What it Takes to Heal from Burnout

A year ago, I was in a burnout as I had been working non-stop, 7 days a week on 4-6 hours of sleep without a proper break for 3 years. I worked weekdays, weekends, evenings. All the time I was on my phone or computer or in a meeting. I felt like a robot going through the daily motions of setting goals, hitting goals, having lunches/dinners with potential clients, running workshops and handling team matters.

Potential Solution 1: Restart in a new group

I thought the solution was to join a new group and restart. I hoped that things will change. We worked on a project to conduct more healing, meditation and coaching sessions. We conducted 69 events in 10 months to help people heal and discover themselves in their bodies, minds and hearts...

Reality: Burnout deepens

The irony was, while I was helping people, I wasn’t helping myself. I couldn’t speak up for my need for rest and gave in to the pressure from a narcissist-psychopath team leader. We worked with even less or no rest, running blindly forward based on our heart and passion for the work and helping people.

10 months later, I officially entered a deep state of burnout. 

Looking back, it happened because I made it okay to go into the same pattern of high intensity working and low rest, yet expecting a different result.

What doesn’t help a burnout: Continue to do the same things the same way and expecting a different result.

It took me a while to realize and accept that I was in a burnout.

How burnout felt:

  • Unable to think or reason properly (too tired)
  • Fluctuating emotions
  • Feeling hopeless
  • Low energy. Just enough energy to keep myself alive with sleeping and eating.
  • Zero reserve energy.
  • Intense sleepiness. I could sleep anywhere, anytime.
  • Mindless persistence to continue working. Just keep going.

Change needs to happen to truly get out of a burnout.

One day, I finally decided that I had to change. Change my life, change myself, change the way I handled things. Or this continuous cycle of getting myself into a burnout would never end.

I had no wish to continue living like this.

Step by step, I changed myself and the way I live my life. And it’s working wonderfully so far.

What I am sharing here is by no means professional advice. It is simply my experience of what worked for me. Maybe it can help you too.

How to heal from burnout:

  1. Accept that you are burned out

    This is a first step. If you are burned out, recognise it and accept it. Tiredness recovers after you rest for a while. If you’re resting and still not recovering, there is a chance you are burned out. Accept that you are the one who, consciously or unconsciously, landed yourself in this situation. Understand that you can help yourself to get better.

  2. Take a real break

    Pause, stop everything for a moment. And take a break. Mentally, physically and emotionally. If you go on a vacation, don’t bring any work along. Just be there. Take the time to be in this moment, to be with yourself, to feel again what it is like to be alive.

  3. Go at a pace your body can take

    When you’re ready to start again, go at a pace that you can. Listen to and respect your body and mind. If you feel like you need another break, take it and enjoy it. And when you’re ready to start, then go again. This is your time and your space for recovery. 

  4. Do things that you like or have been putting off because you were too “busy”

    Have fun! Go enjoy your life. If you’ve always wanted to try a new class, go for it. If there is a friend you wanted to meet, have a meal or call and say hi. If you have always wanted to just do nothing for a whole day, do that. No one’s stopping you, except yourself! Go ahead and enjoy.

  5. Declutter – really do it

    When you are busy and burned out, chances are you didn’t have much time nor energy to put things in order. Maybe your spaces are in a mess – your room, your office, your emails, your photos, your communications and relationships with people. They get kind of jumbled up, don’t they?

    Do decluttering. Clear out what you don’t want anymore. You can use any methods. I tried the Marie Kondo method. It worked really well.

  6. Exercise

    This is cliched. But it works.  Pick up a sport, go running or swimming, go to the gym. Do it regularly – 3 to 5 times a week. When your physical body starts moving, it creates the momentum you need and your life gets moving again. 

  7. Re-prioritize

    Look again at all the aspects of your life: career, finances, relationships (family, friends, romance), self (effectiveness, freedom, fulfillment).

    Prioritize what really matters. Then focus your time and energy on that. Naturally, old habits kick in and you may be spending too much effort and time in what doesn’t matter. Be aware and catch yourself. It may take some effort to stick to your renewed priorities and it’s worth it.

With these 7 steps, and the warm and consistent support of my loved ones, my journey of recovering from the intense burnout has been working so far. I feel better and my energy’s a lot better. New ideas are coming in, new things are flowing again.

If you are too, facing a burnout or know someone facing a burnout, I hope this helps you.

If you need someone to talk to or coach you (certified life coaching) on this matter, I am happy to help you.