12 Signs of Burnout And How to Bounce Back Starting Now

You may have noticed that lately, my conversations have been centred around something so many are feeling right now. 

Burnout. Ugh. 

Today I’m doing not what I would call a burnout wrap-up because that conversation will never die, but I am doing something BIG. Today will teach you to recognise the 12 stages of burnout, yes. But more importantly, it’s about giving you license to bounce back from it.

Today I’m sharing transformative practices and steps that will not only help you bounce back from burnout but can usher in a new way of being. It’s going to set you up for a lifestyle of success, and productivity like you’ve never had before, but this time, it comes with peace in your mind and heart. 

More unbridled joy, you-time, and no more you-know-what. BURNOUT. It’s so hot right now. 

The reason? Well, there are actually FIVE main lifestyle habits that lead to burnout. If you haven’t, you should pause right here and go see how many inhabit your life. It might surprise you. 

I also gave a detailed walk-through on how to use visualisation meditation for happiness and success in the face of burnout. 

Then, I threw out the crazy bone that you should forget the whole notion and pressure of excelling at time management and instead increase your productivity through intentional attention. 

Why High Achievers Burn Out

The time we’re in on this planet right now is another significant factor in burnout. This time of pandemic, unprecedented expectation, uncertainty. 

Specifically, I’m talking to you high achievers because you are f-e-e-l-i-n-g t-h-e b-u-r-n right now, aren’t you? And not in the good way. You’re feeling the burnOUT—more than most—because you take on more than most because it’s hard and scary to consider what happens if you don’t. 

The world right now is happy to put more responsibility on the plates of the people who can’t say no. So high achievers have been going fast and furious for quite some time, and if you miraculously haven’t already, my friend, you’re getting closer, am I right? Closer to burnout. 

Ouch. It burns, alright, doesn’t it? Let’s douse it for good.

12 Stages Of Burnout—And Transformative Tips For Bouncing Back!

1. Celebrating Excessive Ambition

Picture success as a sliding scale, where there’s burnout on one end and excessive ambition on the other. Our society really celebrates that ambitious side because we have a kind of obsession to prove ourselves. But when you place intention around not needing to prove yourself and not needing to be so ambitious that you’ve got nothing left for yourself, we bring balance to the scale. 

This brings us to sign #2 …

I get it, you love your work right?! So do I! I LOVE it. It’s interesting and challenging and rewarding in all the right ways. And when we have this is can be hard to establish boundaries on our time, effort and personal life. They say that successful givers give within healthy boundaries. The question is – do you know yours? And do you have clarity on upholding those boundaries?

Healthy ambition could look like this:

Establish healthy boundaries on your time and your value, including pre-agreeing with yourself an acceptable range of flexibility, and what you will say in order to hold those boundaries when the need arises.

Establish healthy boundaries on your time and your value, including pre-agreeing with yourself an acceptable range of flexibility, and what you will say in order to hold those boundaries when the need arises. For example when someone asks for – just one more minute, or just this tiny thing…how much will you accept, and what will you do when you reach too much – if you decide this ahead of time it makes it much easier to uphold these boundaries when the time comes.

2. Pushing Yourself To Work Harder

Balance on the scale of success is having ambition, but only for purpose-led things that bring us happiness. Having a sense of purpose for the things we put energy toward fuels us. There is no deeper well of power than one whose source is purpose. 

Balanced ambition could look like …

  • Placing healthy boundaries around your time: time off/holidays; time spent on something/someone
  • Financial remuneration: Knowing the value you bring to your work, asking for it, and considering what range of balance you’re comfortable with, lest you seek change. 

3. Neglecting Self Care And Needs

Forming a new habit is easier when a formed alongside a ritual. Schedule your rituals, respect their sacredness, and you can measurably tack new habits onto other established routines around self-care, personal care, and recognising your needs. 

Simple ways to recognise and ritualise your needs:

  • Practice sacred scheduling. Say you feel thirsty. Instead of just grabbing the first glass you see and chugging some water, select a glass or bottle you love. Cut up fruit and add it to your water, just because it feels and tastes lovely. Starting with simple rituals will lead you to more significant practices that honour your needs and bolster your healthy boundaries.

Starting with simple rituals will lead you to more significant practices that honour your needs and bolster your healthy boundaries. 

4. Displacement Of Conflict

Displacement of conflict is, for example, forgotten appointments, lateness, or other examples of ignoring the stakes because you can’t deal. Learning to authentically look conflict in the eye with compassion and empathy is a strength many can’t muster.  

But when you make nonjudgmental observations about your behaviours, actions, and reactions, you see more clearly the needs that are not being met—the reason for your or another’s conflict—and only then can you look at how you might meet those needs.

You might be interested in learning more about: The school of non-violent communication. 

Healthy ways of diffusing potential conflict might be:

  • Owning it and making another plan: Firstly simply being straight up and communicative about when you will be arriving, when you leave, and how long you will be. People rarely mind if they are informed and can plan their lives. It’s often the waiting around not knowing that is infuriating rather than moving the expected meeting. 
  • Making different choices next time: This may be planning less in a day, giving yourself more sleep, prep time, travel time, and ensuring you stay in communicado with affected persons!
  • Non-violent communication: This revolutionary technique  


5. Changes In Values To Validate Self-Worth 

Hand-in-hand with ignoring conflict, justifying our mistakes rather than addressing them is risky business that leads to burnout. To flip the switch on this stage, we need to find ways that re-associate our self-worth with moments of joy rather than, say, the success or failure of a project at work, or the look of frustration we got from our significant other when we didn’t do the dishes (again).

What sparks joy for you, as Mari Kondo would say? What sparks your connection with others? What are the most important things in your whole life?

When people are asked what they regret on their deathbed, they never say “money” or “I didn’t work enough.” 

They speak of a desire to spend more time with family, friends, and loved ones. 

“Connecting” Activities That Can Validate Your Self-Worth:

  • A night dedicated to fun every week: Date night, a night out with friends, or a night in (or out!) with yourself
  • Laugh every day: Watch your favourite sitcom, hang out with your funny co-worker, or go see some comedy 

6. Denial Of Problems And Shame

Stonewalling your feelings, actions, or inactions or externalising the problem to another person or thing keeps you from curating the life you say you want. Turning that around, finding baby steps within yourself to address your issues, brings you into the autonomous being you indeed are—the one who makes personal decisions and is in control of creating happiness in your life. 

Consider this every time you point a finger at someone else: There is only one finger pointing at them while three of your fingers point back at you. 

An Exercise In Taking Responsibility: With those three fingers pointing your way, come up with an answer to these three questions.

What is my fear/Why am I pointing?

What responsibility can I take in this moment of blame to positively impact and influence what happens next?

What can I be grateful for in this experience?

7. Social Withdrawal

If you’ve noticed yourself withdrawing from face-to-face social networking or gathering (outside of pandemic necessitation, that is), why is that? Does it increase stress or feelings of isolation? Has it become merely a means of gratification that leads to excessive indulgences in food, drink, drugs, or spending? 

The antidote to these behaviours and the feelings that drive them is not actually to pull away socially and avoid social situations. It’s to lean IN, but only to the relationships you trust. If you feel you don’t have trusted relationships you can confide in, it can be just as valuable to phone the Good Samaritans, seek CBT therapy, or reach out to friends or family with whom you’ve lost touch. 

What You Can Ask Of Your Support System:

 “I’m going through a tough time, and it’s hard for me to admit it. It would be helpful to me if you could check in on me every now and then.”

“Even if I say I’m fine, underneath it, I really appreciate your checking in.” 

8. Obvious Behaviour Changes 

This symptom of burnout is a rather serious one. Take pause for a moment for some self-awareness. Do you care less about doing or not doing the things you love? What lifestyle changes do you see in yourself that you didn’t necessarily plan for and maybe wouldn’t have planned for if it had been suggested previously? 

Addressing Changes In Behaviour Could Look Like …

  • Trying a positive visualisation meditation
  • Going to a group session where you share your experience
  • Noting resistance to things you know matter to you. It’s important to notice that as resistance and not a legitimate reason not to take that positive action. 

9. Confusion Of Identity

Questioning your purpose or your life choices can be extremely painful. Unfortunately, seeing one’s life as meaningless is something that people have been experiencing regularly throughout lockdown and this state of social isolation. 

Finding Yourself Again Could Look Like …

  • Walking in nature 
  • Listening to live music, drawing, or journaling
  • Checking in on old loves—that is, things that you have enjoyed in the past. If you aren’t feeling joy at them just yet, you’re still exposing yourself to an experience outside your own head. It may take several exposures to wake you up inside.
  • Noticing if there’s even a tiny smile that plays on your lips, something that hints at inspiring that gets you out and interacting in the world. 

10. Inner Emptiness 

This feeling is very much a time to reach out to friends, family, and even therapy.

It’s time to take a break, have a few days off, go for a little holiday, go and stay with somebody that you know for a long enough time that you can relax and be yourself with, or go somewhere completely new.

Depending on your personality type, you could want to feel nurtured and nourished, or you might be drawn to situations that elevate your aliveness and inspire. 

Alternatively, when you feel so empty you have no desire to seek your own refill, seek someone else’s. Tutor a child in a skill you have; mentor someone. Volunteer at a soup kitchen or animal rescue. While it may not resolve your emptiness entirely, it is all but guaranteed to give your heart a lift by proxy to someone else’s.

11. Depression Sets In

You’re feeling indifferent, hopeless, fatigued. And you are not alone.

But recognise something: This is not your life—this is your life on burnout. This is not you—this is an isolated, imbalanced version of yourself. 

Every state of being is a temporary state, and this is no exception. It is possible to turn this downward spiral upwards. 

Have patience with yourself, but also: Plan to decide. Make the decision that “this will not be me.” If you need some self-affirmations right now, here they are:

What if I get back into my own skin? 

What if I can feel like myself again? 

What if I can be even happier, stronger, more me than I’ve ever been? 

Make a reminder list: 

… of things that you’ve achieved in your life. 

… of people you love and who love you.

… of what you feel grateful for.

… of the last thing that made you smile.

12. Mental Or Physical Collapse

This is considered an emergency state. Suicidal feelings are common, and help must be sought, whether by you or someone you trust. 

When we ignore mental, emotional, or spiritual issues, the physical will step in and halt us entirely. Sleep is imperative to rational judgment, and in a state of mental collapse, lack of sleep is dangerous. 

Stop forcing work, stop zoning out on screens, and give yourself space to reach within. Breathe. Listen. Visualise. Feel.

Rituals For Times Of Major Distress:

  • Find a support group, virtual or in-person, and connect with them routinely. Make it a ritual; Ask someone to be your support buddy.
  • Light a candle and recite an affirmation, meditation, or prayer. 
  • Go to an in-person yoga class or meditation group.
  • Read a non-fiction book or listen to a podcast addressing some of what you’re experiencing. 
  • Practice gratitude before you go to bed; It triggers dopamine and serotonin production.
  • Get out of bed and look at the sun first thing in the morning, and just check in with your breath. Check in with the present moment and move your body to trigger endorphins.
  • Physical touch with a partner or practitioner.


Burnout, as you can see, isn’t just an exasperated “I’ve had it!” It is real suffering with lasting effects that can permanently change us if we don’t find ways to block its path.

We have a global burnout problem right now, but I’m not aiming for global burnout recovery here. I’m aiming for YOUR burnout recovery. 

If you are a high achiever and are experiencing one, two, or many of the 12 stages of burnout, you can take any of the actionable steps noted with each in this article. But there is much deeper work to be done to bounce back from burnout and reach true burnout recovery. 

One way to get going on that work right now, one decision that you can make today is to show up alongside me and many other burning-out high achievers for my Stress Versus Flow Masterclass

You can bounce back from burnout starting now with the right awareness and a few fundamental behavioural changes. You read about some of them here today, but I have soooooo much more to share with you—because you really can turn the spiral upwards at any stage of the game. 

That’s really the key. It’s a technique I call “The Happiness Spiral,” and it’s in the first stage of my brand new masterclass, available for registration as of today.

Join me in my all-new course!


Burnout Recovery Yoga Pathway

Get from burnout to bounce back in five weeks.

  • Learn my Happiness Spiral Technique so you can see past the smoke of burnout and develop a clear, positive vision of your success going forward.
  • Calculate where you are and where you want to go on the Wheel of Well-Being.
  • Learn how to ritualise the formation of key habits to keep you in flow.

We’ll look at:

  • the four types of stress and how to identify and address each 
  • what being in a flow state means
  • optimising your attitude for your life
  • So, so, so much more.

This is the most exciting and important virtual work I’ve ever done, and I’ve been dying to get it out to you!

It was built For. YOU. Backed by intensive research and the experiences of thousands of clients I’ve worked with every day for almost two decades. The bounce back from burnout journey WORKS. 

I cannot wait to see it in action among anyone and everyone who needs to be loved and supported on their burnout recovery journey in a professional, guided, structured, safe, inclusive, totally uplifting and reinvigorating environment!

I hope you’ll join me in turning the tide on your burnout and setting the new rhythm of your life.

Register for Cat’s Free Stress Vs Flow Masterclass

Begin your pre-festival season mindset reset with this limited time offer of coaching with Cat. Register and get it direct to your inbox now.

Coach Cat Duval
Cat is a wellbeing consultant, senior yoga teacher, speaker and creator of the 4 Pillars of Happiness. Cat’s work supports people and professionals move from burnout to brilliance, manage their mental health, range of movement and spiritual wellbeing and step into a state of flow.

Cat founded Nine Lives Yoga in 2012 and has since worked with over 25,000 clients across 11 countries from speaking to hosting retreats to diving deeper with clients through her coaching course.  She lives in Brighton where she loves to go running over the South Downs with her dog, and paddleboard into the sunset. 



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