Bouncing Back from Career Burnout: A 21 Day Journaling Guide
Most people express stress at their job from time to time. The stress that a job and career put on someone can be particularly challenging. When the stress is exacerbated and moves into burnout, there can be lasting physical and emotional effects. Although burnout is not considered a medical or mental health diagnosis, it can lead to further mental and physical health difficulties.
Burnout is considered a persistent state of emotional or physical exhaustion. Career burnout is when you are emotionally or physically exhausted as a result of your career or job. When you are burnt out from your career, you experience a heightened level of work or time spent doing work, yet it doesn’t result in any increased productivity. In fact, it often results in less productivity, a lower sense of accomplishment, and a loss of personal identity.
When burnout is not addressed early on, it can lead to lasting problems. Just because you have experienced burnout does not mean that there is no hope. In fact, taking the time to process how you are feeling is very important to recovering burnout. The more you can understand what it was that led you to the point of burnout, the more likely you are to be able to recover from burnout quickly and get back to feeling like yourself again.
Step 1: Acknowledge Where You Are
No matter where you want to go, acceptance is the first place to start. Acceptance does not mean that you will never change where you are, but it is so important to acknowledge where you are right now in order to get where you want to be. It’s important to fully take stock of your symptoms at first tIt’s important to fully take stock of your symptoms so that you can move past them. This part of journaling may feel uncomfortable because we are asking you to stick with your uncomfortable feelings for a bit. Although it may feel uncomfortable at first, it will be worth it in the long run. You’ll be able to look back on the following questions and understand how far you have managed to come.
Step 2: Dive Into Your Emotions
We’re going to ask you to sit with your emotions for just a bit longer. Really understanding where you are with your emotions is the first step for processing them. Often, we try to avoid our emotions and fight against them because they’re uncomfortable. We don’t want to experience them or to feel upset, ashamed, guilty, or confused. You may even feel anger or resentment towards yourself for getting to the point of burnout. There is nothing wrong with where your emotions are right now. All of the emotions that you are experiencing are valid and it’s important to acknowledge them.
It can be tough to acknowledge and fully immerse yourself in your emotions. During the next part of the journaling challenge, we invite you to be compassionate towards yourself in dealing with these difficult emotions. It isn’t easy to experience these emotions while you are recovering from burnout. Remember that the acknowledgment you are going through right now is just as important to the process as all the future journaling exercises will be.
Step 3: Begin with Acceptance
Acceptance of these emotions takes it a step further so that you can fully move on from them. Accepting emotions is more than just experiencing them. It is being at peace with the fact that you are no longer stuck in those emotions and you are acknowledging that you have the strength to be able to move forward.
Step 4: Acknowledge the Positive
While you are in the midst of burnout, it may be incredibly difficult to find any positives for why you experienced burnout or what good it may have brought you. At the same time, this is a part of the healing process to be able to acknowledge where you have been in order to get to where you want to me. Additionally, research has shown the positive effects of cultivating gratitude on a daily basis. It can lead to reduced stress, greater emotional awareness, and a more positive outlook.
Step 5: Find Strength Within
Going through career burnout can be difficult because it takes away a good amount of strength from how you were feeling. Especially for those who experience career burnout, they often place a significant amount of focus on their career and find strength from their career as well. Now that you are on your way out of burnout, it’s important to find strength and motivation within from different parts of yourself than your career.
Step 6: Focus on Your Identity
After experiencing career burnout, you may feel lost and as if you don’t fully know your identity and who you are. This often happens because we attach so much of ourselves and our worth to our career which ultimately leads to burnout. Finding ways in which you can regain your own identity will be important in helping you recover from burnout.
Step 7: Focus on Control
Oftentimes, when we are in the midst of difficult feelings or unhappiness, so much feels out of our control. We often will feel like we have nothing else that we can do and because of this, we feel even more out of control in our lives. The lack of control that we experience in burnout can be difficult to change, but we do often have some control over our lives and the burnout. Attempting to regain control can be very helpful as a way to find a way out of burnout and happiness. Even if you are not able to leave your job currently, try to identify if there are any ways in which you can change or alter your job through the aspects of control that you have.
Step 8: Identify Stress Sources
Research suggests that journaling about sources of your stress can be therapeutic in the way that you are better able to identify sources of your stress so that you can manage them in the future. Keeping a so-called stress diary is a great way to continue to identify current sources of stress alongside your burnout. Oftentimes, people realize while they are re going through burnout that there were other sources of stress that they did not realize they were experiencing in the moment. The following questions will help guide you through the use of a stress diary as a way to monitor your mood and feelings around difficult moments in your life.
Step 9: Social Support
One of the most important aspects to heal from any difficulty is to find those who can help support you. Social support is often linked to increased well-being, better recovery, and overall happiness. Although there is a line between finding people you know as social support and also looking for support from professionals, it is important to identify the ways in which you can ask and receive support during this time. Often, asking for support is difficult because those who went through burnout felt that they could handle everything on their own. Utilize the following questions to identify the ways in which you can lean on support in the upcoming months.
Step 10: Finding Meaning in Life
Positive psychologists suggest that finding meaning in life is an important way to find happiness and also to buffer against the negative effects of burnout. When you have prescribed so much of your life’s meaning to your career, it can be hard to reclaim the meaning in your life in a different way. You may not even be sure what the meaning of life is for you currently. But that’s okay because it will get better and you will be able to find meaning in your life outside of your career. Although your career can certainly be an important part of your meaning, it does not have to be the only part.
Step 11: Setting Boundaries
One way in which career burnout can often escalate is when poor boundaries occur. Boundaries can be physical or emotional, but they are spaces that you keep between yourself or something in order to uphold your own personal integrity and well-being. Setting boundaries if often a difficult task for someone to do, particularly if you have experienced burnout. One way in which burnout can often develop is if you continuously overstep your own boundaries in order to please your boss or someone else. For example, staying late to finish work everyday when you take on extra work that your boss requested you do despite having previous commitments. Another example of difficulties setting boundaries is by answering emails after hours or on the weekends. Although you may have struggled with setting boundaries in the past, this does not mean that it is impossible to set boundaries better in the future. The following journal prompts will help you explore both how boundaries may have contributed to your current well-being as well as ways in which you can set more rigid boundaries in the future.
Step 12: Practicing Positive Thinking
In addition to practicing gratitude, research in the field of positive psychology also consistently shows how helpful it can be to use positive affirmations. Positive affirmations are ways of looking into the positive and ways you can offer yourself reassurance in a time that may be difficult. Positive thinking can be particularly helpful for you to maintain hope throughout this process of healing.
Step 13: Midway Check-in
Burnout is a process and now you are already over halfway through this journaling challenge! As you have gone through this challenge it’s helpful to do regular check-ins with your thoughts, feelings, and emotions. In the beginning, you started seeing how you were feeling about burnout and you are now continuing to move through it. During this check-in, we encourage you to re-assess your thoughts, feelings, and actions as you continue to build awareness around your emotions. The more that you are able to continue to build this awareness, the better you will be able to recover and maintain this progress.
Step 14: Reward Your Efforts
Take your positive affirmations a step farther by acknowledging the challenges you have overcome so far and the efforts that you have made in recovering from burnout. So many people do not take the steps you are making in order to fully recover from burnout. There have also been other things that you have done during this time in order to work on yourself including building more awareness of your emotions, building in positivity, and also recognizing and accepting where you are in burnout. The following questions will help guide you as you continue to build upon where you have been and progress throughout burnout. They will also serve as a good way to continue to check-in on the practices that you want to continue to incorporate as you recover from career burnout.
Step 15: Exploring My Career Practices
Outside of your career, there are likely some habits within your career that you have picked up along the way that may have contributed to your burnout. For example, you may have gotten used to checking your email on the weekend, not taking a lunch break, or other practices that have made your burnout quicker than expected. This can also serve as a time for you to explore the career practices that you would like to change or incorporate into the future. The following questions will help you as you begin to build an idea of what your career should look like and what you would like it to look like.
Step 16: Building Health Habits
In order to prevent burnout, building in healthy habits is an integral piece of staying healthy. Healthy habits go further than just maintaining good sleep, exercise, and healthy eating habits. It can also include mindfulness and meditation exercises. The more that you are able to build in these habits in the meantime, the healthier you will end up being overall. As you are continuing to build upon healthy habits, try to establish your own healthy habits by exploring in the following journaling exercises what health means to you and how you can cultivate a healthy attitude.
Step 17: Change of Career Plans
During career burnout, you often end up feeling extremely exhausted and over your job. You may have been contemplating a new switch in your job or you may just be wanting to have a switch in your current role. The following questions and tomorrow’s questions will help you in deepening your awareness and understanding of your career path. It is up to you if you decide to stick with your current job or move onto another one. The current job that you have may be completely appropriate; however, it may be that you need some changes in how your job actually is.
Step 18: Dreams and Aspirations
One aspect of career burnout that occurs is that you lose all of the interest in your job and unfortunately your career suffers as a result. Throughout this process, you may have realized that your career desires and aspirations have changed. In fact, you may have decided that going into a completely different career field is a much better fit for you than the one that you are in. The following questions will help you explore this and understand what you are doing now that you want to continue in your career going forward. While the last questions may have been helpful in exploring if you would like a change in career plans, the following questions will help you identify the goals that you have for your career, regardless of whether you stay in your job or not.
Step 19: Your Identity Now
After going through a difficult time, whether it is career burnout, a breakup, grief, or a loss, you often learn new things about who you are and your identity. At the beginning of this journaling challenge, you explored your identity as it relates to your career as well as pieces of your identity that you found to be important to you that did not get as much of your attention as they could have. Now that you have had some time and distance from burnout, taking stock of what is important to your identity can help you more fully understand the changes you have made.
Step 20: How Has Life Changed
Burnout recovery is possible, and we hope that this journaling challenge has helped you get there. One of the helpful ways to continue to recover from burnout is to recognize all of the positives in your life currently. This will help you maintain the positive changes, emotional support, and ways in which you have changed.
Step 21: How You Will Continue to Heal
As you continue to move into your life without burnout, it’s helpful to think and continue to reflect on your life and how you would like your life to continue after this. Although healing is never a linear journey, we hope that this journey of reflection into yourself has been helpful and that you have continued to learn more about yourself and heal throughout it.