What you need to know to get back on track


Research has shown that 30% of people are likely to experience burnout in their lifetime, and the numbers are expected to increase due to the ongoing pandemic stress.

Certified life coach and burnout sufferer, Niki Puls revealed to her TikTok community how long it actually takes to recover from the effects of the disease.

Certified Life Coach Niki Puls reveals that it takes years to recover from burnout due to its profound impact on the body. Source: Instagram/@niki.jo.puls

“It can take three to five years to recover from exhaustion,” says Niki, explaining that chronic stress and “true exhaustion” even alter chemical levels in your body.

What is burnout?

According to Psychology Today Australia, burnout is “a state of emotional, mental and often physical exhaustion brought on by prolonged or repeated stress”.

Ongoing stressful situations at work are a common cause of burnout, but burnout can also occur in other areas of our lives, including parenting, romantic relationships, and caretaking roles.

Reachout.com explains that burnout is often caused by an accumulation of stressful experiences, including:

Work-related causes

  • Working in a high pressure or disorganized environment

  • Doing work that you don’t find exciting or challenging

  • Having unrealistic expectations placed on you

  • Not being recognized or rewarded for your good work

  • Feeling that you have little or no control over your work

Cartoon of an exhausted executive in the middle of multiple tasks

High-pressure and disorganized workplaces are one of the biggest contributors to burnout. Source: Getty Images

Lifestyle causes

  • Taking on too many responsibilities, including caregiver responsibilities

  • Not getting enough sleep

  • Not having enough time to relax and recharge

  • Not having enough close and meaningful relationships

  • Not meeting your own unique needs (e.g. you spend too much time socializing when you really want more alone time).

Additionally, our individual personality traits and mindset can also contribute to burnout. These traits can include:

  • perfectionist tendencies

  • A pessimistic view of the world and of oneself

  • Always want to be in control

  • Feeling unable to set boundaries and say “no” to things you don’t want to do.

What are the common signs of burnout?

Burnout can often manifest as reduced empathy, emotional exhaustion that doesn’t seem to improve, and reduced engagement and/or performance at work and home.

Cartoon of a woman lying on a sofa, exhausted and burnt out.  A dog is asleep on the ground in front of her

Burnout sufferers often describe physical and emotional exhaustion that does not improve with rest. Source: Getty Images

According to the Black Dog Institute, some common signs of burnout include:

  • Anxiety and stress

  • Depression and low mood (feeling abnormally low)

  • Irritability and anger (having a shorter fuse than usual)

  • Difficulty falling asleep and/or staying asleep

  • Loss of motivation and passion for usual interests

  • Difficulty concentrating, memory and brain fog

  • Withdrawal from others

  • Physical symptoms such as headaches, nausea, and low libido

  • Emotional exhaustion and overwhelm.

The impact of burnout on your body

As Niki explains, “Once you get to the stage of true burnout, your body, chemically, is different. The chemicals in your body are very disrupted. You’ve exhausted your resources. You’re exhausted.

Speaking of her own experience of burnout, she says, “When I had my doctor do some blood work, my levels of cortisol, which are your stress hormones, were sky high.

“So I had to focus on reducing that and putting everything else back together to have a nice even balance. What it took from me was a lot of rest.

“I didn’t have time to take care of myself”

Niki explains that her experience of burnout began about three or four years ago when her life coaching business really took off.

“I turned my passion into profit, and it no longer became my passion. I really regret it,” she said.

“I was in very poor health when I ran my business because I didn’t have time to take care of myself. What’s all that money worth if I’m not even healthy enough to enjoy it? »

Niki goes on to explain that running her own business became so stressful that she had to step away from it to regain her health.

Now she works remotely in social media and marketing, which has allowed her to disconnect at the end of the day and get away from stress.

“I have time with my family. I have brain space,” she says. “When you own a business, you never think about it. Every minute of the day, I was thinking about my business.

“I work privately with a handful of clients that I love,” she explains. “I’m still doing stuff, but I’m not running a full-fledged business for my sanity.”

Ways to heal from burnout

An advocate of the “slow life”, Niki encourages a slower, more present approach to life and explains that recovering from burnout requires an intentional approach.

“You don’t just sit on your couch for three to five years,” she says. “You’re just going to have to do some inside work.

“When true burnout happens, you’ve exhausted and worn out everything in your body. You’re going to have to rebuild it.

And, she shares that the thing that burned you out isn’t likely to offer much opportunity to heal your exhaustion.

“If you burn out as a teacher, teaching in a room full of kids, you probably don’t want to work with kids anymore, which is really sad because it ruins a lot of things for a lot of people.

“Instead, you’re going to have to fill your bucket with something else. You’re going to have to find something new that you like.

Some ideas suggested by Niki to start your “active recovery”:

If you are looking for help to recover from burnout, it can be helpful to speak to a trusted medical professional who can provide options such as pathways to counseling and other forms of support. You don’t have to face it alone.

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