You have burnout. Now what do you do?
It may be a diagnosis you did not expect. It certainly was not what I expected when it happened to me, but at the same time it made so much sense. Does it make sense to you that you have burnout? Do you see now how everything that has happened lately (or in the past) might have led to this? And how can you heal from burnout?
What May Have Caused Your Burnout?
Perhaps you have taken on too much over the last few months, years, or even decades. Too much work; constant struggling and bending over backwards to please your boss, and sometimes even your family; putting up with continuous abuse and bullying; and there could be more reasons.
It takes its toll. Let’s look at just two causes for burnout.
Abuse that stretches over years or decades will exert its price on your mind in the end, resulting in even more pain than you already suffered during the abuse.
If hard work and never-ending stress was your way of life, in the end the mind will end up paying the consequences. The endless hours of overtime and the hustling over weekends and even holidays do not pay off at all. All the money you earned cannot be enjoyed now and much of it will go into your recovery.
What do you do now?
How Can I Help?
Over a series of several blog posts I will go over what I did, what I recommend, and I will explain the steps you can take to get through burnout and come out a healed person. In truth, it is not easy, and I am not going to promise miracles like so many self-proclaimed “gurus” do online. Instead, I want to give you tools that can help you heal.
I want to give the help I did not have when I went through burnout. I know how hard it is, and this is why I created this website. You can read my story on my “About Me” page.
Before we take this road together, we have to be honest with each other. So, I am sorry if my next paragraph looks a little like a doze of “tough love”, but I want to get off on the right foot, and seeing how challenging it is to heal from burnout, we must be sincere from the beginning.
This will only work if you do your part. See it like a teacher and student relationship. A teacher doesn’t miraculously implant the knowledge in the student. The student will only learn if he/she pays attention in class, asks questions, and actively participates in projects and homework assignments. The same principle will apply here.
What if I can’t afford to take time of?
A friend of mine has never healed from burnout and she has been suffering from it for twelve years now. On the other hand, she doesn’t do much about it either … She told me that she works hard to earn money and cannot afford to take time to heal … However, to get through this, you have to make time, take the bull by the horns, and step on that road to recovery.
In 2006, I was living in Belgium (I now live in Mexico), and my boss back then had burnout. He worked incredibly hard all the time, had been doing so for years, and when he was diagnosed, the doctor advised him to take at least a year of work.
My boss did that. He dropped his workload, and disappeared from the workforce for a year, finding a way to recover. Now, hang on a minute. How could he take a year off without having to work for it? He had so many untaken vacations piled up, that he could now easily take them, and he was insured.
Besides, in that company where I used to work, vacation time ranged between 30 to 50 paid working days per year, so now it’s easier to understand how unpaid vacations can easily bring about a sabbatical. That was, of course, not a recommended practice; you had to take those vacations every year, but in his case it was needed. And he was the boss …
Back to you and me now. We know that in our world this isn’t always possible. We must work to bring food upon the table. I get it. So, my first recommendation won’t be about taking a sabbatical, although it would be wonderful if it were possible, but we have to remain realistic.
The question is, what can we do under the circumstances?
First Steps of Healing
If taking a long period of time off is impossible, then I suggest that you speak to your employer and ask for whatever time he or she can give you. They will understand. Well, not all employers, but most do. In my case, I had to fight to even get a week of … In the end I was given my free time, but it was not easy to get that week.
So, take the time that you are allowed to take.
What else can you do?
I will write a list of the first things you must do when you are diagnosed with burnout.
- As I mentioned before, take time off. It is necessary. You need time for yourself.
- You must direct your focus on yourself. From now on it’s going to be me, myself, and I. That has nothing to do with selfishness, but everything to do with healing.
- Please reduce or – even better – get rid of your booze. Lock it away or just stay away from that cabinet. Alcohol is a depressant, and when you are going through burn out, depressants are the last thing you need.True, a glass of wine may provide you with that calming effect, but that one glass can turn into another and another. In fact, an increased consumption of alcohol is considered a sign that you might have burnout. So, lose the booze.
- Limit your time on your computer and phone to next to nothing. Yes, I know, this info is online, but keep your online browsing to that, to healing. Spending hours staring at a laptop or phone screen is not conducive to lowering your stress levels; and it is of extreme importance that while you are going through burnout your stress levels are kept to a minimum.
If you really can’t do without the phone and/or laptop, then plan a schedule and allow yourself perhaps an hour for them every two days, at the most. I know, in this time and age, that sounds like an impossible thing to achieve, but it will do you heaps of good. Being away from social media and the internet in general can bring you a feeling of freedom. Now, you are free to enjoy other things you never do anymore.
- That takes me to my next point. Go for walks, preferably in quiet, natural environments. So, forget about a trip to the mall; that is not what I meant. 😉 I mean, go for a stroll on the beach or at a lake or river if there is no beach nearby. Take a walk in nature, explore a forest.
If you have an old bicycle gathering rust and dust in your garage, take it out for a spin. Riding a bike is a beautiful, freeing experience, and it will help you relax and re-connect with yourself. Do not ride your bicycle in town or on a busy road; find a quiet and stress-free area to step on those pedals.
If you can start doing these things, you have taken the first steps on that road to recovery. The road is still long, but you now have the tools (and even a bicycle 😉 ) to navigate that road. Stay on this path. And remember, we may be taking baby-steps right now, but eventually we will take giant leaps. It takes time.
In my next post we will explore how we can keep stress levels to a minimum in a stress-induced world, especially if you cannot afford to take much time off from work. We will travel further down that road together.
If you have any questions, or you like to share your experience please let me know in the comments. I will be happy to answer them.