Cait Donovan article for Thrive Global How to Turn Burnout Around

Burnout. It’s everywhere. Loads of people are talking about it. Lots of people have ideas on how to ‘fix’ it.


Loads of the advice that I read is garbage and touted by people who haven’t been there. They don’t really understand what burnout entails, so they offer platitudes like:

“It’s a mindset shift, practice gratitude”
“Work less”
or my favorite
“Everyone is stressed, you just need a vacation”

While working less, practicing gratitude and taking enough vacation time are all things that help to PREVENT burnout, they aren’t things that will help you turn it around when you’re IN it.

So, how do you turn burnout around when you’ve found yourself there?

1. Start with your body. Because of the amount of coaching available, we sometimes forget the physical body – but if you’re burnt out, the first thing that you should be doing is a full physical, and if you can afford it, a workup with a functional medicine practitioner.

The difference between the two is that functional medicine is more personalized and more precise – but if what you can afford is a physical with your regular Doc, go do it.

Get blood work, test your urine. It’s hard to recover from burnout when your Vitamin D is too low, your inflammation levels are high, and you’re anemic. You might even get diagnosed with depression or another mental illness.

Fix everything you can there first, and then move to the next step.

While you’re in the body area, most likely you’ll need to stop exercising (if you’ve been able to lately anyway). You need to rebuild your energy before exercise GIVES to your body instead of TAKES from it.

2. Life Pruning. Cut stuff out. Seriously, just take stuff off your plate, as much as possible. It’s SO much easier to recover when you’ve broken everything down to the bare bones. As an entrepreneur, you’ll need to do this in your life AND your business. I have so much fun doing this with people – before we know it, we’ve freed up loads of time and energy from spaces where they previously ‘really needed’ to be active. Nope. Cut it out. Clean the slate as much as possible.

3.Get REALLY honest about where you are and how you feel about it. This is where the right coaches are a GODSEND with burnout – the asking of all the right questions can give you such clarity about where you are and how you feel that the next steps seem to pop out of the air spontaneously. Here, you’ve got to be willing to get ugly – about your resentments, anger, frustrations, etc. By shining a light on them, we can shift the patterns and change the way you’re spending energy in the future.

Especially for entrepreneurs, admitting to burnout is HARD, so this step is crucial!

4. Make a plan for new boundaries (internal and external – YES, there’s a difference!). Your plate is clean and you have the power to redesign it – be CHOOSY, be SELECTIVE, your plate can always only be 20, 40, 50, or 70% full – there’s no need to aim for 100%. Leave yourself some space for surprises. Learn to say no more. Learn to offer less. Learn to say yes more. Learn what to do when your options are between shitty and shittier (science says when stuck between a choice of resentment or guilt, choose guilt… it’s opposite of what most of us do…but…. SCIENCE. ;))

5. Add in an energy building ritual. There are loads of options here. Breathing, yoga, meditation, qigong, light exercise, visualization, community work, acupuncture, reiki, massages, we could go on and on – start practicing a method of filling yourself up with the only goal being… filling yourself up.

Make it a non-negotiable. I LOVE when I can combo my coaching and acupuncture with local peeps!

6. Practice energy management with grace. People don’t usually burn out once… it’s one of those things that happens in multiples. Leave some space for f ups. Create space for grace. This is a practice, you’ll get better at it with time. I promise that. Make notes of things that build and drain your energy – and do the best you can to keep the building portion a little higher than the draining portion 🙂

This is not a complete list, I’ve written a 175-page book on the topic (editing process happening soon… hoping to publish in 2020!) so there’s loads more to talk about but this should get you off to a pretty great head start.

Happy (burnout free) 2020!


  • Caitlin Donovan

    Burnout Expert

    Caitlin Donovan is one of New York City’s leading burnout experts, host of “Fried – The Burnout Podcast,” and author of the book The Bouncebackability Factor. Her master’s degree in traditional Chinese medicine enables Caitlin to combine Eastern wisdom with her natural practicality. After treating more than 25,000 patients, Caitlin added 1:1 coaching, corporate workshops, and keynotes for companies such as PTC and Lululemon – all with a focus on burnout. She has been featured on podcasts and online magazines such as “Elephant Journal,” “Thrive Global,” “Addicted 2 Success,” and “Your Story. Your Health.” as well as quoted in Oprah Magazine. Caitlin and her husband spent 12 years living in Europe, but now make their home in New Jersey. When Caitlin is not speaking or coaching on burnout, you can find her with her husband and their white fluffy dog hiking around NJ and NY.