Today I would like to talk about Burnout speak and how long it lasts. Burnout is a condition in which one is completely exhausted physically and mentally. Most the affected have the feeling that they are completely empty inside. It is a profound problem that currently affects many people. This has to do, on the one hand, with the fast-paced and demanding world we live in today and, on the other hand, with the multiple crises we have faced and continue to face in recent years, such as the pandemic, the war in Europe, and the climate crisis, among others. This causes stress at a deep level and can ultimately leads to a crisis of meaning.
The question now is, how long does burnout last? The honest answer to this question is: It depends on many factors! Some people feel like their burnout only lasted a few weeks. For the majority of those suffering, it is at least a matter of a few months. Researchers have found that full burnout can last as long as three to five years. A few believe that you never fully overcome burnout.
In my 20 years of experience working with people with burnout, I have found that it has a lot to do with the individual’s life and work circumstances, the degree of burnout, and personal coping mechanisms. Although most experts assume that full burnout takes at least a year, I have seen many people who, with the right steps, have fully recovered from burnout within 3-6 months and have since gone on to live much more fulfilling lives than before.
This is because burnout is like a caesura and some start a new stage of their life thereafter.
Many sufferers feel guilt, failure or shame for their burnout. However, from my perspective, burnout is an essential wake-up call. Burnout can become your turning point in life as it forces you to rethink your life, reimagine it, and ultimately inspires you to reinvent yourself. Many people I have worked with during or after their burnout are now living lives that are deeply fulfilling because they find it meaningful and therefore would never trade it for their lives they had before. And almost all of these individuals cite burnout as their turning point.
Therefore, I can say with full conviction: no matter how long you have been suffering from burnout, it is not too late to fully recover from it and live a better life. It may take a few months of “metamorphosis” – just as a caterpillar becomes a butterfly – but in the end you can live a life you are burning for again.
In this article, I will lay out the essential steps that I believe are necessary for you to fully recover from burnout and begin to live a life that deeply fulfills you.
WHAT IS BURNOUT
Burnout syndrome is ultimately an expression of a deep-seated psychological process. The majority of researchers and therapists believe that burnout is mainly related to prolonged stress. I am convinced that burnout is not only a state of physical and emotional exhaustion, but a sign that something is fundamentally wrong in your life.
In my experience, burnout is ultimately always triggered by a deeply disappointing, disillusioning experience, or a loss of perspective. Therefore, burnout usually occurs when you have lost your purpose or question the fundamental meaningfulness of your work or life – on a deeper level, it is a crisis of meaning.
So if you work tirelessly day in and day out – as if you’re running a marathon for months and you just don’t reach the finish line – either not feeling fulfilled or becoming disillusioned and losing your perspective, that’s the trigger for burnout. A stroke of fate is also often a trigger.
In principle, burnout is a warning sign that shows you that you are not living your purpose or have “lost” it. Therefore, it is essential in the situation to take a step back and reassess your priorities and goals. Instead, you’ve probably been pushing yourself harder and harder lately to be able to function after all. And then it probably felt like you were running into a wall. Eventually, your body, mind and spirit are screaming loudly that you are on the wrong path. This is the point where you are in the middle of it without even realizing it.
This is the point where your motivation goes to zero, you have hardly any energy left, focusing is hardly possible and you are irritable and anxious and may even have suicidal thoughts.
It is essential that you do not ignore the warning signs of burnout. It is a way to recognize this moment and this opportunity: You can pursue a life that is in alignment with your purpose.
WHAT ARE THE MAIN CAUSES OF BURNOUT
In general, the main causes of burnout can be summarized as follows:
AN UNCLEAR PURPOSE
If you don’t have a clear inner picture of meaning or direction in your life, and especially if you had it before and it’s lost, that can lead to burnout.
DISCONNECTION FROM YOUR VALUES
If you feel disconnected from your values, it can cause you to be deeply disappointed in yourself and trigger burnout.
One of the main accompanying causes of burnout is permanent stress. This often has to do with a demanding job or personal circumstances.
LACK OF AUTONOMY
A feeling of powerlessness at work (little influence on work circumstances, etc.) or in private life often leads to burnout.
Our society basically glamorizes overwork and tempts people to overdo it for too long.
THE MOST COMMON BURNOUT SYMPTOMS
Although burnout is a complex phenomenon, the symptoms are commonly known. Below I describe some of the most common symptoms one can have with burnout:
Physical and emotional exhaustion are the most common symptoms of burnout. You will feel tired and drained – as if you have no energy left at all. In extreme cases, you can’t even get out of bed.
A LACK OF MOTIVATION
With burnout, it’s normal to lose interest in things you used to enjoy. It is common that you no longer feel any motivation to perform your work and even simple tasks become daunting.
INCREASED ANXIETY AND IRRITABILITY
Burnout often causes you to feel high levels of anxiety and be easily irritable. You will be overwhelmed or stressed and often on the verge of despair.
Burnout usually causes your productivity to plummet, to the point where you can’t complete tasks or achieve goals at all.
DECREASED SENSE OF ACCOMPLISHMENT
Due to the previously mentioned issues your performance decreases, which often also negatively affects your self-confidence.
These are just some of the commonly known symptoms of burnout. If you recognize several of these symptoms in yourself, it is a good time to pause to re-evaluate your current work and life situation. In general, it is recommended that you contact an expert to see if you are really suffering from burnout.
IS IT POSSIBLE TO RECOVER FROM BURNOUT?
It is not only possible, but necessary to overcome burnout so that you can live a fulfilling and meaningful life.
Burnout does not have to be a permanent state of being. It is a warning signal that something is wrong in your life – like the oil warning light in a car – and it is important that you make a change in life. By addressing the root cause of burnout and giving self-care or self-reflection more space in your life, you can live through and overcome burnout and regain inner balance.
It may not feel like an easy journey at first, as it will take you a few months to get all the way through, but with the right approach it is possible and looking back you will be happy with this transition.
HOW TO RECOVER FROM BURNOUT – THE SIX STAGES OF OVERCOMING BURNOUT
There is general consensus among experts that there are six stages of coping with burnout. In short, it is about first recognizing and admitting to yourself that you are suffering from burnout, then it is essential to manage the symptoms (short-term perspective), while for the long term you work to live through and overcome the burnout by re-evaluating, redefining and reinventing yourself in terms of your values, goals and priorities.
STAGE I: YOU RECOGNIZE THAT YOU ARE SUFFERING FROM BURNOUT
The first stage to overcoming burnout is to admit to yourself that you are suffering from burnout. This can be difficult at sometimes, as you may feel that you have failed, and guilt or shame may surface. It is essential that you admit to yourself that you are exhausted, demotivated, and alienated from your own values. It’s also important to acknowledge that burnout is having a very negative impact on your life. The fact that you have read this article so far is a strong indication that you might be suffering from burnout and are in this stage or already in one of the next ones.
STAGE II: YOU DISTANCE YOURSELF FROM THE TRIGGERS
Once you have recognized that you are suffering from burnout, it is essential that you identify the main causes and distance yourself from them.
STAGE III: RESTORE YOUR HEALTH.
This is the stage where you start managing symptoms. This is about introducing self-care into your life, initiating healthy habits and rituals in your life, and starting treatments to help you overcome burnout.
STAGE IV: RE-EVALUATE AND RETHINKING YOUR VALUES
This is the stage that I consider the key – not just adjusting life a little bit to ultimately function even better (again). This is about actually making a deeper change to be able to live a fulfilling life in the long run that is in line with your values. This is also the stage where I work with affected people, with their inner landscape of motives, so that you can find out what deeply fulfills you with meaning and what your purpose is.
STAGE V: REIMAGINING YOUR LIFE AND EXPLORING NEW PERSPECTIVES AND OPPORTUNITIES
Based on your findings in the last step, you can design a new life and explore new possibilities. This is the stage when a significant number of people are reinventing themselves and living a life that is deeply fulfilling and in alignment with their purpose, motives and values.
STAGE VI: MAKING A MAJOR CHANGE
This stage may feel a little scary at first, however, this is when you begin your next phase of life. In doing so, you may well be deeply grateful for where burnout has taken you. Sometimes it’s the necessary adjustment and sometimes it’s actually that you’ve reinvented yourself. Ultimately, you will have a much better life than before – a life where you are in harmony with yourself.
In summary, burnout is a complex syndrome that can last from several weeks to several years. How long burnout actually lasts depends on you and your circumstances. What’s essential, though, is that how long burnout lasts often just seems out of your control.
In fact, recovery from burnout depends on the steps you are willing to take to address the root causes. This includes self-care and making the changes in your life that are essential to your recovery. Whether your burnout lasts only weeks, months or even years is ultimately up to you.
If you are suffering from burnout, remember: you are not alone. By taking responsibility for your health and mental hygiene, you can overcome burnout and get back to a state where you burn again for something.
If you are looking for someone to professionally guide you through this process, or if you still have questions, please feel free to contact me at any time.
- What is Burnout: https://xerxes.re/de/was-ist-burnout-symptome-ursachen-behandlung/
- Understanding the burnout experience: recent research and its implications for psychiatry: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/wps.20311
- Burnout: A Review of Theory and Measurement: https://www.mdpi.com/1660-4601/19/3/1780
- Burnout: a Fashionable Diagnosis: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3230825/
- Burnout prevention: A review of intervention programs: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0738399109001621