Many diseases have typical symptoms, and although the symptoms for burnout are listed online and can also be found on medical sites, I find it a little hard to generalize them, because they vary for each person. Some people may have all of them, some only present one or two, another person may have a symptom that isn’t even on this list. How to deal with burnout may therefore not be the same for each person.
We all react differently; we have different bodies, different minds, and different lifestyles, challenges, and situations. There are, however, several methods that will provide you with relief and may even guide you back to healing.
Here is a list of the most common symptoms. First, I will explain these symptoms, and in the next chapter I will go over solutions and possible treatments for each of them.
Disclaimer: I am not a doctor, nurse, or a psychologist. My information is based on my own experience with burnout (I suffered it from 2015 to 2017) and the path I followed to full recovery. To read my story and my Why for this website, you can find more info in my “About Me” section.
- Emotional exhaustion: you feel emotionally drained, exhausted, and you can’t cope anymore. You have no will to do anything. You lack energy to get anything done
- Physical symptoms: the body and mind are connected, and if something is wrong with one of them, the other part will be affected. Stomachaches, intestinal issues, and headaches are often a consequence of burnout. I had tensional cephalia which is an inflammation of the brain muscles.
- Reduced performance: you have difficulty concentrating or you lack creativity. You feel like you don’t want to do any tasks you usually enjoy or that are part of your daily routine. Mundane tasks may even seem daunting, and you may forget how to perform simple actions.
I have driven cars for about 15 or 16 years, and I absolutely love driving. When I suffered from burnout, there was a day when I simply didn’t remember how to change from one gear to another. My mind was blank, and I sat in my car, not knowing how to switch gears. This happened while I was driving – no need to tell you that that was a freakish moment.
During my treatment with a psychologist, I learned that I was not alone in this. She told me that what had happened was nothing unusual; some people even can’t remember how to use their cell phone.
- Alienation from work-related and other activities: you find your job extremely frustrating, you feel numb about your work, and you distance yourself emotionally from your co-workers. You’re cynical about your work, colleagues, everything …
- Emotional outbursts: you can’t control feelings of rage, frustration, or disappointment, and they come flooding out of you, raw, without passing through what I call your “mental editing sieve”.
- Depression: this condition is also much misunderstood, but it is a very serious condition. You may even have thoughts of suicide. Depression is hard to get over. If you think you may be suffering from depression, seek professional help immediately.
Friends and Family – With You and Without?
The Thing about Depression …
During my burnout I also went through depression, and it was terrible. The worst of it was that I was dealing with it all alone. I did try to talk to a few friends, but I usually got the same answers, stating “we all got stuff to deal with” or “you’re not the only one having a hard time, you know.” So, I kept it to myself and I only spoke to my psychologist about everything I went through.
We both agreed that I wouldn’t take anti-depressants (I was, and still am, against reliance on medication), but in the end it got so bad that she ended up prescribing me pills anyway, but a light, non-addictive version. They provided me much relief, definitely, and I needed them for several months.
I am mentioning my experience, not to make this about me, of course, but because I can imagine that you or others who are suffering from this may get similar responses from friends. They probably mean well or want to give you “some tough love”, but they just don’t understand what you’re going through. As I remarked in my first article, burnout is a much-misunderstood condition, despite its common occurrence.
So, if you get a reply like that, just remember that they don’t know what it’s like. They have no idea. Forgive them. At the moment, you’re probably feeling anything but forgiveness, but just try not to take it too personally.
What Can You do When You’re Experiencing these Symptoms?
Let’s go over them one by one.
I will start with the physical symptoms. If you are suffering from headaches, I suppose that you need to take medication to numb the pain, but it would be best to see your doctor first. Regarding intestinal issues, please also check with your doctor to see what the best recommendation is.
My doctor prescribed me pills to lower the inflammation of my brain muscles and numb the pain. I also cut off all my hair, since it had gotten very brittle due to this issue and the weight of it was adding to the pain.
I also recommend that you switch to a healthier diet. Plant-based food boosts your energy and may be the right fuel your body needs.
Drinking enough water is also important. Our bodies are 60% water, and it makes sense that they will function better when they receive the right amount of this essential fluid. Water helps make chemical reactions that cells need in order to do their work. Keeping your body dehydrated will add to the pain. Soda does not hydrate, and most energy drinks are not hydrating either. It’s best to stick to water.
Reduced performance. Plant-based food and lots of water will also help combat this symptom, since plant-based food will give you the much-needed energy. If there are tasks that you cannot perform so well anymore, then please avoid them or let someone else do them until you feel better.
Meditation is also a great way to relax and find a connection to your inner self again. Before I had burnout I had never meditated in my life, but when I started doing it, it provided me instant relief and feelings of peace and calm. I tried different meditations with Gabrielle Bernstein, and my favorite ones are the kundalini meditations she introduced me to.
Gabrielle Bernstein is a life coach and motivational speaker. She is not someone who focuses on burnout, but her books provide great help to heal, re-connect with yourself, and find inner happiness. When you achieve those things, wouldn’t you say that you have healed or are on the path of healing from burnout? 🙂
Sometimes, we have to look for help where we do not expect it. I found this very book by accident, but I like to think that it was fate. One day, in 2016, I walked into the teacher’s room and found it lying on top of a used book pile at the school I was working. I stared at it, and I knew in my heart that this was the help I needed.
I had never heard of Gabrielle Bernstein before, but I saw the bookcover, read the blurb, and I took it home. I followed her guidance and did all the assignments during those 40 days, as instructed in this book, and it helped me immensely.
Yoga is another excellent way to re-connect with yourself. Find a yoga class near you and sign up. You deserve that time for yourself.
Alienation from work-related or other activities. If you have job burnout and you find yourself constantly dreading Mondays, hating your job and everything related to it, and you know that is not going to change, then perhaps a job change may be in order.
This may sound like a drastic suggestion, but if your work is the reason for your burnout and will continue to be so, then it is time to find new employment. I know that isn’t always easy, but your health comes first.
Emotional outbursts. This is a hard thing to control, and as with the previous point, I also strongly recommend meditation. It is important to remember that this angry person is NOT who you are. Remind yourself of this. “Anger is not my highest power.”
Please remember and repeat this to yourself. As difficult as these outbursts may be for you and especially for the ones who might happen to be on the receiving end or nearby, forgive and tell yourself, “Anger is not my highest power. My true power lies in my capacity to be the light.” Repeating this mantra over and over will help in the long term.
Another great relief-provider is the method I suggested in my previous article. Breathe in deeply while counting to five (five seconds, not a quick 1 to 5 rattle). Then breathe out slowly, also counting to five. Repeat this five times. It may seem like such a simple thing to do, but this breathing exercise works like a mini version of meditation. It brings you feelings of calm.
Depression. You should not be alone with this. When you are surrounded by friends and family who do not know what depression is or have never experienced it, then you pretty much find yourself alone among many …
For depression, you should seek professional help, as I mentioned before. Talk to a psychologist at least once a week. Friends and family may mean well, but a psychologist is qualified to treat you. I have often heard “well-meant” comments from friends that really left me feeling numb or shocked.
Depression is no joke. If suicidal thoughts come up, please please, seek professional help immediately.
Furthermore, I will yet again recommend eating healthier in this case. Food has a lot to do with our levels of energy. So, once more, I am going to stress the benefits of plant-based meals. For more info on plant-based food and recipes, feel free to check this website I created.
Additionally, lower or eliminate your alcohol intake. As I mentioned in my previous article, alcohol is a depressant, and when you are going through depression, alcohol will not bring you any relief. On the contrary, it will make it worse.
I hope that this will provide some help. Burnout may sound like you cannot recover from it, but it is a condition that is reversible. It just takes time, patience, and willpower. Don’t lose hope.
If you have questions or if there is anything you want me to address in a blog post, please let me know in the comments. In the next blog post I will discuss job-related burnout in more detail. After that, I will dedicate a blog post to healthy food and what it can do for our bodies and minds.
If you are interested in Gabrielle’s books, the ones I recommend are the following two.