avoiding burnout

In early addiction recovery, you may face many challenges. Overcoming challenges will help balance emotions and rebuild the relationships with yourself and others. However, early recovery can also be an exciting time with seemingly endless possibilities. This can create a great sense of confidence, and while confidence is good for growth, overconfidence can soon have you trying to juggle too much. Pursuing too much too fast can lead to burnout which creates stress, anxiety, depression and may lead to relapse.

Burnout occurs because you are no longer spending time being driven by addiction; therefore, you find that you have a lot of time to fill. Having a great deal of time in your day can be intimidating and overwhelming, and you might overbook yourself to avoid thinking about alcohol or other substances. Luckily, there are healthy ways to help you spot the signs of and manage burnout. 


Signs of Burnout

There are varying contributors to experiencing burnout. Some of the early stages can be deceptive as they might feel like motivation; however, they could lead to overworking and running down your stores of energy. You soon might feel overwhelmed and develop the sense that you have no control over your life. Contributors to burnout include:

  • Excessive drive/ambition
  • Neglecting your own self-care needs
  • Denial
  • Withdrawing or depression
  • Isolation
  • Mental or physical deterioration

Identifying burnout in the early stages of addiction recovery helps you maintain balance and keep yourself functioning with a healthy routine. Effectively managing your time will also help you understand when you are developing burnout. Here are four ways to do just that:


1. Schedule Regular Social Activities

Sometimes burnout does not manifest from doing too much but rather doing the same thing over and over. Predictability is one thing but becoming complacent because you are not making time to socialize with others or trying new things can have you feeling stuck. Things like visiting with others, watching movies and taking a night to pamper yourself can help you unwind and boost your overall energy and morale.

You likely understand by now that your support group is one of the best allies in recovery. Making plans or arranging online visits with friends, family and peers not only strengthens your social bonds, but it is a great way to express how you’re feeling and how others are feeling, too. You are likely to discover that others in your support network share similar experiences with feeling burned out or stuck, and this can bring comfort in knowing that you are not alone. The next time you find yourself with extra time on your hands, take the opportunity to reach out to others or use this time to do something nice for yourself,


2. Pursue a Hobby

In early recovery, you might not be able to break away from a mindset that revolves around what you can and cannot do to sustain recovery. Everything you do might seem like you are trying too hard to make something work just because you understand it might benefit your recovery. A recovery-centered frame of thinking is good, but it can also become exhausting when you over-scrutinize every decision you make.

Understand that recovery is all about showing yourself what you can do now that you are sober. Venturing into a hobby or career field that you have always desired or just discovered can soon have you realizing an entirely different skillset and talent that you did not know you had. Pursuing something new also helps you break out of the feeling of a weekly grind or that you cannot have an adventure in recovery. It is important to remember that you don’t need to define yourself by your hobby. You might try something only to discover you don’t like it, and that’s –OK –  you went on that journey. There are plenty of other hobbies to pursue.


3. Make an Escape List

An “escape list” involves everything you need to do to leave a situation that is causing stress, leading to burnout or creating negative thoughts. For example, when you feel stressed, you might have self-care practices to help you cope, such as exercise, mindfulness or taking a bath. For feelings of depression or anxiety, you’ll want to have contacts that you can reach out to for help. Contacts include friends, family, peers and health professionals that you can trust. The list might also have other tasks; for example, if you do not like your job and feel it contributes to burnout, then put it on your list that you will apply to at least three jobs per week. An escape list helps you focus on what is important, holds you accountable and most importantly, helps keep you motivated to moving forward.


4. Don’t Justify Your Burnout

Overcoming challenges in life and recovery takes knowing yourself, planning and putting it into action. However, it might be easier to hold your boss, friend or peers responsible for why you feel burned out. Therefore, you can justify the burnout, dwell in the negative and use both as an excuse not to motivate yourself to change your situation. Reaching out for help is essential but accepting the part you play is just as important.

When you stop relying on others to change your situation, you’ll soon see more good and more opportunities in your life. You can’t control how others act or think, but you can control how you act and think. You have the freedom to move away from something or somebody that is a negative influence on your recovery. If you can’t move out of it immediately, then reassure yourself that you can act on the options you have to bring you out of a challenging situation.


Learning how to avoid addiction recovery burnout takes time and will likely require different approaches before finding what works best. At Associated Behavioral Health Care, we work with individuals to help them acquire and sharpen the tools necessary for recovery. With four locations in the greater Seattle area, we make it convenient to get help. If you are in recovery or feeling burned out and need professional support, then reach out to ABHC at (844) 335-7384