Does burnout recovery always require radical change?



When I deliver talks about burnout and how to come through the other side, I’m often asked to give 5 or 10 things that people can do to recover from burnout. Well, if you know me and my work, you’ll know I believe there are 3 things that people can do to prevent and recover from burnout.


  1. Get really clear on who you are at the core

  2. Implement boundaries

  3. Take time for yourself


But I have noticed that when we are clear on who we are at the core, that can become a catalyst for radical change to be made within our lives. So for me personally I don’t believe burnout recovery always requires radical change, but perhaps radical change is the outcome of getting clear on who you are at the core.


Of course if what we are doing today and continue to do tomorrow and the day after and the day after that, has got us to the point of burnout; continuing to do what we have been doing, is clearly not going to be enough to get us through recovery.


If you broke your leg today walking up a hill (touch wood that’s not going to happen), the bone in your leg is not going to recover by walking on it. You will need rest, you may need surgery, you will need to take care of it and yourself. And yet, it seems when it comes to burnout, we don’t make the changes. You have a choice in what you do, you don’t have to do anything, but I have worked with women to help them recover from burnout and get really clear on who they are at the core. From there you establish boundaries and take time for yourself.


My burnout led me to having 2 operations within 48 hours in July 2013.

My body was screaming and giving me signals for months and I ignored them all and then suddenly my body made me listen. From those first initial symptoms to the day I went for my op, it was 7 months. It was during my recovery from these 2 operations and the consultants talking to me about burnout, that I started to recognise that I need to start making changes and this was the start of my burnout recovery.


I knew that I had to align back to my values and start getting clear on who I was at the core. I knew I had to start setting boundaries and over an 18 month period, I had left my corporate role, started my own business, I had ended my marriage separating from my husband, I had moved house and started a new relationship. I had also started 3 different qualifications to help people understand how to prevent and recover from burnout. This then led to my 2nd burnout in 2015.


I was doing too much instead of being.


Your definition of radical change may be very different from my definition. But I do believe it’s vitally important to get clear on who you are at the core and once you are clear, this could well be the driver for creating radical change.


When the World Health Organisation (WHO) redefined the definition for burnout back in 2019, they said that burnout was prolonged periods of high pressured stress relating to the workplace. Over the last few years we have talked about pandemic fatigue, political burnout, fitness burnout, zoom burnout, relationship burnout, parental burnout, creative burnout and even video game burnout. So we have all of these different elements of burnout and WHO only defines burnout as from workplace stress. We know that workplace burnout doesn’t just impact us at work, it can impact ourselves, our confidence, self-esteem, it can create more pressure and stress in our relationships.


Burnout isn’t a mental health condition.


Prolonged periods of high stress can lead to mental health conditions like anxiety and depression and I’m sure it contributed to my Bipolar. But it’s not considered to be a mental health condition. Last year there was a survey done by Monster (the job searching website) and it said that 69% of employees are experiencing burnout symptoms whilst working from home. That was up 35% from 2 months earlier.


You may have heard me talk about the Deloitte report before and that 57% of women are struggling to switch off.

7% of women are saying they took on more responsibility at home and work during the pandemic.

45% of women that had changed their hours due to taking on more responsibility, said that they were experiencing negative impacts at work.

1 in 3 women are reporting wanting to leave the workplace as a result of burnout.


So this is impacting us on many different levels and sometimes when we reach the point of burnout we do have this breakthrough moment, this light bulb moment, this a ha! moment which can make us completely overhaul our lives. We might quit our jobs, move to another country, end a relationship, take our career down a different path. Dramatic life changes might be beneficial to some people, but if we’re not tackling the reason for the burnout, it doesn't matter what else we move onto, then the burnout will just follow us around.


Sometimes we can make smaller changes and implement new habits, such as improving our sleep habits. It could be that we just make a smaller change and focus on improving our sleep habits, because we know that this is important and a way of resetting when we are stressed. It could be that we take more holidays or even ensure we take a walk every lunchtime, meditating or doing more exercise. Things like self care and changing our mindset are important, but if we focus purely from a workplace perspective, and we say that you are the one responsible for getting burnt out, so you are the one responsible for getting yourself out of it; then that is unhelpful, especially if the workplace is the problem and their unreasonable demands.


What I noticed when I went through burnout, was that at the time a number of organisations were closing for a week to give their employees a chance to recover from burnout.


If you are suffering from genuine burnout, 1 week off is not going to fix it.


1 week is not enough time or space to recover from burnout. Burnout can impact on many different levels; how long have you been operating and functioning in this burnout stage? If you have completed my masterclass, you will know it’s not always the situation that causes the stress, it could also be our thought patterns.


Most definitely a certain percentage of burnout recovery needs to come from us, the individual.

We need to get clear on our values and who we are at the core.

We need to be implementing better boundaries.

We need to be taking more time for ourselves.


But if our organisation is not looking at what is causing our burnout in the first place, staying there is not going to help you recover. If burnout is starting to become a big issue in the organisation, then they should be working out what they can do to stop it. Not all of the recovery responsibility falls on your shoulders. Yes you can make changes that you need, but if they aren’t willing to change, you may then realise that that organisation is not for you anymore.

If it’s a job that you love and for whatever reason you can’t just change jobs, then it’s highly likely you will continue to reach burnout again, if the organisation doesn’t make changes.


Is it the leadership creating a culture of high stress, pressure and fear?

Do you have the right amount of people in your team?

Do you have the correct resources?

Do you have enough budget?

Do you have the right level of autonomy and responsibility?


Are you encouraged to take time out for yourself?

Are you given freedom to take breaks when you need them?

Are you trusted?

Are you valued and appreciated?

Are you rewarded?


If the workplace is the driver behind workplace burnout, they cannot put sole responsibility on you to recover from burnout. Changes need to be made.


The definition of insanity: “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”


I don’t think there are 10 or even 5 things that can prevent and help us recover from burnout. I genuinely believe there are 3.


  1. Get really clear on who you are at the core

  2. Implement boundaries

  3. Take time for yourself


WHO ARE YOU?


Keep asking yourself this. Who are you at your core?


Setting boundaries becomes so much easier once we know who we are at the core. They can help us prevent burnout and lead us to success.


Give yourself permission to make time for yourself. This is non negotiable.


These things combined will help you on your road to success, help you be more confident and help you live without guilt.


For me, I recognised that being out of alignment with my values and who I was, led to and contributed to my burnout. When we are in alignment, there is no such thing as high pressure, high stress, overworking, people pleasing. As core-led women, every decision we make is aligned to who we are at the core. It doesn’t mean we get it right 100% of the time, but we do recognise and establish our boundaries. </