Burnout can be tricky to spot—especially when it’s caused by stress that builds up over time. However, this toxic mix of cynicism, depression, and exhaustion can lead to feelings of emotional numbness, lack of energy, concentration difficulties, and mood swings that put your recovery efforts at risk.
A Proactive Approach to Burnout
At Waypoint Recovery Center, we encourage our clients to take a proactive approach to dealing with burnout. Addressing feelings of burnout immediately helps reduce the risk that they’ll lead to relapse.
1. Use Your Journal to Document Your Recovery
Sometimes, the pressures of day-to-day life can feel so overwhelming that you start to forget how much you’ve already accomplished. Journaling is often recommended in recovery as a safe and private way to process your emotions, but your journal can also serve as a written record of your recovery journey. Past entries can help you identify patterns in your mood and behavior so you can take the necessary action to deal with your stress.
2. Set Healthy Boundaries
It’s OK to put yourself first. When you become overextended, don’t feel guilty about delegating obligations or politely declining requests that aren’t in line with your recovery goals. Asking your spouse to help with household chores or skipping social engagements that make you uncomfortable will let you keep your focus on continuing to progress with your recovery. Put your sobriety first.
3. Take a Deep Breath
When we’re feeling stressed, our heart rate increases, we start breathing more rapidly, and our muscles tense up. Deep breathing exercises help turn off this fight or flight reflex. Very Well Mind has examples of eight different deep breathing exercises you can try when you need to relax.
4. Use Urge Surfing to Keep Cravings Under Control
Stress is a well-known trigger for cravings, but a mindfulness technique called urge surfing can help you keep your cravings in check. Pioneered by the late psychologist Alan Marlatt, Ph.D., urge surfing asks you to view the physical sensations associated with your cravings as waves that rise in intensity, peak, and crash. Acknowledging your cravings as normal and observing the process without judgment lets you reclaim control and strengthens your confidence in your ability to make a lasting change in your lifestyle.
5. Don’t Skimp on Sleep
Getting up earlier or staying up later to try to accomplish everything on your to-do list is not a sustainable plan. Our bodies need rest to function properly. Skimping on sleep will leave you feeling irritable, fatigued, and vulnerable to cravings. Most adults need seven to nine hours of sleep per night, and it’s simply not possible to make up for a weekday sleep deficit by sleeping in or taking afternoon naps on the weekend.
6. Keep Caffeine and Sugar Consumption to a Minimum
A cup of coffee or a candy bar might provide a temporary energy boost, but you’ll eventually crash and feel even more sluggish. High-protein snacks like nuts, jerky, or hard-boiled eggs are a much better source of fuel. You should also keep a water bottle with you so you can stay properly hydrated throughout the day.
7. Get Organized
Organizational systems are a matter of personal preference, but finding a way to make sure you remember everything on your to-do list will greatly reduce your stress levels. Try setting alarms on your phone, making a color-coded calendar for each member of your household, or buying a small paper planner you can carry with you throughout the day.
8. Schedule Screen-Free Relaxation
Whether you’re answering work emails on the weekend or constantly checking your social media accounts for new likes, the pressure of being always connected can lead to unnecessary stress. Give yourself time to recharge by putting down your phone and turning off your laptop. Head outside to enjoy the beautiful scenery or spend some time on your favorite screen-free hobby. You may find that a short digital detox does wonders for your mood.
9. Lean on Your Sober Support Network
Feelings of burnout are common, but listening to others who’ve dealt with similar issues can help you feel less alone. The people in your sober support network want to see you succeed. If you’re looking for additional sources of support, we encourage you to attend our special alumni program following graduation from our South Carolina residential addiction treatment center. This group meets once a week, free of charge, to provide support and encouragement as participants make the transition back to independent living.