Effective Strategies: How to Help Someone with Burnout

Last Updated
January 24, 2024

Burnout is a serious issue that can affect anyone who is overwhelmed with too much stress. It can lead to decreased productivity, loss of enthusiasm, and even depression. If you suspect someone you know may be suffering from burnout, it's important to take steps to help them regain their sense of balance and well-being. 

A tired woman struggling with life in a post about how to help someone with burnout

What is Burnout?

Burnout is the result of a prolonged stress response, often brought about by relentless working and/or personal pressures. It's characterized by mental and emotional exhaustion caused, by decreased motivation, catastrophic thinking disorder, lack of pleasure from activities usually enjoyed, self-doubt, guilt, and even physical symptoms such as headaches, gastrointestinal problems, and other stress-related problems like anxiety, anxiousness, nervousness, depression, as well as other mental health issues.[1]

And if you're an introvert struggling with this, try out our other blog Introvert Burnout: How To Recharge And Care For Your Needs.

Recognizing the Signs of Burnout 

Burnout can manifest in many different ways, so it’s important to pay attention to the signs. Some common burnout symptoms include: 

  • Exhaustion/fatigue: Feeling drained and lacking energy despite getting enough sleep. 
  • Loss of interest/motivation: Feeling apathetic or uninterested in activities that used to be enjoyable. 
  • Difficulty concentrating/remembering things: Struggling to focus on tasks that were once easy or having trouble remembering details about conversations or events.  
  • Irritability and/or anxiety: Feeling overwhelmed or highly anxious, leading to lashing out at loved ones.  
A man struggling to work in a post about how to help someone with burnout

Understanding the Causes of Burnout 

The first step in helping someone with burnout is to understand the root cause. Stress is typically a major factor, especially when it goes unmanaged for a long period. Other common causes include:

  • Poor work/life balance: Mental exhaustion caused by too much focus on work, or any other single activity, can lead to emotional exhaustion and prolonged stress. To help you improve this, we suggest reading How To Talk To Your Boss About Burnout.
  • Unrealistic expectations: When expectations are too high for their current capabilities in the workplace or home environment, can lead to job burnout.
  • Lack of control: Feeling like you don't have any control over decisions made at work or in your personal or family life, can be a major contributor to burnout.
  • Unclear goals and objectives: Not having a clear understanding of what is expected of you, can lead to burnout.
  • Unreasonable workloads: Too much work, with too little or no control and no time to complete it, can cause work-related stress.
  • Lack of control/autonomy: Feeling unable to make decisions or have no say in work-related problems that is causing burnout, a negative outlook, and daily stress.
  • Poor working relationships: Toxic, competitive, and unfriendly environments can lead to depression and burnout.
  • Low job satisfaction: Not feeling appreciated or being undervalued in the workplace and or family scenario can be draining and depleting.
A man trying focus in a post about how to help someone with burnout

Helpful Tips To Help Someone With Burnout

Burnout is a serious issue that can have lasting effects if not addressed. It’s important to recognize the signs and take steps to help someone with burnout before their situation becomes worse. Here are some helpful tips on how to help someone with burnout:

Understand How They Feel:

The first step in helping someone overcome burnout is to understand how they’re feeling. Try to get an idea of their struggles and ask questions about what’s going on to gain insight into their situation.

It's important to be a good listener, always make eye contact, and let them know you're there for them without judging or trying to fix the problem.

Examples:

Active Listening: When the person expresses their struggles, keep eye contact and remain attentive. Try your best not to offer solutions or judgments during this time - just be there for them and give them your full attention.

Empathy: Take a moment to imagine what it must feel like for the person in their current state. How can you be understanding and compassionate of their struggles to provide the best support possible? Show them that you care deeply about their well-being and do your best to validate their feelings.

Provide Positive Reassurance:

It’s essential to provide positive reinforcement and remind them that they can make it through their current situation. Encourage them to take small steps each day and stay focused on the positives rather than getting overwhelmed by all the negatives.

Encourage the person to keep trying and remind them that they have the strength to overcome their current situation. Show your support and offer reassuring compliments, such as acknowledging their hard work or praising them for dealing with their stress. Reassurance is one of the most effective tools in helping someone cope with burnout, so be sure to let them know that you are there and they’re not alone.

Here are some ways to provide positive reassurance:

• Acknowledge their hard work

• Give compliments on their handling of difficult situations

• Let them know you appreciate everything they do

• Offer words of affirmation and support

• Remind them they are strong and capable

• Help them recognize positive experiences and achievements

In addition to providing reassurance, it is important to create a safe environment where they can freely express their feelings. This allows you to understand the root cause of their burnout and find ways to help. Make sure that they know you will listen without judgment and make them feel comfortable talking about the issue.

Offer Support:

It’s important to provide your support by offering practical help such as helping with errands, giving them space to rest, or providing words of encouragement. Practical assistance can ease their stress and make things easier for them.

Here are some ideas on how you can offer support:

  • Help run errands or do chores
  • Offer to give a ride if needed
  • When feeling stressed, allow them some quiet time and space to rest
  • Offer encouraging words and show understanding of their feelings
  • Offer advice when asked for as it can have negative effects on an emotionally drained person
  • Provide comfort foods or groceries that may help reduce stress levels
  • Ask how you can help and be willing to listen when they need it.
  • Good sleep habits can make all the difference as well as progressive muscle relaxation in most cases.

Encourage Self-Care:

It's important to encourage them to practice self-care and take time for themselves so that they can recharge their energy levels. Suggest activities such as going for a walk, practicing meditation, or getting enough sleep.

Prioritize Positive Thinking:

Positive thinking is key when dealing with burnout as negative energy can easily lead to a downward spiral. Encourage the burned-out person to think positively and focus on their successes and strengths. Positive thinking can help lift their mood, increase motivation, and restore energy levels.

Here are some ways to encourage positive thinking:

  • Practice gratitude by focusing on the things the person is thankful for.
  • Focus on their successes and accomplishments, no matter how small they may be.
  • Look at problems from a different perspective and come up with creative solutions.
  • Celebrate small wins and progress, regardless of the outcome.
  • Make time for hobbies or activities that bring joy to the person.

Offer Emotional Support:

Most importantly, offer emotional support and understanding to the person struggling with burnout. Be bold and talk openly and honestly about their struggles; provide an open, safe environment where they feel comfortable discussing their feelings. Let them know that you are there for them no matter what, and encourage them to practice self-care strategies such as meditation, yoga, mindfulness, and journaling. Offer to take on some of their tasks or responsibilities to lighten the load and allow them more time to rest.

Here are a few additional tips for helping someone with burnout:

  • Be patient and understanding but also set limits when necessary.
  • Encourage them to participate in activities and hobbies that bring joy and relaxation.
  • Invite them out for social activities or offer to come over and spend quality time together; provide support.
  • Ask if they need help with projects or tasks; be willing to pitch in where needed.
Employees working together in a post about how to help someone with burnout

Seek Professional Help:

If the person is struggling with severe burnout, it might be beneficial to suggest they seek professional help. Burnout can be a difficult issue to manage on your own, so they must get the right support and guidance so that they can tackle the issue head-on.

For example, they could receive cognitive behavioral therapy which helps people identify patterns in their thinking that could be causing them to feel overwhelmed and develop strategies for dealing with their stress.

Conclusion

"Burnout prevention is an incredibly challenging experience, but it doesn’t have to be a life sentence. With the right support and understanding from those around them, people can learn how to manage their burnout and find ways to move forward with hope and resilience.

By being mindful of the signs of burnout and taking proactive steps to help someone with burnout prevention, you can play a key role in their recovery and make the journey back to well-being a little easier.[2]

FAQs

How To Help Someone With Burnout?

To help someone with burnout, it is important to be understanding and compassionate. Establish a safe space where they can openly talk about their feelings and concerns and provide emotional support. Suggest activities that can help them relax, take a break from their responsibilities, and practice self-care. Encourage them to seek professional help if necessary.

What Does Professional Help Involve? 

Professional help involves working with a therapist or counselor who can provide valuable support during times of stress & burnout. They will work on understanding why the individual is feeling burned out & assist them in developing strategies & solutions aimed at reducing stress & increasing well-being through evidence-based therapies such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), crippling anxiety & mindfulness approaches as well as lifestyle interventions depending on each person's needs & preferences.

References

  1. mentalhealth-uk: Burnout
  2. helpguide: Burnout Prevention and Treatment

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