Have you been wondering how long does it take to recover from emotional burnout? If you have then you are not alone and you have come to the right source.
I totally understand how you feel having been there myself. It is not an easy journey to travel alone.
The good news is that having walked that road before, I can share some of my experiences with you. Having support and understanding on your side makes it a lot easier.
- How long does it take to get through this?
- Is there life after emotional burnout?
- How do you get back on track?
All of these questions and more will be revealed.
Emotional Burnout – What Is It Exactly?
There is no specific time frame to recover from emotional burnout. It all depends on you. Burnout happens when you become overwhelmed and unable to keep up with all the demands in your life. The emotional strain of losing control takes its toll and eventually drains you. Once you get to this point, recovering often feels elusive and out of reach. You become despondent and many people struggle for some time to regain their footing. The ability to recover from burnout will depend on how resilient you are. It will take courage.
Let’s answer some questions about being emotionally burnt out so you can understand fully.
What Does It Mean To Be Emotionally Burnt Out?
In many, if not most cases, burnout is job-related. The exhaustion caused by constantly feeling swamped keeps building. Along with it comes consistent and prolonged emotional, physical and mental (dis)stress.
I recall the first time that I experienced being burnt out. I took a candle, cut it into about eight pieces and started to burn them at all ends.
Just out of University in London, I returned to my Birth Country for one year as an Actuarial Intern. While still studying to complete my Actuarial exams, I started to study for my Insurance exams. There were twelve modules and we were rewarded with bonuses for completing more than one module at a time.
I decided to do three modules per sitting, every six months.
Then, I was chosen to be one of the company’s first Computer Programmers and Systems Analysts. I could not say “no“. This was the early 1980s and computers were new. My Boss insisted that computers would be the way of the future and I had to get on board.
So, I did.
I was living in our offices – literally! Always the first in, before 6:00 AM each day and the last one to leave at night – VERY late. I worked through my lunch hour every weekend.
It was unsustainable but I was determined to achieve everything I wanted to.
After almost two years of this, I became no good to myself. Exhaustion set in and one afternoon, following a breakdown in the office, I found myself in our Family Doctor’s office, crying hysterically and unable to stop.
Our Family Physician prescribed valium and two weeks of Sick Leave. I think I slept, non-stop, for those two weeks.
This was emotional and mental burnout on steroids!
7 SIGNS THAT YOU ARE EMOTIONALLY BURNT OUT
How Do You Recover From Emotional Burnout?
I was fortunate.
At that time, my Mum was at home for an extended period. She was a brilliant, English-trained Nurse and Midwife. I credit her for rescuing me as I did not understand what was happening to me.
As far as I was concerned, I was performing as expected. In my early 20s, I had to push myself, prove myself and do whatever it took to complete my studies and gain the work experience that I needed.
My career and my future depended on it. If I could not get through this how could I become a successful person in life?
The two weeks of sleep was enough rest – or so I thought. Little did I know that my mind, body and emotions were suffering and struggling to keep me going.
For a brief time, I disliked my Mum terribly. I thought that she was in collusion with our Family Doctor. They did not allow me to return to work and instead, made sure that I boarded a flight and returned to England.
It was the best decision ever!
That vacation gave me an opportunity to reconnect with myself and all the self-care things that I had neglected.
That is how my recovery from burnout started.
Are ‘Type A’ Personalities More Prone To Burnout?
While I was back in England, I visited my Professor at University. he asked me to participate in some research that was taking place regarding personality types and their drive to achieve.
I had nothing much to do during that time and it kept me connected to some professional work. So, of course, I agreed to participate.
The assessment pointed me towards having a ‘Type A’ personality. I had no idea what that was and I was eager to learn. In addition, the Researchers promised that it would help me to better manage the burnout that I had experienced.
During this time, I learned that ‘Type A’ personalities tended to be:
- intense self-drivers who were,
- impatient with themselves and others,
- found it difficult to accept life’s minor hassles and stumbling blocks AND,
- had trouble keeping from lashing out at people, even for the little things.
These descriptors fit me perfectly.
I was driven – intensely so and not accepting of any failings. As a high performer, I sailed through my middle school and senior years. In those seven years, I had placed third twice and seventh after end-of-term exams.
I was an Actuarial Intern after all! There were not many of us in the world. The pressure to graduate was stiff.
This self-discovery, though hard to digest, was the beginning of a life-long journey to achieve behavioural congruence and learn how to balance the scale that is life.
Although I have embraced my ‘Type A’ personality, I am still on that journey today. It never ends. It gets more manageable but it never ends.
RELATED >>> Type A and Type B Personality Theory
Does Emotional Burnout Ever Go Away?
Personally, I do not think that it ever does. I liken it to missing a loved one after he or she has left you. You always miss them, sometimes more than others. The memory of them stays with you forever.
It is the same with recovering from emotional burnout. Over time, with healthy practices, you build better emotional and mental muscles to proactively deal with burnout.
Now, in my life, I know when I have to make changes to prevent myself from getting close to emotional burnout. It could be as simple as saying “no” to a movie night. If there is something else that would benefit me more, I use my time to spend it there.
I have also come to realise that I do not owe anyone an explanation for what I choose to do with my time.
In the past, not saying “yes” to over-stretching myself to help others or solve their problems took me close to emotional and mental burnout. I would usually be the one employee who took on everyone else’s tasks so that they could go out and enjoy themselves.
Perhaps it was my introverted nature that I used to hide from socialising. That led to deep-seated passive-aggressive behaviours which were eventually played out as internal battles which I infrequently won.
Learning to be authentic and behave assertively helped me win the war with emotional burnout.
How Do You Know If Your Are Emotionally Exhausted?
There are many signs that can help you detect your distance from emotional and mental burnout. becoming familiar with these signs will help you to be more proactive about managing your mental and emotional well-being.
Here are some questions to ask yourself:
- Are you feeling out of control of events happening in your life?
- Are you feeling stuck in the same place in your life for too long?
- Are your emotions frequently unstable?
- Are you struggling to complete tasks causing them to pile up and become overwhelming?
- Do you regularly feel that you are not accomplishing as much as you should be?
- Do you find yourself becoming short-tempered often?
- Do you feel unmotivated and unwilling to accomplish things?
- Are you isolating yourself by using the excuse that you have too much to do?
- Are you consistently getting less than 6-8 hours of comfortable sleep and rest?
- Do you avoid loved ones and events that bring you together?
If you are able to answer “yes” to three or more of these questions, you may be approaching the start of emotional burnout. Answering “yes” to five or more means that you are already on the highway and fast approaching.
Putting on the brakes with some recovery steps may be necessary.
What Steps Can You Take To Stay On The Path Of Recovery From Emotional Burnout?
There is a process to follow to stay on the path of recovery from emotional and mental burnout. The first and most important step is to admit that you have a problem.
Without acknowledging this, you may never recover. At worst, you may always find yourself on a merry-go-round, spinning top in mud as the saying goes.
In other words, you will not move forward too far and for too long.
Here are eight steps that you can take.
1. KEEP A JOURNAL
When I look through some of my journals from those early days, during my time of emotional burnout, I shudder. It is hard to believe that I was in that position. I had placed so much pressure on myself.
My journaling has helped me to see what I did to get into that situation. It also helps to remind me of the self-caring actions I need to be consistent with.
2. BE MINDFUL
This refers to being self-aware and again, your journal can help with this. Every day, as I write or make my jottings in my journal, I reflect on where I have come from.
That helps me to appreciate my growth and development.
I also spend some time reminding myself of where I am going, my future and what I want to accomplish. If my goals have shifted, I make a note of that. If I have to change any, I do that also.
3. LIVE AUTHENTICALLY
The main person for you to please in life is yourself. If you are not happy, at ease, comfortable and confident with where you are going you will not be in a healthy position to support others.
It may even become frustrating and more emotionally draining for you to see others succeeding when you are not.
Be honest with yourself about what you want and make sure that your goals and objectives are realistic.
4. CELEBRATE YOUR SUCCESSES, EVEN SMALL ONES
Once upon a time, I used to wait for what I considered to be big milestones to celebrate. I was hard on myself and did not think that I deserved to give myself credit until something big happened.
Today, every step matters and sometimes the small or first step matters most. The fact that I was able to begin or move forward little matters a lot to me now.
Together with my daughter, our home is filled with little celebrations. At times, it is a simple note on the bathroom mirror that says: “You did good today. I am proud of you.”
5. DO SOME FORM OF EXERCISE
I am certain that you already know the benefits of exercise. The simple act of taking a stroll outside for fifteen or thirty minutes each day has profound effects on your mind, body and emotions.
On most days, I am able to get to the gym. On weekends, we enjoy getting out, walking through hills and forests or taking a swim in the ocean. We are fortunate to live in the Caribbean these days.
The water is healing and relaxing.
Whatever it is, try to incorporate some form of movement in your life.
6. BECOME CONGRUENT
When you are congruent, your thoughts, words, feelings and actions are in full alignment. You do what you say and your thoughts are reflective of your feelings.
Congruent behaviour leads to assertiveness and this means there is little conflict between your inner self and your behaviour.
When there is congruency there is authenticity. This makes managing and leading much more effective and creates greater respect for you and who you are.
7. SAVOUR THE MOMENT
Learning to live in and enjoy the moment is one of the best gifts that you can give yourself.
More often than not, we spend most of our time looking back at what we did not achieve or worrying about what we haven’t yet accomplished.
The past is gone and cannot be changed. The future may not be ours. The only time that we have full control over is now. Today.
Holding on to what has been and what is yet to come does not allow you to embrace and fully enjoy what is happening in the current moment.
8. STOP SOMETIMES
This was a major change for me to make. I am usually the one who takes charge and who makes sure that everyone else is comfortable and well taken care of.
I had to take ownership of myself and just stop and do nothing sometimes. After a lot of practice and realising the benefits of being still, it has become a natural part of my everyday life.
You can now find me sitting happily in one of our local coffee shops, enjoying a robust cup of coffee and quietly enjoying the ambience and the people around.
The accompanying smile reminds me that I am in control of myself.
Closing Thoughts . . .
I hope that this article helped you to understand how long it takes to recover from emotional burnout. It really does depend on you.
Understanding what the triggers are that may set you on the path toward burnout is key. Once you know that, it is much easier to manage yourself and control what is happening to you.
You should be focusing on:
- Being self-aware.
- Becoming congruent.
- Behaving assertively.
- Take time to reflect, journal and enjoy the moment.
Taking these actions can benefit you a great deal and ensure that your recovery if you do find yourself on that path, is shortened.
About The Author
Cassandra is a Management Consultant, Internationally qualified Facilitator, Coach, Strategist and Behaviour Change Agent. She enjoys travelling, exploring cultures and learning about historical and social networks and dynamics.
Her driving force is the education and development of her tween daughter. The roots of her inspiration to diversify her niche markets and the motivation to expand and scale her business investments rest firmly in this relationship.
This is the reason for creating her legacy.