. Start saying “no” and don’t feel guilty about it

Have you ever felt pressured to always say “yes,” fearing the repercussions of saying “no”? Maybe you worry about seeming incapable or impolite. However, there are significant psychological benefits to asserting yourself and saying no when necessary.

Granted, saying no can be daunting, especially to a superior or colleague. Yet, it’s far more challenging to agree and then struggle to deliver or jeopardize your well-being, ultimately leading to burnout. 

Fortunately, there are constructive ways to decline that not only affirm your boundaries but also earn respect for your honesty.

When declining a request, consider emphasizing existing commitments or expressing concern about taking on tasks you can't fully handle at the moment to the best of your abilities.

For instance, you might say:


“I appreciate the opportunity, but I'm currently committed to x, y, and z. Completing your request on time would be challenging. Is there flexibility with the deadline? If so, I'm happy to assist!”


There are many ways to decline gracefully without appearing rude or unprofessional. Prepare a few responses in advance so you’re ready to assert yourself when faced with overwhelming demands. It’s great practice to start stepping into your power.


Learning from Famous Examples of Burnout

Even those who seem to have it all aren't immune to burnout. Take Arianna Huffington, for instance. As the co-founder and former editor-in-chief of The Huffington Post, she built an incredible media empire from scratch. But in 2007, she hit a breaking point, collapsing from exhaustion and burnout. This experience was a “wake-up call” that made her rethink her priorities and put self-care first. Today, she's an advocate for the importance of sleep, mindfulness, and taking breaks from technology through her company, Thrive Global.

Similarly, Sheryl Sandberg, the COO of Facebook, went through a tough time after the sudden death of her husband. In her and Adam Grant’s book "Option B," she shares her journey of coping with grief and finding strength by leaning on her support system and practicing gratitude.

Even athletes, who push their bodies to the limit, face burnout. Olympic gold medalist Simone Biles experienced burnout during her gymnastics career. The pressure to perform at the highest level took its toll, leading her to take a step back and prioritize her mental health. With therapy and self-care, she rediscovered her love for the sport and came back stronger than ever.


How Inclusivv is Helping Teams Beat Burnout

This month, as part of Mental Health Awareness Month, The Femtech Salon and The Lola hosted a Mental Wellness Summit in Atlanta, GA, sponsored by Inclusivv. The summit had wellness sessions, including pilates, breathwork, and a panel discussion on the impact of social media on well-being, featuring three female founders.

One of the key topics was Resilience & Burnout, which led to small-group structured conversations facilitated by our Marketing Manager, Emily Bissel, and two Inclusivv-trained facilitators, Sabine Genet and Jennifer Arnold. Each Inclusivv facilitator was paired with a clinician from The Better Spot, to lead a structured conversation on burnout, particularly for women in business.

Everyone left feeling refreshed, refueled, and re-ignited in their power. That’s the magic of sharing stories and feeling heard. 


Inclusivv Facilitator Network at The Lola in Atlanta, Georgia


We’re looking for more people to train in facilitation…

If you're interested in joining the Inclusivv Facilitator Network and participating in similar opportunities, consider enrolling in our Facilitator Training program, which focuses on developing empathy-based facilitation skills. We have already trained over 50+ leaders from organizations like Ameris Bank, Boston Children’s Hospital, Kohl’s and TK Elevator. Are you next?



Tags: Mental Health, Well-Being, Facilitator Training

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