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.
18 thoughts on “How to Deal with a Burnout – Symptoms and Solutions”
Burnout happens all to fast for me! I drive a big truck, even though I get to see different parts of the country am getting burned out. The job is same thing over and over, sitting behind a wheel watching out for other drivers and bad weather. Meditation has heard by many that are helpful. How can I meditate in a confined truck?
Sitting behind the wheel for hours and paying attention to other drivers, and probably sometimes being stuck in traffic when you go through cities must be extremeful stressful … You drive long distances, right?
For meditation, I suggest that you do that when you take a break. You stop somewhere in a quiet spot where you can do that. If that is not always possible, you could listen to relaxing or calming music in your truck.
Great informative post! Glad you healed through your depression and burnout. Many of your suggestions I can relate to when I was going through my IVF process – the toll it takes on your body physically and mentally – can cause burnout too, but you can heal from it.
Stressful events in life can certainly also lead to burnout, not just work. That is very true. I am glad that you healed as well 🙂
How to deal with a burnout symptoms and solutions from your own experience is worth your weight in gold, I am no stranger to burning myself out with Autoimmune Diseases. One of my first symptoms over the years I have noticed is I struggle to think clearly, and I was just curious if this is a symptom you experience as well?
I have learned to manage my symptoms by taking advantage of self-help books and online courses, I also have learned yoga and meditation that I use several times per day especially on my worse days is two of my best coping skills.
I have also experienced struggling to think clearly and my mind has gone blank at times for the most basic things.
Selfhelp books can be an amazing help, and Gabrielle Bernstein’s books were a wonderful help to me and also to thousands of other people. After I learned more about her, I realized that she has a very large following of people whose lives were also positively impacted by her words and recommendations.
Yoga and meditation are also excellent methods. I like meditation, it always clears my mind.
What you say about water intake is absolutely the truth, and I’m glad that you are savvy enough to realise it – as so many people don’t realise that drinking pure water is the only way to ensure proper hydration.
True, many people think that energy drinks hydrate them when they actually don’t. The best way to stay hydrated is indeed water.
Thank you for your comment!
Burn-out is more common than we actually know! Because so many of us in today’s fast life take that as a ‘normality’ to modern life. Anything that strains you is not normal in my opinion! We all need to do lots of acts of self love throughout the day to keep us happy and well.
Like you said, if someone is going through mental health, please please seek help. There is help available. There is a light on the other side the tunnel.
Wishing you all abundance of health, happiness and wealth.
You make a good point when you say that in today’s fast life burnout is taken as a “normality” of modern life, but no one should have to go through that. It is indeed not normal. Self love is very important, something we should practice more.
Thank you for your comment!
Wishing you much health, happiness, and wealth too 🙂
Thank you for sharing your experience surrounding burnout. Even though you don’t the professional accreditation of a physiologist or other healthcare practitioner, sharing your experience is a valid way to help others. The silver lining about helping others is that the process also helps us.
I’ve been through my own fair share of crap throughout the years. A few years ago I was attempting to make a career change. At the time I was going through a great deal of personal growth. Unfortunately, the economic growth didn’t keep pace and I found myself falling flat on my face. The recovery has been slow and arduous. My support network isn’t what is used to be due to a fractured family. The increased isolation during this pandemic hasn’t been helpful either. I find myself in a low paying, thankless job that I can’t wait to get out of. I planned only to be in it for 6 months, but it’s now been 8 months. I decided to take a week off. I don’t get paid vacation, but made sure I could deal with it financially. Getting away for 9 whole days (5 day week and 2 weekends) really has helped me. During my time off I was able to come up with an executable plan to get out of my current situation.
Do you have a strategy to prevent another burnout episode?
I am glad you got through those hard times. This pandemic has been difficult for many, and I can imagine that being stuck in a low-paying job is incredibly frustrating. You did the right thing, taking time off even if it was unpaid. At least you got away for a while and had some time for yourself.
I don’t have a fixed strategy to prevent another burnout episode, but when I feel that it might be getting close, I do my breathing exercises, I meditate, and I also make a point of taking a break every one or two hours to make sure there is a balance between work and downtime. Now that we’re staying home because of the pandemic it is easier to do. When we’re back at work, I focus on the same exercises, and going outside for a short walk when it’s possible.
I am not a big fan of seeing a doctor for my burnout issue, but I did use some of your tips mentioned in this article. For example, meditation & deep breathing. I do these two activities quite often after a meeting or phone call with my colleagues since there must be conflicts about ways we cooperate for one project. And, if the rage or bad feelings still stay with me, I would talk to someone reliable to help me go through this. Usually, my boss(haha…)
I also find that exercise regularly is also an excellent approach to keep myself balanced, both mentally and physically. I won’t stop exercising until I sweat a lot, and I feel so refreshed & could release all the burnout symptoms from my mind.
Thanks for sharing,
Exercise is also great and highly recommended. You literally sweat out all the toxins and your stress, and you feel a lot better afterwards. It is excellent that you can talk to your boss. He (or she) must be a good boss. 🙂
Thank you for your comment.
Hello Christine, I really love to see such help online and I have just the right person who could make use of this information. I have never had an issue with burnout and when I hear my friends talk about it I feel really bad about it. She sometimes gets depressed and that is a the moment I knew it wasn’t something to joke it. I would encourage to read this article and I myself would go into mediation knowing how beneficial it is
It’s very good to treat depression with antidepressants, it helps suppress it and makes your mind clear and concise. It’s good that you listed the symptoms of burnout and the solutions, it is very helpful and i’ve also learned a lot from it. Meditation will be a good exercise to engage to heal quickly, I’ve tested it and it worked for me.
This was a great article and one I think many people will be able to relate to. I know I definitely can and you give some really great advise. it is difficult when friends and family don’t understand or sympathise but its important to follow your advice and take care of yourself.
I will be trying a more plant based diet and to drink more water, I suffer with terrible headaches, low energy and concentration so I’m hoping this will help.
I look forward to reading more from you.
Drinking enough water can often reduce or eliminate pain, more than pills. I am glad you are going to try eating a plant-based diet and drinking more water. It will make a huge difference 🙂
Thank you for your comment!