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How Long Does it Take to Recover from Burnout?

How long does it take to recover from burnout




It’s one of those terms that’s gotten a lot of attention in the 21st century as employees have grown to realize the importance of finding sustainable work-life balances.

Burnout is a condition from which every worker in every industry can suffer; however, the term originated back in the 1970s when it was used by American psychologist Herbert Freudenberger to describe the feelings of healthcare workers who were overworked and drained by how demanding their jobs were.

In today’s world, high-achieving professionals are often harboring this affliction, but it can feel so much like the corporate-workplace-norm that they don’t even realize they’re burnt out. For example, do you ever feel:

  • Like life is a constant parade of achievements?
  • Doubt about the accuracy of the success formula you follow because of how stressed you are?
  • A nagging question of whether or not you can actually ever be consistently happy?

If you answered ‘yes’ to any of these, you may be experiencing burnout. Keep reading for more on what that means for you, the answer to the question of “how long does it take to recover from burnout?”, and how you can begin your Joycheiver journey (Hint: the magic begins by busting burnout!).

What is Burnout?
Let’s get something straight right off the bat. Burnout is not a medical condition.

Rather, the World Health Organization (WHO) classifies burnout as, “a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.” Notice anything interesting about this definition?

“Has not been successfully managed.” WHO’s definition states that burnout is simply a result of an individual not managing their stress properly.

So, if you are suffering from burnout, we already have good news for you: You can go from mismanaged stress to managed stress and be well on your way to busting burnout. Yes, it sounds simple, and we completely acknowledge that it may not be so easy.

This mismanaged chronic stress that is the quintessence of burnout has three main dimensions:

  1. Feelings of depleted energy or exhaustion
  2. Increased mental distance from, or negative feelings about, your job
  3. A sense of ineffectiveness and a lack of accomplishment

Of course, all of these feelings can be caused by other factors, which is why the WHO specifies that burnout is a phenomenon strictly related to one’s job.

It used to be the case that burnout was a term used only to describe the feelings of despair and exhaustion felt by those in “helping” professions, but nowadays, jobs in every industry often require individuals to perform some sort of “self-sacrifice.” 

This requirement is felt by high-achieving professionals on a heightened level because they live their lives trying to meet the goals that have been set from them all their lives, self-sacrificing their own dreams and desires to get there all the way.

Types of Burnout
Digging into burnout a little further, three main subtypes of burnout have been identified. The first of these is called the “frenetic” type of burnout. Closest in description to the behaviors of high-achievers, these individuals are ambitious and prioritize hard work above everything else. When they experience any challenges, they invest more time and effort into solving the issue at hand.

The second type of burnout is “bore-out”. This person is under-challenged and bored. Because they don’t feel properly inspired or motivated, they tend to only put in as much effort as necessary to complete a task and nothing more.

The last type is “worn-out”. This person experiences a lack of control when they are at work. The lack of resources, support, rewards, etc. at work makes them feel unable to do anything and puts them on the brink of giving up entirely. They feel neglected, and ultimately end up resigned as a way to cope with the stress of ambiguity and disorganization.

Any of these sound like someone you know?

Recovery from Burnout
Now that we’ve explored what burnout is, the next questions we get are around how long it lasts and how long it takes to recover. Let’s address some of those questions.

How Long Does Burnout Last?
How long burnout lasts is completely dependent on the individual experiencing it. Until measures are taken to manage the stress or change the environment that causes the stress and your responses to it, burnout can go on indefinitely. 

One life coach claims that so much constant stress actually chemically changes your body, and burnout, in that case, can take some people three to five years to recover from.

Can You Recover from Burnout with a Few Days Off or a Longer Vacation?
Some people may think that a few days of PTO or a couple of weeks of R&R are all that is needed to recover from burnout. But that is false. Burnout isn’t a cold. It runs much deeper than that. 

According to new research, it takes more—and sometimes a LOT more—time to recover from burnout. 

This has a lot to do with the chronic stress that is the quintessential element of burnout. Over time, according to Harvard Medical School, constant activation of your body’s stress response promotes the formation of artery-clogging deposits and can cause brain changes related to anxiety, depression, and even addiction. 

When you’ve been burnt out from years upon years of chronic stress, it’s no wonder that the cure doesn’t come with a two week vacation.

Why Does it Take Years to Recover from Burnout?
Okay, so burnout isn’t a condition fixed overnight. Why is that?

While, once again, the answer to this question differs slightly depending on the individual, burnout is responsible for deep changes in your mindset that coordinate with chemical changes in your body. When someone has been working with one mindset and under a certain set of conditions for so long, it’s no wonder that it takes more than two weeks to repair back to a pre-burnout state. 

According to a professor of neuroscience at Yale School of Medicine, the chronic stress that leads to burnout causes a thinning of the gray matter in the prefrontal cortex area of our brain. The PFC is essential in cognitive control functions, such as attention, prospective memory, and cognitive flexibility.

Furthermore, burnout has an enlarging effect on the amygdala, which is an almond-shaped area in the brain that controls our fight-flight-freeze response as well as threat perception.

How Do You Recover from Extreme Burnout?
What is one to do in the case of extreme burnout? Considering that people with emotionally and mentally demanding jobs tend to have a much harder time managing the seemingly never-ending stress, a recovery method that is more holistic has to be pursued. 

It is imperative that individuals seek to improve their mindsets, heal their physical bodies, and shift their habits into ones that promote a less stressful life.

Here at Joycheiver we suggest that you seek to focus more on YOU by:

  1. Taking stock of your daily perspective as a whole. Do you tend more towards pessimism or positivity? Did you know that there are ways to train yourself to think more positively more often?
  2. Considering the values you hold to be true and ensuring that they are the driving force behind your thoughts and actions
  3. Identifying the strengths and types of work that bring you the most joy
  4. Investing more time and energy into activities outside of work–hobbies, interests and fun time
  5. Monitoring the health of your physical body–how it is affected by your stress, sleep, and exercise patterns
  6. Identifying the relationships in your life that bring you joy. Are you spending time cultivating those relationships?

After taking these steps, high-achieving individuals should seek out professional help if they feel like it’s necessary. Programs like the ones Joychiever offers are recovery methods that push a little deeper into an individual’s “self” and help them ask the right questions.

More Resources for Burnt Out Individuals
Despite our best wishes to make it the case, the answer to the question of, “How long does it take to recover from burnout?” is most likely not a two-week vacation. 

The good news is that if you want more information on how to beat burnout, especially if you are a high-achieving professional, you’re in the right place. Start by checking out our eLearning programs, 39 Life Hacks to Combat Burnout, and Alleviate Burnout: Design Your Life for More Joy. And of course, don’t hesitate to reach out to us here at Joychiever with any questions.

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