Everyone experiences burnout. Certain life circumstances—such as workplace pressure, caring for a busy family or an ailing senior parent, or consistent financial trouble—can wear you down. If it’s important to maintain sobertity in addition to everything else, it’s only natural to feel stretched thin. So how do you cope with burnout in recovery?
Understanding the Effects of Burnout
Many people have various ways to define what burnout means to them, but generally, it’s simply feeling exhausted or overwhelmed by all the stress in your life. Each one of us copes with stress differently, too, depending on key triggers and events. Burnout frequently strains your energy, compromises productivity, and greatly alters your perspective—you could feel more cynical, helpless, hopeless, or resentful.
Before recovery, you might have functioned solely on the compulsive behavior rooted in addiction. Now that you’ve worked so hard to develop healthier habits and methods for maintaining sobriety, the last thing you want is for burnout to undo everything, leaving you emotionally drained and compromising your mental and physical health.
According to organizational psychologist and burnout coach Emily Ballesteros, there are three primary types of burnout which are usually found in the workplace, but also apply to personal situations. In an interview with CNBC, she identified them as:
- Burnout by volume. “It’s characterized by constantly being booked back-to-back, having no time or energy for yourself, and feeling completely exhausted,” she said.
- Burnout by boredom. “If you told a person who feels burned out by boredom, ‘your life is going to look exactly like this a year from now,’ they would have a full-on meltdown, because they are that unsatisfied,” Ballesteros said.
- Burnout by socialization. People pleasers are often susceptible to burnout because they “would rather be uncomfortable than potentially make somebody else uncomfortable. People pleasers are natural ‘givers,’ they may struggle to say ‘no’ to obligations and attract people who make a lot of demands,” she said.
If you identify even just a little with one or all of these, and feel your sobriety is being threatened by the condition, here’s what you can do.
First: Recognize the Signs of Burnout
Your feelings of mental or physical exhaustion may ebb and flow depending on the circumstances, but HelpGuide outlines the following signs, which we provide verbatim, that you might be headed toward burnout:
- Every day is a bad day.
- Caring about your work or home life seems like a total waste of energy.
- You’re exhausted all the time.
- The majority of your day is spent on tasks you find either mind-numbingly dull or overwhelming.
- You feel like nothing you do makes a difference or is appreciated.
Further, there are behavioral, emotional, and physical signs of burnout including, but not limited to:
- Feeling trapped
- Lack of motivation and satisfaction
- A negative outlook
- Choosing isolation over connection
- Taking out your frustrations on other people
- Trouble concentrating
- Wanting to use drugs, alcohol, or food to cope
- Changes in sleep patterns and appetite
- Headaches, muscle aches, and lowered immunity
Burnout often happens when we take on too much, feel as though we don’t have enough support, and lack work/life balance. Some people, especially those with personalities who drive themselves to overachieve or to maintain perfection in all things, might be more susceptible to burnout than others.
It can be a serious challenge to maintain sobriety while dealing with burnout because you have a greater understanding of what’s at risk if you relapse. With higher stakes, there’s more pressure. Here’s how to cope.
How to Bounce Back
First, honestly acknowledge how you feel, and find some compassion for this current state of being. Recognize that you’re only human, albeit a wonderful one, but things have to change.
- If you haven’t already reached out to your sober support network with an SOS, do so right away. These people totally get all aspects of how your life is right now, even if they don’t share the same stressors as you, and will help you stay the course for your sobriety success.
- Really dig deep to find the true sources of stress. This might require a hard look at what’s going on and why, but it’s totally necessary to be honest with yourself and others.
- Evaluate your commitments, and see what can be rescheduled, canceled, or modified. This is a good time to speak up and express what’s stressing you and ask for help.
- Talk about your concerns with someone you trust so you can not only vent, but also open up opportunities for finding viable solutions.
- Make time for self-care. If your essential routines and rituals took a backseat because of everything, see what you can introduce back into your schedule today, even on a small scale.
Finally, remember that you’re not alone. Meaningful connection is what will help you persevere.
Willingway Can Help
When you truly need people who understand the value you place on wellness and sobriety, attend one of our continuing care community groups. Wherever you are in the Southeast, there’s a group of individuals just like you ready to lend a hand. These groups are open to everyone, regardless of whether you have been in treatment, are a person seeking recovery, or are a family member or friend of someone in recovery, and whether this is your first or last step in the recovery process.