How cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) helps with burnout

How Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) Helps with Stress and Burnout

Stress and burnout are prevalent issues in today’s world, both in work and in life. People are starting to recognise the importance of addressing these concerns through evidence-based practices, particularly Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). CBT is a well-established, effective approach for managing stress and preventing burnout by helping individuals understand and shift the thought patterns and behaviours contributing to these conditions.

Understanding Stress and Burnout

Stress is a response to demands and pressures that challenge an individual’s ability to cope. While some stress can be beneficial by motivating individuals to perform, chronic stress can lead to serious physical and mental health problems.

Burnout, on the other hand, is a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by prolonged and excessive stress. It often results from feeling overwhelmed, emotionally drained, and unable to meet constant demands.

How CBT Works

CBT is a structured therapy that addresses the interaction between thoughts, emotions, beliefs and behaviours. By identifying and changing negative thought patterns and misguided behaviours, CBT helps individuals develop healthier coping strategies. Here’s how CBT can specifically aid in recovering from stress and burnout:

1. Identification of Negative Thought Patterns:

People often have automatic negative thoughts (ANTs) that contribute to stress and burnout. CBT helps us to identify these thoughts, such as “I’m not good enough” or “I can’t handle this,” which often explode stress levels.

2. Cognitive Restructuring:

Once negative thoughts are identified, CBT assists in challenging and reframing them into more positive and realistic ones. For example, replacing “I can’t handle this” with “I can handle this if I take it step by step” or asking better questions such as; “How can I handle this in a better way?” which can significantly reduce stress.

3. Behavioural Activation:

CBT encourages individuals to engage in activities that bring pleasure or a sense of accomplishment, counteracting the withdrawal and inactivity often associated with burnout. This activation helps improve mood and reduces stress. It could be anything from gardening to cooking or even volunteering at a local charity. The positive behavioural choices are almost endless.

4. Stress Management Techniques:

CBT teaches practical skills for managing stress, such as time management, relaxation techniques, and mindfulness training. These skills empower people to take control of their stressors rather than feeling overwhelmed by them.

5. Problem-Solving Skills:

CBT enhances problem-solving skills, enabling people to approach stressful situations more effectively. This includes breaking down larger problems into manageable parts and developing action plans to address them.

Five Top CBT Tips for Recovering from Stress and Burnout

Here are five practical CBT tips that can help people recover from stress and burnout:

1. Identify and Challenge Negative Thoughts

Begin by keeping a thought diary to track negative thoughts and the situations that trigger them. Once these thoughts are identified, challenge them by asking yourself:
– Is this thought realistic?
– What evidence supports or contradicts this thought?
– What would I say to a friend who had this thought?

By critically evaluating negative thoughts, you can replace them with more balanced, empowering and constructive ones.

2. Practice Mindfulness and Relaxation Techniques

Mindfulness involves paying attention to the present moment without judgment. It can help reduce stress by allowing you to detach from negative thought patterns. Techniques such as deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, and guided imagery can also help calm the mind and body, reducing the physiological symptoms of stress.

3. Engage in Regular Physical Activity

Physical activity is a natural stress reliever. Exercise releases endorphins, which are natural mood lifters. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise most days of the week. Activities such as walking, yoga, and swimming can be particularly beneficial for reducing stress and preventing burnout. Or, if you need a quick stress reliever you can never beat 5 minutes of listening to, and singing along to, some good music. (ok, so that’s my favourite thing to do!)

4. Set Realistic Goals and Prioritise Tasks

Burnout often stems from feeling overwhelmed by too many demands. Break down your tasks into smaller, manageable steps and prioritise them. Set realistic goals for what you can achieve in a day and be kind to yourself if you don’t accomplish everything. Use tools such as time blocking and schedules to stay organised and focused.

5. Develop a Strong Support Network

Social support is crucial for managing stress and preventing burnout. Connect with friends, family, or support groups to share your experiences and seek advice. Talking to someone you trust can provide a new perspective on stressful situations and reduce feelings of isolation. If you need someone to talk to, why not find a coach who is well versed in helping people with stress and burnout?

CBT addresses stress and burnout

By helping individuals identify and change negative thought patterns, engage in positive behaviors, and develop practical stress management skills, CBT provides a comprehensive approach to recovery. Incorporating the five CBT tips—challenging negative thoughts, practicing mindfulness, engaging in physical activity, setting realistic goals, and developing a support network—can further empower individuals to overcome stress and prevent burnout, leading to a healthier and more balanced life.

How can we help?

Here at The Priority Academy we have a couple of courses that might help, if you need it. Check out the links below:

CBT Coach Certification

Time Management Mastery

Stress Busters – 77 Stress Busting Tools and Strategies


Click the links below to find out more:

Mental Health in the Workplace Cost Calculator

The Workplace Mental Health Induction Workshop

The Workforce Mental Health Assessment

Mental Health First Aid Training

Mental Health Online Workshop Support Program

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