5 Ways To Deal When You’re Burnt Out On Recovery

By Beth Leipholtz 05/03/17

Recognize how you are feeling and then come up with a plan to refresh yourself and your attitude.

A man holding up his hand with 5 fingers raised.
5 Helpful tips for when focusing on recovery becomes tiresome

Anyone who is in recovery knows that it can be a bit exhausting at times. As with anything in life, when so much time and energy is put into one thing, it becomes entirely possible to get a little bit burnt out on that one thing.

I’ve been dealing with this the past few months when it comes to my recovery; it makes me a little nervous, since I know that I need to focus on recovery in order to maintain it. But at the same time, I’ve been feeling like I focus on it almost too much in certain instances. Feeling this way has been eye-opening because it has forced me to examine my day-to-day habits and how they relate to recovery. It has also pushed me to be more conscious of self-care and evaluating why I may be feeling exhausted in relation to recovery.

Here are five things I’ve found helpful when feeling burnt out:

1. Simply taking a break for however long you need to. I will be the first to admit that I am awful at this. Because I write about sobriety and recovery so often, the topic is almost always on my mind. I am always thinking of new ways to write about recovery and what it means in my world, and how that could relate to others. Because my mind is go-go-go when it comes to this, I need to take a step back when I am feeling overwhelmed. Most recently, I started to feel as if my recovery was defining me in a way. Don’t get me wrong, I like being sober and I like discussing it with people. But at the same time, there is so much more to me than my recovery. When I recognized that I was starting to feel this way, I made the decision to take a step back from writing about recovery. For a few weeks I wrote about my other passions instead, and when I returned to writing about recovery, I found that I felt refreshed and had new ideas again. Though not everyone in recovery can attribute that burnt out feeling to writing, there is likely something they can attribute it to. The trick is identifying that and then being willing to take a break from it if you think that is in your best interest.

2. Not feeling like you owe anyone an explanation or apology. This one was huge for me, as I am somewhat of a people pleaser. When I took a break from the recovery writing world, I felt guilty, like I was turning my back on something that had been so helpful and vital in my own recovery. But rather than explain my decision to everyone, I just backed off quietly. I knew this choice was about me and my well-being. Other people didn’t have to understand or approve, as long as I knew I was doing what was the right thing for me at that time. Rather than worry about people’s reactions or opinions, I just listened to my gut feeling. Then, after a few weeks, I took to my blog’s Facebook page and explained that I’d just needed a little break. That was that. I returned to writing shortly after and no one has held anything against me. It’s important to realize that whatever your recovery looks like, you are the only one who has to understand it. As long as you are taking care of you, other people’s thoughts are irrelevant.

3. Finding another hobby or passion to focus on. This one relates to what I said previously about feeling as if my recovery was defining me. Though that isn’t necessarily a bad thing, I know that there is more to me than the fact that I don’t drink -- and it’s important to me that other people know that as well. I find it vital to have a life and identity outside of recovery, so I’ve been making the effort to do just that. This could look different for everyone, but I’ve found this passion in working out. In beginning Crossfit five months ago, I wasn’t necessarily looking for an escape or for another way to define myself and my abilities. But that is exactly what I ended up finding, and I am more than OK with that. For one hour each day, I can walk into the gym and shut out everything else going on in my head and in my life. For that hour, it’s about me, the weights and overcoming my doubts. This part of my life has nothing to do with whether or not I drink, and I think that’s why I enjoy it so much. Crossfit lets me prove myself in ways that are entirely different than how I’ve proven myself in recovery.

4. Talking about it. Though you owe nobody an explanation for why your recovery looks the way it looks, it still may be helpful to talk through with friends. For example, I didn’t realize that a break from writing was what I needed until I was having a conversation with a friend about feeling overwhelmed and exhausted. She was the one to suggest that I take a short break from focusing so much on my sobriety and then see how I feel afterwards. In this case, she was right and it was a conclusion I wouldn’t have come to had I not spoken up. Our friends often see things in a different light than we do, especially when it comes to recovery. Their thoughts and opinions can be helpful and can aid us in determining the best course of action going forward. Plus, simply talking through emotions is always helpful.

5. Putting yourself first. In a world where we are always so busy and have so many things to do all the time, it can be difficult to take time for ourselves. We may even feel selfish for doing so when we know there are many other tasks we should be focusing on. But the bottom line is that sometimes self-care is necessary in order to perform well in other areas of life. If I don’t take care of myself, I feel my motivation start to slip away in every area of my life, including recovery. I lose any desire to complete tasks and I become irritable and not a nice person. When this is beginning to happen, I can recognize it and know that it is time for me to take time for me. This may mean coming home from work and doing nothing except watching Netflix. Or it could mean a long bath and a book. Or it could even mean going to bed hours earlier than normal. Whatever the case, it’s necessary sometimes. Self-care is not something any of us should feel guilty about.

Feeling burnt out can look different for everyone in recovery, as can the methods in which to combat that feeling. The important thing is taking the time to recognize how you are feeling and then coming up with a plan to refresh yourself and your attitude.

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Beth is a Minnesota girl who got sober at age 20. By day she is a website designer, and in her spare time she enjoys writing about recovery at www.lifetobecontinued.com, doing graphic design and spending time with her boyfriend and three dogs. Find Beth on LinkedInInstagram and Twitter.