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There Is No Cure for Burnout (elladawson.com)
93 points by dsr12 8 months ago | hide | past | favorite | 90 comments



I can’t say I’m a fan of the classism, racism, and sexism in this article. It creates and reinforces repeatedly the trope that burnout is an unavoidable but uniquely millenial problem; that “white men” from Gen X and before don’t get burned out.

Fuck that; anyone and everyone can and do get burnt out. Isolating yourself based on your race, class, and generation will not help you get better.

That said, I will take this article as it is - a release valve being pushed. I wish the author the best on her wellness sabbatical. I have been there, and I can only hope that she is able to find her way past this obstacle.


As a white man I feel you're being extremely sensitive here.

You've taken a small part of the article seemingly out of context. The author is talking about well meaning but ultimately useless advice from those with the financial means to support themselves indefinitely while they travel or relax. While a generalisation, the ability to build up a cushion of 'fuck you money' tends to correlate with being from a generation with higher job security, (in the UK) free higher education, no dependents to support, etc.

I don't know when everyone got so sensitive to understanding their own privilege vs other people. I'm in my third month off and have been travelling for the last month as well without having to work. I'm exceptionally lucky, I have no dependents to support, free accommodation at my parents, etc, etc. Instead let's imagine I'm a care leaver or my parents had caring needs or I had a child to support or medical/student debt or whatever it might be, I'd have continued to endure burnout until it likely killed me.

Certainly my life has its own challenges, depression, health troubles etc, but compared to most people I've won the lottery.

Anyway, that aside, I hope you're doing well and staying burnout free!


> the ability to build up a cushion of 'fuck you money' tends to correlate with being from a generation with higher job security

With all due respect - this stability comes from age, not generation. I have a stable life now. As someone born in the late 70's, I have a house, a stable job, and a 401k.

But I didn't have these things at 20 - I was fighting to keep my head above water from month to month after coming off being homeless and jobless. I didn't have it at 25, I had been fired and was couch surfing in CA. I was just starting to get stability at 30 - I had enough experience to get a steady job and enough money to start saving, even after paying bills and debt. It took the next decade to get to where I am today.

Age has re-inforced to me that TANSTAAFL is more than a programming idiom. I've put a lot of directed effort and energy into getting a stable life. Like my parents before me and their parents before them.

EDIT: I'd also like to note that my job security is virtually identical to the rest of my colleagues, a number of whom are in their early 20's. My only advantage over them for stability are the skills I'm honing to keep myself useful to this (and other) companies.


That's a fair point and a flaw in my response.

It's more based off the UK too where job security was higher and previously unemployment benefit was more generous and more widely available. There's still a difference here, from the UK the common mass redundancies of tech in the US seem bizzare and likely to increase work related stress.

I still think the author is using "older white male" shorthand to point out that we need to structure society and the economy in a way that protects all people from burnout and provides access to the tools and treatment to recover from it to all. Rather than assuming all people are sufficiently well off to take 6 months to do a Jack Dorsey style Buddhist retreat. I'd hope that the readers are capable of enough nuance to understand that what is meant is an elite rather than react to perceived racism, ageism, sexism etc. It just seems like the mirror of widely derided sensitivity of those on the left but even more bizarre because it claims racism against a group holding power (again in the UK, US, Australia, Canada, most of Europe, excluding the Roma, whoever else, but having to caveat to this extent swiftly makes language unworkable)


> the author is using "older white male" shorthand to point out that we need to structure society and the economy in a way that protects all people

This feels like a justification, an excuse on behalf of the author. If we replaced "older white male" with "young black woman", would this be acceptable? If we replaced the author's references to "other generations" with "millennials", would the article be acceptable?

> I'd hope that the readers are capable of enough nuance to understand that what is meant is an elite rather than react to perceived racism, ageism, sexism etc.

As I said, I took it for what it ultimately is: blowing off steam. But I also couldn't ignore how the author is also using their burnout as an avenue for attacking others as if it's their fault the author burned out.

The "others" can, and should, provide a safety net. I have done so in my personal life. But ultimately, I have no sway in someone else's mental well being, for example when it comes to the expectations the author has put upon herself WRT social networks.


>"older white male" shorthand to point out that we need to structure society and the economy in a way that protects all people from burnout and provides access to the tools and treatment to recover from it to all.

That "shorthand" is going to inadvertently open the possibility of the reader to drawing broader and less exact conclusions than if the writer were more careful in their choice of words.

Using "older white male" makes it sound like the goal is something that's already broadly available (and just being artificially limited) rather than a thing for people with riches or worked hard to get it. They're therefore statistically older, having worked to get into that position and probably only have access to limited doses unless they've been phenomenally successful.

>Rather than assuming all people are sufficiently well off to take 6 months to do a Jack Dorsey style Buddhist retreat.

What's the goal here? How big is the gulf between Doresy's adventure and "protect[ing] all people from burnout and provid[ing] access to the tools and treatment to recover"? Outside of fully automated luxury space communism, next to nobody is going to have the resources to not only not work for six months, but to also hand over all their regular day-to-day responsibility like taking care of family, paying their bills and making sure the house didn't burn down.


> next to nobody is going to have the resources to not only not work for six months

Why not? We're richer than we're ever been. What happened?


Rent, debt and inequality. There is much more wealth, but it's concentrated in places that are expensive and distant from traditional safety nets and social support networks.


As a white man who's neither American nor Western-European I often see things being associated with or characterized by my skin tone when this couldn't be further from the truth.

I mean, in reality, these things almost always have everything to do with status and nothing to do with skin tone - otherwise I wouldn't be experiencing them from my higher-status friends who are baffled that I don't put more than 70% of my income into savings(actual thing one far removed from reality person said to me).


> that “white men” from Gen X and before don’t get burned out.

That's anyway observer bias. Most people you'll encounter Gen X and older in corporations are old enough to have figured out how to manage their career without burnout ... the ones that couldn't already dropped out.

I'm Gen X and I've been in a "burnt out" state many times in my career - 15 years ago there was no real label for it though.

Frankly I'd call it a normal and healthy process; you work too hard, for too long, on a topic you've lost interest in - you will burn out. And it's good for you, because your system is shutting down and preventing you from doing something which, long term, will probably lead to serious health issues.

Where people struggle, when in this condition, is the perceived pressure of having to wear a "smiley face" all the time, dealing with others, while when feeling like shit inside.

And the thing you learn in time, is to stop being nice and start being honest. Learn to say No. Learn to think "who cares?" if people feel awkward around you, if have a less-than-happy today. And a whole load more things...

Ultimately as you get older, you learn to manage your own ups and downs. So I don't see being "burnt out" as something as I have to be afraid of but rather something I need to plan for.


That's not burn-out. That's exhaustion. Burn-out happens when you push past that point. (See the linked article in the article she links to.)


Did we read the same article? As far as I can tell, the only mention of white men is as part of a bigger picture of someone who hit the jackpot with respect to "burnout recovery" options, and so whose advice isn't worth much to the average person suffering burnout. The fact that they're white men isn't presented as a problem per se.


> "white men is as part of a bigger picture of someone who hit the jackpot with respect to "burnout recovery" options"

Wow. Somehow you wrote this statement but you don't see it as dismissive sexist and racist stereotyping just because it's in the reverse direction sexism and racism usually goes? Being reversed doesn't make it okay, at least if you claim to believe in equality.


> you don't see it as dismissive sexist and racist stereotyping just because it's in the reverse direction sexism and racism usually goes?

No, I don't see it as sexist and racist because the context makes it very plain to me that it's not a stereotype of white men. The people complaining seem to think that "most X are white men" and "most white men are X" are the same statement.


> that “white men” from Gen X and before don’t get burned out.

"Midlife" crisis could easily fall under burning out and that's a term that was around since my "millennial" self was a kid and beyond probably.


Thanks for bringing that up. I felt the same. It really diminished the article and let's not forget ageism.


I left my job as a physician 5 years ago. Of course it was a hectic life, but the hours and pressure wasn't as bad as my lack of control over my life. Everyone thought I was crazy to leave without something else lined up already, but I knew if I stayed I would die. Just as she says in this article; not suicidality, but rather some odd sense of existential doom.

I'm still angry. Angry at every imposition anyone dares to make on me. Angry I essentially wasted 13 years of my life following a societal program rather than being brave enough to figure out what I actually wanted from the start.

Like the author, I'm also not sure if there's a cure for burnout. Five years on, I'm still living a sub-poverty lifestyle off of odd jobs and creative pursuits. Whenever I get an urge to do something more involved, I get exposed a bit again to the world of registrations and resumes, licenses and HR departments...and I lose all motivation again.

But I don't think it's a problem. I don't think of my burnout as a defect. More as a wizening up to the view that most of what I hussled myself over was bullshit, and it was right to leave and not look back. I'm just sorry it took me so long to start living for myself.

I'm sure I sound spoiled and selfish. I don't care. Just be glad I left before you or a loved one had the unfortune of having me as your doc.


"funny" I do feel similarly cheated about my studies (computing) and the missing information about adult life that totally change my view about job/career.

I'm also a bit schizophrenic about computing. At my current min-wage job, I started thinking and writing some code (some topic I never done, on a new platform mind you). I'm both happy and unhappy about it.

Back to burnout, this brainless job I have allows me to wander as I see fit without stress. It's a freedom of creative thinking without pressure to be compared to the forced burden of juggling with things I wouldn't enjoy in a mainstream programming job. Even for a big check I'm not sure I'd be as peaceful as I'm now at times (it's not stable yet).

I also keep intellectual and creative pursuits on the side. Somehow I decoupled financial duties and intellectual growth. I can read about mathematics and electrical engineering on my own pace, and it's often a joy. The lack of pressure and the choice of topics I find interesting is a much better and much more natural energy source.

Do you think about keeping medical pursuits on the side ? maybe not as a physician. I don't know, joining a lab, going to conferences.


I think I had a burnout at home. It was just too much: 90% to 100% job, 3 kids, house, and the constant feel of (self?) pressure to make it all better, always be prepared and such at home. My wife and me separated almost a year ago, and since then share the care of our kids by 50/50. She works a lot (80%), I work a lot (90%). It only works because the kids go to school, I can work from home 2 days and we have grand parents that help when in need. I just feel so free and unleashed. She too. And the kids are fine as well. Finally no one is putting any pressure on me at home except for myself. I have such a great time with the kids and I really enjoy it. And I still love my job, as I always did, working more or less 8.5h a day.

Anyway what I wanted to say is, that you can also have a burnout at home. I was such an emotionless dead guy. I'm not sure there is no cure, and I agree that whenever I feel this "pressure" again in a new relationship (not that I had many), I feel like I'd like to run away and stay single. Which makes me sad. But on the other hand I rarely was as happy and free as I am now.

Edit: Bookmarked this article and will certainly read it. Thanks for sharing such stories.


There definitely are things you can do, but in my experience when you feel this way it is really hard to do them.

I've been reading and listening to a few things that are helping me. One thing I've been learning about recently are the body's responses to chronic stress, such as the release of cortisol in the body, and the long term damage that can do. And about allostatic load, which helps explain how it gets perpetually worse as time goes by.

The author's experience is real of course, but it doesn't sound like she is an authority to discuss if it can be cured or not.


Would you mind sharing sources?

I'd be interested in reading what you found on those topics.


Rick Hanson has been a life saver. He is a psychologist with lots of meditation practice. https://www.rickhanson.net/

Also I've really enjoyed Heart Math. That book is where I learned about the physiological explanation of stress. And it has exercises that have helped me in moments of aniexty. Like waking up at 3am with worries and stress.


Yes there's something larger than work. Many people (me included) needed to learn to check their own needs and keep joy in view vs all kinds of expectations.


There is no “immediate” cure for burnout. Burnout is the result of environmental stressors, but once it sets in it's like a broken leg. It takes time to heal. The textbook cure is rest, effectively abdication of your responsibilities, and you could be right again after a few months, but as the author points out not everybody can be so privileged. In my experience, and that of others I’ve spoken with, recovery can take about 18 months if you can radically rethink your attitude to work and reach out to colleagues and solicit their support. If you’re going to be trying to shoulder this all on your own and expect to go around day-to-day with your same (perhaps maladaptive) attitude to life as you did before you will find recovery a lot harder, and perhaps that’s what she means by “no cure”, but to me that’s akin to wanting to repeatedly hit your own leg with a hammer, hoping that taking a load of pain killers will help you get by ...

I would contend that if you must continue working, as it is for most people, perhaps changing jobs isnt the best idea - it is after all considered to be one of the most stressful life events (see holmes-raehe) and is not to be taken lightly.

But we have to appreciate that not all workplaces are amenable to open displays of personal vulnerability. Which is truly sad.

The sunscreen song comes to mind: ”leave before it makes you hard”

But nevertheless, don’t give up hope, you can find human kindness in the unlikliest of places, but first maybe you have to be kind to yourself <3


I think the only way to catch you breath while running is to pace yourself correctly.

Keep a strict routine of just enough 9-5. Find a low stress app / tech stack to maintain. Leech off others when you need to. Don't code at home. Make sure you try to eat well and drink a little less. See family. be with people. Don't play WoW ;) Work is just something we do to let us have other things.


I went through a 4-5 year period in my late 20s working 60 hour weeks while also doing grad school and independent research for 60 hours a week, not getting enough sleep or taking enough time for physical and mental health. It was ultimately very damaging; it left most of my personal relationships and social life in dysfunction. While I made it to the field and work I wanted to be in, I burned out quickly. When obstacles came up, rather than being able to give bouts of dedicated, strategic effort to navigate them I often ran headlong into them.

It's not something that can be undone, because it becomes both a benchmark and a scar. Any period of concerted effort can seem inadequate because you know you're capable of more, while also inducing anxiety because becoming very involved in a task reminds you of that trauma, even if you know you're now disciplined about not overextending and stepping back when you need to. Often this results in the classic burnout symptoms of giving too much time to work, accomplishing less than you would with less time, and perceiving what you do accomplish as even less than it is.

Being fully absorbed in a challenging problem for weeks or months on end by making sacrifices elsewhere in your life can be an exhilarating and fulfilling experience, but it's no different from extreme distance running or olympic lifting. It's only fulfilling and sustainable if it's done with proper preparation, long period cycles of high and low difficulty, caution, rest, and recovery. And if it isn't what you're doing with most of your time.


Your analysis is very well worded. Do you think you could not readjust your internal compass to value partially limited efforts (efforts that you said you considered were under your maximum capabilities) so that you take a long time averaging view on them. Sure you could go 99% and destroy yourself but no human should destroy himself[0] so it's totally acceptable to chunk your work into "good enough for now" and keep going at a smaller pace.

I used to suffer from social anxiety due to the need to outperform everything. After personal grief I realized I owe nothing to nobody and it made my brain infinitely more focused about my internal pleasure and sanity rather than external constraints. I'd rather be nobody and smiling than suffering. It made me balance things and put limits on things. I still value being active and working good and hard but only to an extent.

[0] I'm not talking about absolute freedom to destroy yourself if you ultimate think it's your desire.


I think the cure just takes a long time, maybe years, if we assume work place burnout is basically the same as athlete burnout from years/decades of overtraining: you develop terrible endocrine imbalances from habitually frying your system.

The "cure" is to take it easy and pay attention to sleep, nutrition, stress levels, and perform easy exercise... and know it could take a really long time to change your endocrine profile.


Alcohol is a big one, at least here in the UK. From my observations many people, including plenty of middle class professionals with families, live their daily lives in a temporary state of non-inebriation between drinking sessions. That they prefer this to reality says something pretty depressing about the average person's life in an advanced economy in the 21st century.


I'm in consulting. And I can't count the times where I told people to say no to the client! (learn to say no)

But they can't... Some just can't say no to save there life.

Some just want to work looong hours.

And some are just too nice and avoid conflict.

Its frustrating, especially they could work on long term valuable stuff..


I think there's two kinds of situation this occurs in. There's the "not yet learnt" kind where people don't know what they can deliver, over-promise, and end up in an awkward situation.

There's also a trickier, structural situation that I think is more common. If managers don't have real ownership of their client relationships, they learn they become effectively unable to say "no". If they try, someone else will say "yes" instead.


Loads of psilocybin and a strict daily regime containing both low-stress & high-rest did wonders for me. Having a budget of hours for when "allowed" to crunch and burn at things even returned most of my eagernes and enjoyment within a short timeframe.


Stinky plant based substances can also help counteract getting stressed over things you don’t need to also!


And the things you do need to (...)


if you didn't do it, it didn't need to be done!


My experience is that there is.

I tend to be really intense about my job, and as a result I've left almost all of my jobs due to burnout, usually related to frustration that my dept isn't prioritizing what I feel is important to be successful, and that my time isn't well spent.

I recently went through this at my current gig, despite having good pay, good manager, and as close to a non-toxic environment as I think is possible. In other words... I couldn't easily scapegoat the org. The problem probably had to do with me. So I tried a new thing: to actually salvage the gig and fight to get my needs met instead of throwing my hands up and abandoning the whole affair.

It took a few months of failed compromises before I resorted to being totally upfront about it. I tried to ask for things like "one sprint on, one sprint off" and hearing that "we don't have bandwidth" until I finally said "look, i'm not having a good time, my productivity is on the floor, i have no morale and things that should take 10 easy minutes take a miserable week. i'm gonna take a month, and when I come back, i'm gonna work on other stuff (with a large, thorough doc of what "other stuff" should be: the intersection of things i find valuable/interesting + would also be valuable to the team).

Management was on board this time. I think they could tell that I was pained enough to walk if I had to, like most of the people in these stories. We also have a new engineer that unlocked some bandwidth. They asked me to move my month off to December instead of November, but greenlit my new work effective the next sprint.

The turnaround was astonishing. Overnight, my output went from unusually low to unusually high. I wake up excited to work on stuff, and care enough that I can be self-directing without needing to be fed tickets or have a PM prioritizing goals. My demos hit heavy, I feel great about my job, and I haven't even taken the vacation yet. I'm still taking it, but it no longer feels like I'll have a breakdown if I don't.

Point is: sometimes burnout comes from feelings of helplessness, arbitrariness, lack of autonomy, and misalignment of personal and company goals. Then you get bitter, and fatigued by constant bitterness, and the hole deepens until you can't see a way out anymore.

But if you can recognize whats got you down, come up with a viable alternative, set and defend boundaries on your time, and fight for them with adult conflict resolution skills... that crippling dissatisfaction is VERY actionable.

"Burnout" is a catch-all term for many nebulous forms of psychological fatigue. The idea that there's no cure for any of those things is pretty silly to me.


This is an amazing example for the “autonomy” part of self-determination theory. And it shows how intrinsic motivation relates to mental health. It also shows to some extent “relatedness” and “competence” part of SDT.

Other than that this post shows a potential issue that many people with burnout face: adult conflict. Without conflict one’s course of action is to change themselves. With conflict, one can change their environment. This (probably) only works in a healthy environment like the parent described.


It wasn't mentioned in my post, but the "relatedness" aspect was definitely a big component. I felt like I was letting myself down by not working on what's important to me, but I felt like I was letting the team down by being ineffective in my regular "keep the lights on" role, and so _everyone_ was being disappointed. I disliked the work, but I still like my team, and didn't want to be responsible for making their jobs harder. One of the goals here was to remove that conflict of interest.

SDT is interesting – I hadn't read anything about this before, so thanks for the keyword.


I've struggled with this one too. I never really felt a ton of pressure in my life as a developer, but since moving up to manager/director level you end up in this situation where you have to drive a lot of process and decision-making, but the parameters are set by other people. It's been extremely draining emotionally to have to drive action on things you don't always believe you should be doing. Now it's like I'm chasing a dragon of acquiring more authority so I'm not cleaning up someone else's mess. At the same time, the authority I do have is driving me insane so why would I want more? The times I've been happiest in this role is when I'm really friends with my peers and leaders and we can work together and criticize freely. Whenever I feel like I have a "boss" I get stressed.


I can completely relate to what you’re going through. One thing that’s helped me is to realize that management, like development, requires training. Study it like an art. Take some classes, listen to podcasts, find books on the subject. Harvard Business Review is a great resource. Check out the Dear HBR podcast as a jumping off point.


Most of us don't have any choice and have to continue to work - burned out or not. I've found that burnout comes and goes in waves though. It doesn't necessarily take changing jobs to help resolve it. Sometimes, it's just a matter of putting one foot in front of another for a while and just staying afloat until something sparks and work becomes interesting and fun again and not sheer drudgery and anxiety.


I think part of what it takes to innoculate yourself is recognising it for what it is, and knowing the signs so you can at least put it in its place and manage it.

Symptoms are physical, emotional, behavioural - author touches on some of these, but for me its noticing I’m being continuosly negative about things, raised heart-rate and breathing, locking myself away from people or not being able to sleep at night. Ymmv.


>Sometimes, it's just a matter of putting one foot in front of another for a while and just staying afloat until something sparks and work becomes interesting and fun again and not sheer drudgery and anxiety

That will only work for pretty mild burnout. Once it becomes severe, you really don't have any choice and you are forced by your body to stop. It becomes impossible to continue. I would highly recommend doing something about it before it gets to this point, as it will take a long time to recover (many months if not years).


> Don’t talk to me about burnout without addressing universal healthcare and worker’s rights. I just don’t want to hear it (or read it, or listen to it, or buy it, or watch it).

That is the real issue: people can't give up their jobs because there is absolutely no way they can afford the health care. The healthcare system in the US is completely broken. This absolutely must be addressed, which is a major point in her post.


>I didn’t do my laundry for four months and I ordered Wendy’s delivery twice a week for most of winter because I was psychologically unable to pick up groceries.

Sounds like more of a serious case of actual clinical depression.


Exhaustion caused by chronic stress - general adaptation syndrome (formerly neurasthenia, now "other neurotic disorder") and depression share many features, but the treatment is different. (Likewise PTSD.) Dysautonomia is related, maybe a feature that would be tractable pharmacologically.

And probably harder as it's less understood. Nobody really knows how adaptation to stress works, much less how to fix the terminal exhaustion.


This isn’t a cure but it helped me and the author mentions their job having to be on Twitter a lot.

The constant churn of social media (esp Twitter) is not a place for sanity or calm and is absolutely a recipe for late nights wasting away when your brain can only handle repetitive tasks with quick endorphin hits (railroad tycoon was cited) or random mobile games.

When success is how quick you respond to the latest with something witty or anything at all, rather than considered substantive discussion you will not be able to quiet your mind.

Get off Twitter if you can. Logout of Facebook. Have a friend change your passwords. Avoid the “news”. Some good can come from it, but this is step one. It is an addiction, and must be treated as such.


Your mileage may vary, but regarding effective life management, I found the Mark Manson's book The Subtle Art Of Not Giving A F: Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life to have more truth in than the title may say.


Seconded. A funny yet surprisingly instructive book. His concept of "VCR questions" (about the importance of processing emotions) was really eye opening for me.


Spot on, the best cure for burnout isn't a cure at all, it's prevention.


Funny thing is that before reaching final stage the body sends signs. Lots of them and often. Most of knowledge workers heard this word “burnout” and it’s nothing new. Burnout does not happen over night, it takes months and even years. Close people also see the changes, but the subject goes forward ignoring everything. Why is so difficult to slow down? Is it better to spend couple years recovering instead of leaving harmful environment immediately?


There is this cultural myth of the “hero worker” who puts everything on the line to succeed. I think some people identify with this more than others and basically set themselves up with an abusive external locus of evaluation.


But preventative means limit my potential


Your potential to do what? Trade happiness for money? Because that’s how this works.

We’re totally sold on the idea that more money means a better life. More. More. Always more. Always wanting. Always lacking.

Happiness isn’t in more. It’s in everything. You just have to have the time to find it - and time is the crux.

You only live once; time is your most precious and finite commodity. Each day that passes is irrevocably gone - and as morbid as it may be, you don’t know which will be your last. I have had friends drop dead in their 20s and 30s both out of the blue, and after agonising illnesses.

If your work makes you happy, great. If your work is gently or not so gently killing you, and you are persevering for some abstract goal of “more”, you are taking a dangerous wager - your precious time against the chance of making it into the 0.0001% - the idea being that if you win, then you won’t have to work. That’s fundamentally the bet we take when we venture into a career.

There’s a shortcut. Don’t work any more than you absolutely have to to keep the lights on.

I left my business a few years ago after a decade, withered and broken, mentally and physically damaged. I do as little contracting as I can get away with to cover my living expenses, which I’ve dramatically cut by moving off grid in a cheap country. I have so much time to read, to work on projects and hobbies, to just stand and stare at the river running by.

I used to stand in the shower, weeping, and think about how I would kill myself.

Now I weep only with happiness.

Life doesn’t have to be a slog.


You've expressed a nagging feeling I've had for years beautifully here.

"Work hard and maximize your potential for... maybe someday having the luxury of time?" Nevermind that there's a cost to every hour spent working and it grows and grows with time. How many Sunday afternoons have you got left in your life? maybe 2800 if you're thirty? How many Sunday afternoons with a strong body? How many with your partner or kids? Do you want to trade those to answer some random bullshit on Slack? Is your job increasing net happiness, at least indirectly, or is it just pointless bullshit?

I think the idea is gaining traction - MrMoneyMoustache, etc. are popular but a huge amount of the things we're supposed to derive meaning from are just scaffolding around emptiness.

We live like gods compared to a few centuries ago, maybe we should take the time to enjoy it.


No prospect, no future.

You seem to be waiting for death.


No, I’m living life. If you measure your entire worth through your position in a corporate hierarchy, sure, no future.

Life isn’t about how much stuff you have, but that’s for you to find out - most only discover this just before they die, if ever.


I have little care for such things.

Human interaction is different - as is doing things with other human beings. Hobby, work, paid, volunteer - doesn't matter.

You seem to be living a recluse life. I find that concerning


As are you - so what are you doing while waiting?


projects, things. Not maximizing the time spent doing nothing or just introspecting off the grid, in a country chosen just because it was cheap.

There is a time and place for everything, but after a while it is best to interact and relate with other human beings.


The irony of you talking about relating to other human beings is staggering, given your unwarranted condescension.

I didn’t just chose here because it was cheap - I went for quality of life. Friendly locals, good food, sunshine, nature, and a generally laid back culture. I spent two years after quitting wandering the earth, weighing up options, seeing how other people live, broadening my horizons. Because I’m not spending money to make money and have no fixed calendar, I can go travel when everyone else is at school or work, meet up with friends, meet new people, experience new cultures. You can see a lot of planet for a little money, if you have time - I’ve driven the length of the Americas, from Ushuaia to Anchorage, the breadth of Eurasia, from London to Singapore, and down the west coast of Africa - and oh boy do I meander.

In these past few years I’ve written two novels, dozens of shorts, and I’m about to be (not self) published. In the last few months I’ve installed solar energy, built a dam, installed hydro energy, run plumbing, installed hot and cold running water, and inbetween I’ve found the time to go crayfish fishing and mushrooming with the locals. Sitting on the riverbank boiling up dinner you just caught and foraged with a bunch of other humans is the epitome of human interaction.

Being a cubicle jerk isn’t interaction, it’s a facsimile of interaction, divorced from human meaning, with a mechanistic ersatz set of values imposed by a group delusion.

I bought into it for too long - and only now am I beginning to realise my potential.


I don't see contact info in your profile, but I'd love a link to your novel (or email address if you care to converse). I haven't wandered, but living somewhere really cheap where my modest house is paid off in cash and monthly expenses are tiny, is life changing.

If I'd done it younger, I might've done more of what you describe, but as it is it's liberating if you've got a family too.

It's amazing the decisions you can make when "I want to take this risk or do that thing" has a worst-case outcome of "oh well, I still have a secure home for me and my family" and not "oh crap we're living out of a van". Mortgages are death to life - actual life - perhaps why that have "Mort" right there in the name.


Only in the short term. Long term your productivity would be better as you wouldn’t be suffering from health problems.


I think the point is that you don't know the limit until you reach it and when you do it may be too late. Seeing a spike in stress doesn't necessarily mean you'll burn out or that it will last forever so many try to weather it out with unfortunate consequences.

But I guess YMMV, every person is different. Some can take more punishment and get more time to decide if they want to keep it up. Some may burn out faster than they can realize.


That is fucked up. We are human beings, not some machine to be measured by how productive we are.


I think you are missing the point. You can be productive for yourselfas wellas for other people ...


A young bull and an old bull stood atop a hill grazing some sweet sweet grass. By and by they spotted a herd of cows let into the pasture in the valley below them.

The young bull pawed the ground with his hoof, snorted, and bellowed "let's run down the hill and service us one of those there cows!!!"

The old bull continued to chew his cud thoughtfully. After a pause, he said "Nope. Let's walk down the hill and service them all."


This might just mean that the work involved in "reaching your potential" literally wouldn't make you happy. I think you know that moving further would really suck in some way. So either let it go and do something else you're happy with, or work around this by figuring out what makes you happy/unhappy about this particular thing and work on refining your mindset around it.

Eventually you'll decide whether or not it's a good idea to keep going in that direction. You'll also get a clearer idea of what you actually want to do, and get rid of those weird "strong morals" that people tend to have, that really do limit their options (for example, "I'll never be able to leave this job" or when addicts feel there's no way out and they're too scared to quit, even though everything about their situation objectively sucks).

(i am only an armchair therapist, not a real one)


Burnout will limit your potential a lot more.


If you think that to invest more time in planning & rest will limit your potential, you're likely to be wrong. A proper life balance tends to support you achieving your full potential. The balancing act has a positive return on investment.


I think this touches the root cause.


Pacing, life is a marathon not a race.


But my primary motivation—the one that finally overrode my aversion to risk and pushed me to give notice before I could line up another job

I quit my job a month ago or so, citing burnout.

They one thing the majority of my co-workers couldn't wrap their heads around was that I had nothing else waiting for me and made a point out of it. Some said they envied me, because they didn't have enough savings to pull something like that.

And this made me think, because not having anything lined up beforehand was my rule which I broke for the first time by applying to this company, and in hindsight it was a bad move.

Are we all "running on fumes" to such an extent, that no-one can afford a few weeks without a job?


After some unpleasant life experiences, I've made a point of always having savings to be able to survive and keep a roof over my head for a year if the worst were to happen. (And lower my spending when I don't.) Sadly, it looks like the situation has gotten so bad that most people can't even do that...


I don't have that. Even worse: almost three years ago I got to a point of having almost zero money, but found a job soon after.

I promised myself that this year it'll be different - we'll see.


"I’m afraid that there is no cure for burnout. After all, you can’t untoast toast."

Well said.


Reads like an extremely discriminatory hitpiece. Gross.


One thing I've seen is people get used to working 60-80 hour weeks at university. But you can't keep doing that your whole life, you have to learn to work a regular weeks as well.

Also and people assuming promotions is always a good thing. You don't have to always want to be the boss.


> If there is a cure for burnout, it’s voting, and unionizing, and redistributing wealth.

I couldn't agree more.


So many words, yet so little said.


The author seems to me to be blaming society and her former employer for her own failings. Perhaps if she were smarter about how she performed her job duties she wouldn't be so overwhelmed, unable to do even basic chores like buying groceries or going to the gym. And if it really was the fault of her unreasonable employer/boss, she could have applied to other jobs. Or maybe she should find a different industry, or develop useful skills that are in enough demand in the economy for her to dictate a better work environment. By blaming everything and everyone but herself, she has set herself up to fail. It's not the patriarchy or capitalism that is the cause of her issues-- it's her own bad choices and even worse ways of grappling with the fallout of her bad decisions.


Nice example of prevalent victim blaming. The mentally ill person expected to cure themselves? Really? If you consider her to be setting herself for failure, why did nobody help her before it was too late?

There are very strong social pressures on staying working. Be the hero to buck them, see what your spouse thinks if you have one. Or friends - suddenly you're considered a loser.

And the key thing is that switching jobs requires patience and actual work to not land in the same or worse hole. Even then, when truly exhausted, you might be unable to hold on in the new place.

Develop useful skills? Taking say up to six years with what money and energy? Then getting hired while being older this many years, quite a challenge.

What's your solution? "Stiff upper lip?" Boundless forced optimism? Job hopping? Just being rich? Having actual friends? (but not everyone is so lucky)

Even psychologists have problems dealing with this thing.


Calling it "victim blaming" presupposes the existence of a victim in this scenario. But there is no victim-- her own actions are the cause of her problems. This is not an example of someone getting assaulted on the street corner by a stranger and saying "well, they shouldn't have been by themselves in a dangerous area late at night, it's their own fault." No one put a gun to her head-- she isn't an indentured servant, or in a prison work gang. She lives in one of the freest places in the world (and in human history), with the best economy in decades and the lowest unemployment rate in recorded history. At some point you need to take ownership of your own destiny.


Why is the link to Helen Peterson's article a mailto?


I’ve noticed a trend recently. Someone will write a very long article about some problem, without mentioning politics once. Then, at the end, they’ll assert that the answer is to remake society from the ground up. This is the template:

5000 words of bitching about some problem that’s always existed

...

Ahem. And that is why we must dismantle the White Supremacist Capitalist Patriarchy.


I see it too. It's like the correlation vs. causation error, but less rigorous. More like coexistence vs. causation.

Now that you've caught this trend, you'll start seeing the more generic form of it everywhere.


What great writing this was.


Hold up, there's some really bad perspective on this. While I would say there's no immediate cure for burnout, it is absolutely curable.

When I first learned to program, I dived into freelancing. I lucked out and in about 3 weeks, I teamed up with two design firms that needed a webdev. I was working ~18 almost everyday. No exaggeration. I was single and this was right after I lost my job, apartment and my life collapsed. So, I was on the kick of getting it all back. It was work, coffee, sleep. I literally drank 2-3 pots of coffee everyday and had to chug beer to fall asleep. Wake up, all over again.

BTW, not a healthy lifestyle, in case you didn't realize.

After a year, I was done. I would literally stare at my emails piling up and just not move. Just blank stare for hours. I had zero focus. Not, oh I'm going to watch a video or check reddit kind of "zero focus". I could barely function. Any task I needed to do, like brush my teeth, I couldn't think about long or hard enough to get up and do it. That, I learned is zero damn focus.

Fast forward about 2 months. Lost all those contracts and contacts for obvious reasons and got into really bad depression. Now, I was "trying" to cure my burnout and was getting no where. Meditation, soothing music, motivational videos, whatever. None of it was enough to get me "work" functioning again for more than 15 minutes without me wanting to just go jump into front of a fast moving truck. Oh, but I can't do that because I lack the motivation to even go out there to kill myself. That's how bad it was.

Until, one Friday, Steam sent an email about Borderlands 2 was free for the weekend. I didn't play a video game in like 2 or 3 years at that point. I thought, "Fuck it, my weekend isn't going to be productive anyways since I'm burnt out and probably going to die in this apartment only to be found because they want to collect past due rent."

I didn't think of "working" at all. Just played, non-damn-stop that entire weekend. Didn't drink coffee or alcohol, mostly by accident because I was focused on the game.

I fell asleep at a decent time Sunday. Monday I woke up, did all my morning hygiene properly, like an adult. I then sat down and made phone calls to contacts that didn't suffer from my burnout phase. Got working again. I tried getting 7 hours of sleep every night and went from 18 hours working to only 10 max for the first few months (had to pick back up on finances). Eventually I forced 8 hours of sleep on myself over time. One of my best decisions.

You need to have fun people! I don't play video games much anymore. I like reading, woodworking, nature photography, writing, watercolor painting (I suck at it, but it's fun) and literally walking on the beach. Bars and generic social meetups are fun too. I only work more than 8 hours a day if it's a real, super emergency. I restrict my coffee intake to 3 mugs max per day. No caffeine the moment it's 5pm, no exceptions. Even if there's a crunch. My sleep is important. I only allow 2 all nighters in a 30 day timespan. No exceptions.

While I feel for Ella in the article, but you can't blame the economy or capitalism for the fact you don't take care of yourself. It's not a political issue. It's a "be an adult" issue. One that many have to learn the hard way, like myself. But blaming others is... well... stupid. Yes, there are drawbacks to standing your ground about this. Again, it's about being an adult. Nothing about gender or race. Be an adult. Yea, I didn't get certain contracts, especially one from a FAANG (Fuck them all by the way, they're the cause of this overwork bullshit plaguing society), because I have very strong stipulations how I work. If I'm requested to work after MY 5pm, I charge double, instantly. Don't call me. I don't check my work email. If you call, I charge you a full hour, at double rate, even if it's a 5 minute phone call. Email me and I'll get to it 9am the next day. Unless you take me out to dinner to chat work. But I'm an expensive work date.

If you're in a burnout phase. Here's what I recommend.

A. Do something drastically fun or relaxing. Pure pleasure and don't even think or worry about working. For at least a day. I think a weekend is best (obviously) but at minimum do 24 hours. This is the first "small fix" to get you started.

B. You need a hobby. A relaxing and/or fun hobby. No, you don't instagram or facebook what you're doing. It's FOR YOU and you only. I recommend something constructive. But whatever it is that you find enjoyable and somewhat challenges you(not crazy important). Do it.

C. Work/Life balance is about doing responsibilities and still having fun. Life isn't all about "constant" improvement and work. Relax, have fun. Get your work done sooner so you can have fun sooner. Don't get your work done sooner just so you can give yourself more work to do.

Hustling is good in spurts, especially when you're young and can handle it. Cutting your teeth is good. But you still need to realize that life is more than that. If you're hustling so you can "hustle more", you're doing it wrong. You hustle so you can enjoy life more. People bitch about the boomers. Yea, but you know, they did protest against the stiff all work corporate culture of their time and brought in the sexual revolution. Millennials are a generation that focus on all work/career along with public image for their social media feed and are really under-sexed.

Go get laid, have some fun and remember you work so you can enjoy life more. You don't life so you can work more.


This is coming from a lady pitching for redistribution of wealth and universal healthcare. She also takes her time to attack men as the only ones who can receive a cure from something most everybody faces at one time or another. I'm sorry, I've been burned out for years but this sounds more like a mental illness than occupational burnout.

My thoughts while reading this are... can you imagine if she had a family to support?

I think the cure for burnout is time off and thinking about all the things you do have and not about how unfair the world is. It's always been that way and always will be. Millennials are burned out at a much higher rate due to the fact that they are the most entitled generation entering the workforce.

If it's truly occupational, I think one should find a new job. To quit with nothing else lined up except a dream, that's just irrational behavior. The world owes us nothing and our ancestors had it much much worse.

Also, she hasn't even had 3 months off. The general rule is at least half the time you've been burned out to truly recover. At least that's what I hear from people who we're actually able to recover, the ones without children to feed. For this guy, it's not a reality. I have to grind and it's just the way it is.


> This is coming from a lady pitching for redistribution of wealth and universal healthcare.

So someone sensible then?




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