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Why does burn-out take so long? How long does a burn-out actually take?

Why does burn-out take so long? How long does a burn-out actually take?

I hear these questions from almost all of my clients. It’s a very logical question, because when you have a burn-out you only want one thing: it has to be over as soon as possible.

Why do most people with a burn-out have this obvious question and what is behind it?

A burnout causes you to get tired, often extremely tired. Some people become so exhausted that they don’t come out, stay on the couch and see their self-confidence slowly drain away. When you are burned out, your self-esteem is seriously affected and you can become anxious and even have panic attacks. Nobody wants to go through something like this, let alone for a long time.

Above all, the fear that it will never be right again overwhelms many people with a burnout.

Above all, the fear that it will never be right again overwhelms many people with a burnout. That fear stimulates the feeling of desperation and powerlessness, and that is precisely the opposite of what you want to achieve.

Return to the old self after burn-out

One of my clients firmly believed that she would never be “the same person” again. My question was: ‘Would you ever want to be the old you again? “Her questioning eyes spoke for themselves. A little later she said that she did not want to pick up the old habits and patterns.

After all, they had caused her to be burned out. During the coaching, of course in the open air and with moments of quiet running, she told how the stress  unnoticeably had got hold of her then slowly but surely sucked her empty.

Work in education increasingly demanded more of her and she had gone along with it unnoticed. In addition to teaching, unsolicited tasks came on her plate that cost her energy. High work pressure and stress seemed to become part of her work and even of her life. She was able to keep this process of scaling up the workload for a very long time, until something unpleasant happened in her private life.

Within her family there was a conflict with her brothers and sisters-in-law. That was the straw that ended up in the full bucket. Her head had gradually become full, but now it had become too much.

The moment the body gives up

Crying fits, bad sleep, pain in neck and shoulders, pressure on the chest, a kind of dizziness and the feeling of “cotton wool in the head” were unstoppable. She then suffered from extreme fatigue and was afraid that she had a disease whose name she did not want to pronounce.

During the coaching process she regularly asked me the question: “Do you think it will work out? A very understandable question to which I can answer with: “Yes, it’s going to be okay, but at least you’ll need patience”. A burn-out never comes from one day to the next. To put it very directly, it is an assassin. You don’t see him, but he overpowers you.

The period for a burnout

It takes a long time before you end up in a burn-out. You have experienced stress at work and/or in your private life, but you think: “Ok, that’s part of it”. Stress is indeed part of modern life and has many good sides. A healthy dose of stress ensures that you perform well, that you are alert and attentive. Stress is by nature a hormone that enables us as humans to react very quickly in a threatening situation.

Stress helps us to survive but too much stress can slowly destroy us. You can recognise symptoms that come with too much stress: being restless, being stimulated more than usual, forgetting all sorts of things, the feeling of “cotton wool” in your head, sleeping badly, using more sweets and/or alcohol than is good for you.

Also pressure on the chest, tingling in arms and legs, dizziness, nausea, etc. If these symptoms increase and persist for a longer period of time, you may enter the phase of extreme fatigue and emotional lability.

The first step in case of burnout

The first step in case of burnout

Many of my clients – in response to their complaints – visited their GP and had a first check done. High blood pressure sometimes rolls off the bus, but in general there are no complaints that have a physical cause and are serious. Many also have an examination carried out in the hospital because they want to know what is going on. If all physical causes are excluded, the diagnosis “burn-out” remains.

Burnout is not an officially recognised disease. There is no uniform diagnosis on the basis of which the indication ‘burnout’ is given. It is an accumulation of symptoms.

Compare the burnout with a parked car whose headlights remain on for a few hours without the driver noticing. If he comes back to his car and wants to start it, he will not be able to because the battery is flat. It takes time and energy to recharge the battery. This takes patience and often results in irritation and misunderstanding on the part of the driver. Many car owners will feel powerless the moment the car doesn’t start anymore. The moment of desperation feels very unpleasant.

Someone who gives all the energy for his/her family for a longer period of time and gets burned out for work. The lights go out. Charging takes time and is accompanied by incomprehension and very often with a feeling of powerlessness, desperation and lifelessness. “How did it happen like this?” is a question, but most of all: “When will it be over? I want it to be over soon.”

Why does burn-out take so long?

During my coaching sessions I draw the letter P of PATIENCE in the sand for clients who find the recovery process too slow and that is the case with most clients. Patience is often difficult to handle for most people, whereas it is very important during recovery.

A burn-out that takes months to sneak in to control someone it also takes months to disappear again. Many people with a burn-out think that a few weeks’ rest is enough to recover. Doing some nice things and walking and then you can pick up the thread again, many people think. Practice is more complicated.

Why does burn-out take so long? Patience is the answer!

A recovery process begins with acceptance of the burnout. You must have the courage to face your own situation. You will tell your partner, family, colleagues and perhaps the neighbours about your annoying situation. Once the burnout has been accepted, the feeling of powerlessness and unrest can be shared. Sharing a problem makes the problem less difficult.

Why does burn-out take so long?

An appropriate route to get rid of burnout

The coaching process at Meulenberg takes a number of months. Especially in the beginning, the coaching is aimed at recovery but also at the acceptance of your burn-out. Twice a week you will receive targeted coaching, which is intensive. A firm start of the coaching programme is a way that effectively helps you to recover and gain acceptance.

Only in the last phase of the course are the sessions carried out at longer intervals, sometimes of a few weeks. Many clients ask for longer intervals themselves in the final phase of the coaching programme: they want to try out the change in their behaviour in practice, in their family and at work, and see for themselves how they react to it. During the coaching sessions they can then reflect their experiences and changes in behaviour with me.

It means that the client’s patience is put to the test again because he/she often wants to start working again, pick up social contacts and participate normally. Usually this is disappointing and it turns out that too many stimuli can cause a relapse.

Taking too big a step can make it necessary to take steps backwards: a step forward and a step back are sometimes part of the process of recovery and then of adjusting behaviour and patterns.

The moments of relapse immediately appeal to the patience of the client in question. However difficult that may be, the P of PATIENCE is worthy of GOLD when recovering from a burn-out.

 

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Training and coaching

Milltain provides training and coaching for private individuals and organisations. Our team consists of 35 coaches and trainers who have now helped thousands of people struggling with stress and burnouts.

Milltain for private individuals:

Are you stuck in life because of stress or a burnout? We developed an effective online program that is fully focused on the complete recovery from a burnout. More than 2000 people have successfully completed this training!

Movement and nature play prominent roles in this training. Recovery is a process that contains peaks and troughs, and that’s something we know all about. Our highly experienced coaches provide you with active support.

Learn more: Stress and burnout coaching

Milltain for organisations:

With the help of a team of experienced trainers, Milltain supports organisations in the prevention of stress and the (re) finding of work happiness in the workplace. A single burnout can easily cost an organisation € 70,000 (or more!)

In addition to financial suffering, the human suffering is great. Not only for the employee but also for close colleagues who have to deal with the blows. Before long, you find yourself in a negative vicious circle.

Get long-term absence and stress among employees under control with the help of our highly effective team training via Zoom or a similar tool.

This training has proven to be an international success for both managers (leadership skills) and employees (dealing with stress).

Learn more: Online team training

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About the author
My name is Ruud Meulenberg. Owner and founder of Milltain and Meulenberg Training & Coaching.
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