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Ask HN: I think I’ve burnt out. What should I do?
305 points by lostgame on Jan 27, 2020 | hide | past | favorite | 164 comments
Hi, HN. I’ve been here for a long time and I really respect the maturity and experience of this community, and so I’m asking for your advice.

I’m a 30-year-old iOS developer of about ten years, and last year suffered an incredible amount of trauma, including a breakup from a four-year relationship, two separate cases of sexual assault, and the passing of my mother.

While on an insured mental health break for months, I struggled through holding myself together, until finally returning to work in December.

I had been doing well for a while, but recently have been feeling significant mental instability - just disorganized and incoherent thoughts, and unfortunate bouts of overwhelming PTSD symptoms.

My coping method to that has been to try to hold my work together more and more, to a point late last week where I wasn’t even sleeping properly giving myself anxiety about work the next day.

I’ve fallen heavily behind on a lot of the personal responsibilities I’ve needed to ensure my continued healing but I’ve been terrified to step down from my job.

I live in Toronto, I’ve been with the company for more than a year, so I believe Employment Insurance would be possible for me...I’m honestly very confused as to what to do, and I’m sure others here have been in similar situations. I do have a medical professional who I deal with for this who I’ve scheduled to see tomorrow.

Thanks for reading, HN. This site has been a blessing in my life.

EDIT: Wow, thanks for all the support and responses, extremely grateful.

Not that it's important making this distinction, but what you're describing doesn't sound like occupational burnout; you've listed significant trauma that are only exacerbating your work-related stress, and I'm really sorry you're going through this!

First, I would agree with @codingslave in that you SHOULD NOT quit your job, if you can help it. Let me explain: Work provides important scaffolding when you are in a rut. It provides routine and social contact. Without it, it is possible you might start sliding into poor sleeping habits and withdrawing socially, which can make things even worse. At the very least, find a less stressful job to move to before leaving your current one. If this is hard to do, please reach out to family or friends for help. Please understand that it's absolutely okay to struggle and have bad days. Give yourself permission to feel.

Second, it's awesome that you're seeing a medical professional/therapist about this, and I encourage you to keep doing so regularly. "What should I do?" I think you're approaching this well. I wish you the best!

> First, I would agree with @codingslave in that you SHOULD NOT quit your job

I agree with this. There was a period of several years when I was suffering from mysterious medical issues that made functioning at work very difficult. Fortunately, I had a therapist at the time. At times I told my therapist that maybe I should go on medical disability.

My therapist advised that I should under no circumstances go on long-term disability. That if I did, I would likely end up being on medical disability for the rest of my life, and likely sit around being depressed forever.

Eventually, the mysterious medical issues went away, and I had managed to keep my job and sanity in the meantime.

I'm sorry that that OP has been going through so much. I know how rough this type of thing is, and it's truly hell on earth. What's always worked for me is to just fake it til you make it. Take everything one day at a time. Work towards getting your life to where you want it to be when you have the wherewithal. Do things that you find to be fun when you can. Eventually, a day comes when things are not so shitty anymore, and when that day comes, you'll be happy that you persevered.

I go through regular bouts of depression and burnout due to lifestyle, at this point they're more like colds as I handle them quickly with a system(due to how the business is doing/what's happening in life).

Others can feel free to agree or disagree with me, this is what works for me:

Read - A minor level of isolation is okay as long as it's not with your thoughts, read something uplifting or insightful (I recently read the Rosie Result, and Meditations post breakup).

Active - Physically, join a gym or running group, something social to at least be around people, you don't necessarily have to engage, but in climbing gyms for example, people tend to.

Active - Socially, like many have said: keep the job, join a group where you can help others, there are plenty of chances to volunteer, or join groups where you can help in Toronto, it's useful for distracting from what was, and thinking more about what can be. Talk to friends about your issues, maybe they're been through something like it and can help unlock an important facet as to why you're feeling the way you are.

Consistency - a pattern will help you to keep moving along, I can't stress enough that as long as there's no serious underlying psychological issue, only time and mental distractions will help.

Mental - Professional - Get help (I see that you are which is amazing, this is only to cover my suggestions). A good professional can help guide you along if you're willing to help them.

Mental - Personal - Meditation helps, I've recently been doing transcendental meditation, and honestly, it's pretty rad. It's not life changing, but it tones down the thoughts by a notch, at first the 20 minutes seems like forever, but after a couple of weeks, it's over in no time.

Time - Sometimes no matter how good your systems are, mental/emotional depression and burnout are no different that a cut, or broken bone. They need time, and no modern technology will accelerate it past the bodies maximum rate of healing.

Be patient, don't beat yourself up about not being productive, or positive, it's okay to feel like shit, or nothing at all, you win by not giving up, no matter how long it takes.

That is so true: “ SHOULD NOT quit your job, if you can help it. Let me explain: Work provides important scaffolding when you are in a rut. “

You’re spot on about the sliding into poor sleeping habits and withdrawing socially stuff. That hits so close to home it hurts :/

I’m on my way upwards now though, fortunately, hoping to find new employment soon.

Agree as well... Although working part-time is a quite nice option in my similar experience/or at least taking a job with limited working hours and slow paced environment. That offers enough opportunity to recharge from time to time.

Here's what I would advise. Do not under any circumstances quit your job. I've lived through a similar scenario, and while I had a ton of savings, quitting my job resulted in chaos. Poor sleep schedule, dropping motivation, etc. I would get a therapist. Secondly, if your job is stressful, try and find another developer job at a large slow moving, mediocre paying corporation. Mostly recovering from burnout takes time, you just need to weather it out.

The biggest thing that fixed my burnout was actually getting laid off during the recession (09). And being unemployed for a few months. Fortunately this was in the summer, and I spend many days up at the camper (we had an already paid for seasonal spot about an hour away). I found myself sleeping so hard during the afternoons that I slept through several recruiters calling me back. Then when I finally landed a new job I hit the ground running so hard, that I was an instant hit.

Problem is, after more than a decade I find myself constantly tired and unmotivated for anything. I fear that burnout is starting again, but can't afford another break in employment (and this job is actually really good -- very intense, but I don't have that feeling of dread going into work every day [like I used to experience with high school], just exhausted).

> Problem is, after more than a decade I find myself constantly tired and unmotivated for anything. I fear that burnout is starting again...

That statement relates to a feeling I have about burnout - I don't believe you fully recover from it. At least in my experience, while I (and others I've discussed this with) recovered by some point, I also felt something was left permanently weakened, in a way that made me increasingly susceptible to later bouts I'd experience.

There are probably normal factors that contribute to that, such as how much we age between bouts. However, after each bout, I recall not feeling the same after recovering as I did prior to when the bout started.

This was how it was for me. I got burnt out coding a lot and studying for interviews (as I'm mostly self taught). I started going to therapy, but got fired after working under an awful manager that I didn't feel comfortable opening up to. Interviewing while unemployed pushed me further into burn out.

Coding originally pulled me out of a funk, it gave me something to work at. But now, I feel like I lost so much passion. I can't imagine coding in my free time even if I wasn't a developer anymore.

I'm in a similar situation.

I used to code at home and read all sorts of books on various things like the Linux Kernel, just for fun. Now when I switch off after work, just the thought of looking at code makes me shudder.

Are you actively interested in other things though? I have this problem, but I’m also quite depressed and working on that.

Maybe, but I think people underestimate the degree to which having a job keeps their lives in order. Self regulation in the sense of no job, daily schedule, and responsibilities when coupled with depression and burnout, is very difficult to navigate. Most people never spend long periods of time unemployed, we arent skilled for it. I also think that burnout can last a long time, longer than you can stay unemployed for. But I can see your point of view, I just think there's a risk.

Another thing to add is tenure on your resume matters, so if you are going through a tough period, and this person does end up getting fired in a year, they still have a two year stint. Much better than one year, people look at this stuff when they suspect the individual has had life difficulties.

Is taking a month or two off impossible? It sounds like you could really use a break.

The thing is, in a couple jobs I had there was negative tension, as if management or others in the organization were in a constant battle to find something wrong with you. Something that could get you fired or keep you down. So you had that sick feeling going into work, where you were constantly being gaslighted along with plenty of passive aggressiveness.

Whereas where I am now, I am well liked, people bend over backwards to support others, and everyone is working toward the same goal. It helps that the industry itself make a positive impact on people. The main feeling I get now, is similar to what I get whenever I finish a major project (including personal projects, such as designing and building a shed, creating a programming language, or designing a highly functional desk). It is a mental version of physical exhaustion you get after a strenuous activity.

So every day I end up with a bunch of small accomplishments, and periodically something major at work, which feels good. But I am also very tired. I get plenty of vacation days, but really need to make better use of them.

Mhm, I think I know too well what you're talking about..

I strongly, but politely, disagree because I took a year off and completely retooled my career. You must exercise, eat healthy, keep a schedule, and eliminate all distractions. Live somewhere cheap and focus on career and personal development. Don’t look for a job until 10 months of intense studying and development. Only do this if you are truly committed to changing the direction of your career. This was probably the best decision I’ve made in my career.

Thank you for this comment! I am actually in a similar situation right now, took a break from college and working on myself, learning about programming and trying hard to improve my english. Sometimes it just kinda feels pointless, like why am i even doing this and theres a plethora of self doubt and self hatred. But your comment kinda made me feel a bit more motivated, so thank you for that :)

Yup, same here. 10 years ago I left my job, threw away my crap, went off to Korea for a year to teach English. Brought some math and physics books I'd always wanted to understand, learned Korean, and bought a cheap bicycle and biked around southeast Asia after the year was over. After a few months of this I started hitting up old coworkers for job references, with the fallback of another English teaching stint (managed to find a new coding job). Some days were hard but I wouldn't give up that experience for anything.

Hesitate to recommend anything in this particular situation, but one thing I’ve noticed that works for me is: when going through a difficult time, try to maintain stability in other aspects of your life. So relationship breakup -> maintain job and location, for a few months at least, to allow myself to process the breakup without worrying about other things. YMMV.

Yeah exactly, getting stuff done at work, getting in at the same time every day, etc can be your life line. Multiple failing areas of your life is what really knocks people out, one is manageable.

I agree with this. What you likely need is time and space to reconnect with whatever brings you joy. Ability to put your personal life first. What you’re experiencing is probably normal. I was in my mid 30s when a string of tragedies/major bad life events happened and 40 now. Things normalized. Some good things started happening again. But it’s not something to solve, it’s something to learn to live with and that just takes time and emotional exploration. The friend making dynamic that happens in this phase of life doesn’t make it any easier. It can be hard but find a shoulder to lean on. For me, reconnecting with childhood best friends helped me reconnect with myself in a way.

Good luck. Email in profile if you need a chat.

Totally agree. Unless you have a lot of money already, having no income adds a new level of stress. The only way I could see this work is to go to a cheap place where money lasts longer. I once did this by staying at a yoga ashram. I could enjoy the time there because I had no expenses

If op is based in Toronto then going somewhere cheap might result in ending up in a spot where you don't know anyone, which would result in isolation. Probably not the best move?

It depends. I get stressed out by people so traveling through Thailand alone for four weeks is very healing for me. Not so much for other’s probably.

I'm not sure I agree with this. If OP is able to catch up on the personal responsibilities they mention, and has the funds to be able to float for a while (admittedly a big one), taking a break might help them quite a bit. Could even boost up their personal brand a bit or make an LLC and do some consulting here and there to not have a resume gap and create their own hours.

Quitting something you don't like can be totally liberating and the time off can have a positive impact on mental health if used wisely.

Wish I had seen that a few (more than a few) months ago before doing the same thing with the same result ahah


It is FAAAAR easier to get a job when you have a job.

Can you bring your work down to 4 or 3 days? For like the whole year? Going back to 32 hours will give a lot of space, to sleep, to do other stuff. If the company supports this, that would be great.

Daily chores, cooking, cleaning: do what is practical and what you can handle! Order food if you cannot bring yourself to cook. Don't worry too much about cleaning, but make sure pests stay away. When you go out for work or whatever, make sure you are presentable, properly clothed and clean. Get a hair cut on a regular basis. Shave. Having a house that is spic and span is no priority. On the other hand, cleaning the house is a way to clear your mind. Walking, fitness, biking, swimming - all the are good to clear your head and remove the ongoing thoughts for an hour or so. This works better in a workshop with an instructor, like a tennis or dance lesson.

You need to talk about your issues with someone in meatspace. Not a "professional", but real people like friends or support groups. I've found that a large amount of my depression, anxiety and stress comes from being alone in my struggles. You feel like atlas holding up the world on your shoulders. The thing is, you're not alone in your struggles, many people share your problems. I feel like we've been conditioned to to take on the world ourselves. In addition we also don't like to admit failure or confide for fear of being labeled a whiner or complainer. We sabotage ourselves doing those things.

Some of the best medicine was sitting around a fire in the middle of nowhere with close friends and talking. Just let it all out, cry if you have to. Talking about the really uncomfortable shit is important. Don't feel ashamed.

I don't know what else to add, other than delete social media bullshit because it's a never ending feed of anxiety and noise. You don't need it because its not real social interaction. You need to talk to real people in the real world.

In my experience this is pretty bad advice.

Friends are usually good for a kind of support, but aren't a replacement for an actual, trained therapist.

After a while, the mental load gets too much for them and they cut off contact. (entirely understandable)

Hang in there, friend. In my modest opinion, if you are not already (did not read it in the OP), you should seek the aid of a mental health professional as soon as possible. The problems you struggle with are real, and they are really hard to tackle alone.

I wish you all the best, and please write at the email in my profile if you feel the need to connect with someone.

Cheers, S

I went thru that, without external support over 10 years ago -- basically my ability to concentrate and enjoy work vanished... It took me a year to 'recover' -- I don't think I was ever 100% of what I was before TBH, but it's because it helped me realise that there isn't JUST work that matters. I am a lot more pragmatic about work these days, and I no longer 'live to work' as I did before.

I don't know if any of these suggestions will help, but perhaps you should pick up a hobby, something that is not too taxing and is still rewarding. It can but doesn't have to be tech related either. For me it was Photography, and I do a lot of landscape photography to this day -- but it could be anything, perhaps these days I would pick Archery (field archery is a super way to 'zen' out).

The idea is to get back the feeling of doing something you enjoy, and it doesn't requires weeks of setup or zillions of hours of practice to enjoy yourself.

If your company is cool with it, perhaps negotiate a 4 day week, and take that one day for yourself to really unwind. Don't stare at the TV tho, so the thing you enjoy, and go out and do it.

But ultimately, what I suggest is that in the future you watch over your work/life balance. Take care of yourself!

I would specifically advise against developing a tech related hobby. In my experience, it just accelerates burn out. Something that forces you to be outside/unplugged is ideal imo.

Well, what's "tech" in my case, photography provided a hell of lot of things my nerdy side found interesting, optics formulas, sensors, films, whatever -- that's still 'tech'. You can't hide from tech for very long. Just curtain it carefully.

Picking up an arduino and 'waste' a couple of days making LED blink can be fantastically relaxing too.

Oh no I just meant it as a general comment, adding to the "develop a hobby" suggestion. I wouldn't put photography into a tech bucket.

I just think it's inevitable to hit burnout if you spend all day at work staring at screens and come home to relax by staring at screens. Or at least a way to burn out your eyes.

Hey lostgame, here are some thoughts:

1. This time of year is notoriously tough on mental health, and that's probably part of it. I got a subclinical case of SAD during the holidays. No triggering reason, life is generally OK, but I really was not very active outside of some minimum activity. I am finally coming out of it now that the days are noticably longer.

2. There's also been a seasonal cold going around that I just started getting over today. Its symptoms were mild but included some amount of disorganization and inability to focus. Really dramatic between yesterday and now in terms of how much I accomplished and how difficult it was.

3. All that notwithstanding, I have had a few traumatic experiences that resurface on occasion. The most effective thing I've done is to find a hobby that is really intensively engaging - not just idle escapism like most entertainment but the top-end, "I have to stay 100% in it" kind of stuff. For a while judo did this. It's a large committment, though, and I can't always find time for it. More recently pinball has filled that gap, and pinball is something I can get a quick fix of on my phone. Both of those games assault the senses and require my total attention to succeed, which really does a lot to reduce the ruminating aspects of traumatic stress.

4. When I want to ruminate and escaping won't do the trick I will turn to a diary. In here I try to settle my thoughts with storytelling. The goal - and there is a goal here - is to not just report the facts and rationales like a detective but to make a fairy tale out of it, adding in the kind of symbolic resolution you feel is just or in character with your beliefs, even if it means adding fantastic elements. When you do this, you change the story into one that allows you to heal and guides your identity back towards something stable. The "healing story" is an old folk technique, and a good, low-risk one to try.

5. It probably isn't the job, and like others are saying, you want to keep that. A good rule to work from is "fix ordinary things", and if the job doesn't need fixing then it probably isn't the focus.

Everything can be a struggle. Let yourself rest, but also don't let things go when you have the energy and focus, even if it means silly stuff. I realized that my habits are such that I am really focused to do a little more coding right when I go to the gym...and so now I go and immediately use their bathroom to get in an extra 20 minutes. I go in the off hours so there isn't a traffic jam, but it's like, "well, my mindset is good here, why not use that?" Sometimes it is little stuff that adds up like that, that gets me through the day.

Whatever you have to, mate.

Break whatever cycles you feel are detrimental to your emotional/physical/spiritual wellbeing and pave a new path for yourself.

If you have money saved up, or can sell a bunch of stuff and live frugally, get out of your normal space so that you can gather new perspective on life. A few ideas, as I know creativity can be blocked when you're feeling the weight of everything. Feel free to ignore, or take any of these and run with them.

- Go on a road trip, alone or with friends (having friends around will keep your mind from thinking about things), for a week or two. If you don't have a job right now, go longer. Or fly somewhere new.

- Stay in a hotel, or go camping, just because. Break up the norm.

- Learn a new physically engaging skill. Snowboarding takes me out of that burnt out state of mind.

- Go on a silent retreat. Some of them are donation based.

> My coping method to that has been to try to hold my work together more and more

Remember, life may be work, but work is not life.

Most importantly, breathe.

> Learn a new physically engaging skill. Most importantly, breathe.

I learned diving. It was great - taught me how to slow down entirely - you need to be 100% "immersed" in what you are doing - you have to breathe consistently and calmly

I loved it and it helped me heaps (in addition to doing all the other good things mentioned above!)

First off, I'm sorry to hear what you are going through. Having to go through one of those events would be traumatic enough, so it is difficult to imagine how you must feel.

I am not trained in anyway to do diagnostics. Like others answering your question I would hazard a guess though that you may be going through something of a more serious nature than simply burnout.

As someone who experienced burnout personally just last year as well as a cancer diagnostic in my partner alongside that, I can't stress it enough how important it is to seek professional outside help in these situations. Especially in a case involving sexual trauma. You don't want that gnawing at the back of your mind, unresolved for years.

Psychologists are trained to help people cope with, process, and get through what you are experiencing. But they can't help you unless you reach out to them. And know that there is no shame in asking for help. We all have done it, whether we admit to it or not.

My experience was an eye opener. Simply the discussion, with a neutral party did wonders for me. I was also prescribed any kind of exercise where my heart rate would go up and, more importantly, involved deep rapid breathing. There are bio-feedback loops involved there that help remedy some of the depressive symptoms..

Also know that this kind of state can take time to heal from. It has been 5 months for me and just now do I feel myself coming together as the person I was before.

Hope it all goes well for you.

Someone quipped, "how does one untoast bread?" when asked about recovering from professional burnout.

I've been strung up on whether this was flippant, or insightful.

A lot of people mention therapy. If you need specific recommendations, I am close friends with a therapist in Toronto that is starting up her own practice:

personal page (WIP): https://meganpsychotherapy.com/

Association page: http://thecalmcollective.ca/megan-lawrence-therapist/

I haven't visited her in a professional context, but I've known her for over 10 years and I have confidence in her abilities. She's very approachable and easy to talk to.

Hey, really appreciate this. I’ll check her out, thanks!

Do you do any psychological therapy? I don't think you can pull through such a crisis alone or by working hard. I have had similar situations in the past and I have learned that mental well-being is the most important thing. Trying to power through usually doesn't work.

Also: When I had trouble I was too embarrassed to tell anybody but actually talking about it is very therapeutical.

I’ve been embarrassed to be honest and also, I suppose, being dishonest with myself and coping with the stress in extremely stupid ways, just being with friends all the time because I really don’t like being alone and having to process everything.

My plan is to go to my psychiatrist tomorrow morning, I spent today with my bestie to firstly relax and sort my thoughts out, and told her about some of what’s been going on, but, ultimately, I thought a post to a tech community I respect was a good idea. It’s probably the clearest-headed move I’ve done in a bit.

I’m also going through some significant dental pain after a surgery atm as well, so, to be honest, life’s been easier. >.<

You are dealing with a lot, in a compressed period of time.

Try to remember that your first priority and responsibility is looking after your own mental, physical and spiritual (I don't mean this in a religious sense) well being.

In your situation, work really should be the lowest priority that you can afford to make it. If you can afford to take extended time off to deal with everything you need to, I would highly recommend that you give it serious consideration.

I wouldn’t just take time off without a plan for doing something. It’s really easy to spend months or years at home without improvements. Go to a psychologist or something. I once spent a month at a yoga ashram which was a turnaround for me.

Yes talk to your psychiatrist and your bestie. Often just saying things aloud helps. Definitely don’t worry too much about work. Jobs come and go but your mental health stays with you.

I can only speak from my personal experience with burnout, but I found that one of the hardest parts of recovering was the fact that it simply takes time. I quit my job and tried to make immediate, drastic lifestyle changes expecting immediate, drastic improvements, but burnout takes a while to develop and a while to recover from.

For me, the best thing was to find some stability (spending more time with my SO and exercising—albeit extremely simply, literally just going for a quick run each day) was key.

Sorry to hear you are going through this. I'm going through a crisis myself. I left a bad workplace a few months ago, and took some time off. Now that I'm back in job search mode, I'm also going through some physical health issues and the added stress has given me a lot of anxiety. I've tried meditation, yoga, etc. and nothing is helping. I'm having real physical symptoms and everyone is telling me it's all anxiety, but I am not sure.

It is scary to step away from a job, because the uncertainty can be overwhelming. But if you have a good support system (friends/parents/etc), I would leave the job and focus on your health, it's more important than anything else as it affects everything you do/feel.

I'd advise taking some time to disconnect. Full disconnect from phone, tech, internet and just focus on something else. Music, art, exercise, hiking, etc. I went through some pretty rough anxiety when I was laid off for the first time, the most helpful thing for me mentally was noping out onto the Appalachian Trail for a week or so. After a couple of days away from it all, my brain finally started to relax and I came back with a better sense of focus. Ofc, I've always enjoyed hiking so ymmv. But I think the most important part was the disconnection.

Thanks for reading and for the advice. I've tried to disconnect but not fully, I've still been talking to recruiters, reading job postings, etc. I just did a remote coding interview, and it went pretty awful but it felt like a sense of relief to do it because I had been dreading it for a while and was super nervous leading up to it. Now that it's done, I feel like I can relax a bit and also accept that things can go poorly and it doesn't have to be devastating.

I am not a therapist, so my opinion is not medical advice, but this what I would do: take a few vacations of 2-3 weeks each and travel on the continent; nothing fancy, just a disconnect. I have a few friends that I take for a very long bike ride, if you have anyone that can join you it's a great thing to do; the purpose is to disconnect, so the destination does not matter, just the activity. The second activity: get a bunch of books (non-technical), go to a cabin in the woods and read. I prefer science fiction or fiction, not poetry as most of the poetry has a depressing effect on me.

Don't do this for less than a full week, it has no significant effect.

This all sounds great, except what do I do with my wife and kids during this time?

Vacation is not vacation for those of us with a young family - it's actually more work than being at work is, sometimes. Good work, rewarding, but also severely draining sometimes.

I think you know the answer: you need to leave them at home if it's necessary to disconnect. If you can't disconnect with your kids and/or wife in tow, for their sake, you need to hire help or have family stay while you recharge your own batteries.

You have a different situation than the person who asked the question, assuming the same answer apply to everyone is a mistake.

How it worked for me in a similar situation: parents. I live in a country where families are not completely destroyed, so we had 2 pairs of parents to help with the kids. Taking the wife in vacation is doable and effective.

True, I'm already relying on two sets, in fact. Problem is, we need them so much already that lumping the kids on them entirely for weeks would be just too much. Toddlers, ya know. Lots of energy.

That sounds awful. Sorry to hear that.

I'm not sure what to say...you've raised so many things. It might be worth spending time with friends, loved ones or a therapist to work through it.

One person once said, try and view yourself from outside yourself as a small child. Be compassionate to yourself and love yourself as though you were looking after that child. Go easy on yourself and sometimes it's better to take a break and re-build and come back stronger than possible cause injury by persisting.

I've been through some difficult periods and somethings worked for me like: spending time in nature, cutting out the things that caused pain in my life, doing sport and meditating.

I also have problems not the same but you need to seek professional help if you have a hard time coping. From your post it appears your job is not the problem but outside factors.

I also suggest reading "Maybe you should talk to someone".

We are rewarded for seeming happy and excited all the time, but often we need people in our life who we can open up to.

See a therapist if you have not done so already. A therapist can help you develop healthy coping strategies, work through the significant trauma you have experienced over the last year, and possibly refer you to a psychiatrist for drug treatment if deemed therapeutically necessary.

Please prioritize psychological well-being over everything else. Please have a therapist for regular counseling. As a practicing Buddhist I can tell you of two excellent teachers in Canada, Yuttadhammo Bhikkhu near Toronto and Ajahn Sona in British Columbia. Check out their videos on YouTube. Do remember that there are a lot of people, who you may not know, but still they care for you. Sending you lots of good wishes from across the border. Take care dear friend!

In my experience, when I'm burnt out, I find a new side project to get excited about. Excitement in one area of my life bleeds into others. I've worked on new apps, starting a company, woodworking projects, training my dog. Whatever it is, find something that awakens you again. It's best if you can see it possibly leading to a new career. That way it'll give you hope for and ownership over your future.

While I tend to do this as well it is important to also say taking time to do nothing is also a good use of time. We can’t do everything and sometimes when you’re already burnt out putting a ton of energy into something new can make things worse. YMMV

Yeah, for sure. It's a judgment call on if you're overloading or not. The point is to find something you're excited about. Not a million things you're excited about.

Here's what I do, in a somewhat similar situation.

1. Control my thinking. Practicing the basics of cognitive behavioral therapy.

2. Fix my sleep. Going to bed at 10, waking up at six. Eight hours of sleep per day. This requires getting rid of anything that disturbs the circadian rhythm, screens and lights are big offenders. I use f.lux and ultra-warm lightbulbs in the evening.

3. Fix my diet (ties into sleep). Intermittent fasting for at least 16 hours. Avoiding the carb/sugar spikes. I also went Keto for a while. I must advise against veganism.

4. Get exercise (also ties into sleep). Exercise is as potent as common antidepressants with none of the side-effects. A little goes a long way.

5. For work, a four-day work week and a short commute made a big difference.

I don't know if any of these can be left out. I couldn't fix my sleep on its own, without doing the other things. You may think that it's your anxiety keeping you from sleep, but it could actually be your eating and/or the lights keeping sleep hormones away so that you end up awake in bed, thinking. Then if you don't get good sleep, everything else just gets worse.

I feel perfectly stable now. Not fantastic, but stable. It's a process, took me about two months.

Why do you advise against veganism? Going plant-based was easily one of the more effective ways of becoming healthy for me. It lowered my cholesterol levels and I think that it was instrumental in lowering my overall cardiovascular risk. I agree with everything else you are saying but I don’t understand why a vegan diet would not be considered a healthy lifestyle change on the same level as keto. From people I have met who do keto they usually increase their meat consumption and usually that includes things like bacon and deli meats which the largest casual link to increased cancer risk https://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2015/10/26/451211964/ba...

I am against veganism too, but mainly because nutritionally it doesn't match how humans evolved. So for that reason, the only fad diet I really agree with is paleo.

That said, everyone is different. I gave up pork 20 years ago for ethical reasons, but ended up with a somewhat rare (at least in the US) meat deficiency because I work out extremely hard but try to eat mostly beans and rice. But I have friends with the same lifestyle as me, but with high cholesterol, who would probably benefit greatly from the mostly plant-based diet I was on.

Unfortunately, there are macro nutrients and vitamins that are effectively missing from the plant world:


I would honestly love it if we had impossible burgers or almond milk with anywhere near the nutritional content of meat and dairy. But we just aren't there yet. Ethically, I feel a good compromise is to only buy free range eggs and dairy, and try to avoid buying meat in the store. If someone is serving meat (and someone always is), just eat it, because throwing it away is less ethical IMHO.

> Why do you advise against veganism?

There's too much propaganda surrounding it, a lot of which is misinformation. People do the diet, end up feeling terrible, then feel bad for "doing it wrong". It's not a sustainable diet on its own, you have to do supplements and then it's not even clear that all these supplements actually work. Vegan diets aren't all alike of course and nutritional deficiency can be symptomless for the longest time.

> Going plant-based was easily one of the more effective ways of becoming healthy for me.

What does "healthy" mean? Some number? Do you actually feel good? Do you have good sleep, good digestion? Do have energy all day or do you "crash and burn" with blood sugar spikes? How's your skin? How's your weight? How's your insulin?

> It lowered my cholesterol levels and I think that it was instrumental in lowering my overall cardiovascular risk.

Perhaps, but the link between cholesterol levels and CV risk isn't as strong as you might think.

On the other hand, insulin resistance is strongly linked to many diseases, and grains/sugar are big factors here - many vegans have too much of that. Plants on the other hand aren't very nutritious and many people have trouble digesting them.

> From people I have met who do keto they usually increase their meat consumption and usually that includes things like bacon and deli meats which the largest casual link to increased cancer

I would advise against eating any processed meat. Keto isn't about meat, it's about switching carbs for fat so you stay in ketosis. Most meat is rather lean, it's easy to get way too much protein in the diet by focusing on the meat.

I'm not doing it anymore because it's quite restrictive, but I did feel good on it, definitely makes the fasting easier too.

What does your fasting schedule look like?

Edit: Also, great advice for OP :)

I basically skip breakfast and try to get dinner in before 7PM.

Weirdly fasting came up at work today and I'm now trying out 16/8 for a week. Thanks for sparking my curiosity! :)

First of all thanks for your honesty here. Sometimes the hardest part is just reaching out.

Many of the challenges you've experienced I've also experienced. I've found that a vacation to a 2nd or 3rd world country for at least 2-3 weeks will help me reset. I think it's a combination of going somewhere I've never been and being able to see people less fortunate who seemingly are happy with much less than what we have here.

Death is incredibly difficult for me to accept..and trying to pretend like I'm fine when Im mourning a loss its near impossible. People tend to be understanding to a point but healing is personal and everyone deals with loss differently.

I've found that helping others is also incredibly rewarding and useful to reconnect when life has pulled the rug out from other me. No matter what I'm going through there is always someone going through something even more challenging. Even if all I can do is listen to them and share their experience. Sometimes that's all any of us need - someone to empathize with our situation.

Finally I add one more thing I've found. I tend to try and avoid pain and have struggled with addiction in the past. Fortunately my last bout of severe depression I used the previous experience and decided to run the Camino de Santiago. I ran the 500+ mile trail from France to the coast of Spain and in a lot of physical discomfort. Most people walk this over the course of a month - I would love to have a chance to do this again with more time. Absolutely life changing and you will make friends from all over the world. Highly recommend trying something uncomfortable -- its an incredible to be able to feel physical pain and yet still be grateful!

I hope you find peace and grow from this!

I'm so sorry you're dealing with this.

About a year ago I resigned from a ~9-year job due to burn out (relationship issues and the death of my father were major contributing factors). I had put the decision off for a long time because I thought I should have a concrete plan first, but ultimately decided I'd never have the energy to plan next steps until I'd taken a long time off to recuperate.

So I just left. The time off hasn't fixed everything, but it has been enormously beneficial to me and I'm much more excited and optimistic about the future. I don't know how the gap will affect my career but at least now I feel like I have the energy to deal with whatever obstacles I encounter.

I was very privileged to be able to do that and I know your situation may differ; I don't have practical advice on dealing with financial concerns. But make sure you're sharing your feelings and getting advice from people around you, and - if you can keep your needs met - don't stay in an unbearable situation just from fear that something as good or better won't come along in the future.

1. Realise work is subservient to life, you work to enable life, not the other way around. As such re-evaluate and keep your goal in mind .

2. If work isn't taking you where you where you want to go and worse, if it's hurting you, you need to either find a new tack or different work. I know this is easy to say from a position of privilege, but would it be hard for you to change post or change company?

Firstly - thanks so much for your input.

Secondly - I’m concerned about the interim - I don’t want to leave my post here without having a plan. My company is amazing and treats me very well. I just recognize that unfortunately right now I’d certainly be better off in a position where I could work remotely more, for instance. I don’t know how possible or plausible that is. I’m in the process of figuring that out.

>I don’t know how possible or plausible that is. I’m in the process of figuring that out.

Totally plausible. I wouldn't walk into work tomorrow and quit your job, but let's face it: you have experience in one of the most in-demand skills on the planet. I'd bet you wouldn't have an issue finding another job. The problem is: would another job solve your issue? It might not.

As others have said, what you need is time. I'm not sure in what way your medical leave was covered the first time, but as a fellow Canadian, our country is extremely generous in that manner (and progressive with respect to mental health). You might be able to take an extended medical leave that would allow you to draw EI. If you can survive on the $500/week the benefit pays, it might be worth it.

Good luck!

Do you happen to have a CV or something available? What sort of remote job are you looking for? I will do my best to see if I know of anything that might be a good fit for you. I am in the Toronto area as well.

Have you considered talking to your superior about working remotely? A good company might be willing to work with you.

With that said, I'd caution you that working remotely is not a panacea. While it can certainly be more convenient in some ways it doesn't mean your workload will be cut back, and you'll have to put more effort into communication. You might also want to consider asking work about is transitioning to part-time or reduced hours instead.

That parent comment resonated with me. I would be concerned if my primary coping mechanism was work. Do you have plans for more self-care activities?

I'm in Toronto as well and have been working through some mental hardships over the past year or so. UHN is amazing if you need a team on your side. Please reach out if you need more detailed info, email is in my profile.

Hang in there.


Shit sucks sometimes. It's not a nice feeling when you're constantly trying to hold yourself together. You convince yourself you're doing all right, because you're hanging on, but you have no energy to develop yourself or do new things, and you're slowly sinking into a hole that becomes ever more difficult to climb out of. After a while, even basic things take so much energy that it becomes a daily struggle to keep up with laundry, cooking, cleaning.

How do you climb out of that hole? I don't know. I think there's no easy solution. But talking helps. I don't have any answers for you, but if you just want to talk with someone who understands what you're going through, you can find my contact info in my profile.

I can speak from experience on what _not_ to do. DO NOT DRINK. very, very, similar things happened to me and my drinking only resulted in utter chaos.


If work is the only stable thing in your life, you should try not to let it fall apart, but it is designed to support you financially, not emotionally. It can't hold you up by itself.

You're in Canada rather than the US, so there are fewer barriers to professional mental health care, as far as I am aware. Go see a psychiatrist or clinical therapist.

You have had four major stressors in one year, and then piled on change social behaviors and change in sleep habits. It's justified. Go talk with a pro so they can hold you together with duct tape and baling wire while working out a plan for more permanent repairs.

The trick to burnout is don't believe it exists. I stopped believing I'm actually burned out, and I've experienced much less burnout by simply not giving into it. Perseverance. But actually it does exist and it can take a strong hold sometimes, but you shouldn't feel yourself "becoming" or easing into burnout. If you are, you're giving into it, letting it take you. Persist until it's an unavoidable thing, then discuss with therapist if needed. Take the advice from others about physical activity and whatnot.

Burnout does exist, and just imagining it “doesn’t exist” will just delay the inevitable, and probably make it worse than it would be if you just accept it for what it is and work towards solving the core problems.

Dear lostgame,

First of, I’m so, so sorry to hear. What you’ve gone through (sexual assault, twice) is something nobody should have to go through; and the loss of your mother and your breakup as well (I’ve experienced the death of a parent and a significant breakup, too).

Your courage in sharing what’s happened to you touches me. Carl Jung, the Swiss psychologist, famously said that “if you can feel it, you can heal it.” And I think part of what you might be doing, by publicly sharing where you’re at, could perhaps be to give yourself permission to feel things more deeply, and letting yourself be witnessed doing so.

In case you’d like to consider joining our startup — we’d be honoured in considering you for a position. We’re a different kind of startup: work/life balance and authenticity is key. We’re basically starting a life-long family of people who resonate with each other :) Our product is still in development, but we’ve got an exciting brand: We are Ecstatic (accessible at ecstatic.com).

Oh! And we’re based in Vancouver, beautiful British Columbia.

Reason I’m mentioning this is because we don’t think of what we’re doing as work, but as play (in all seriousness). We call it “plorking”. Perhaps you need to find a company (such as ours) that let’s you be you throughout — no stress, just creative play.

Be well, and best wishes on your path. Whatever happens, I wish you so much happiness and peace. You deserve it. We each do.

Others have made good comments. My take (with some experience, and until I read everything else here) is: don't (ever!) give up on life, be patient, be reasonable/honest/kind toward yourself & others, and continue forward. Things will eventually be OK, especially if we try to do what we know is right.

And to help find your purpose and real balance in life, I have thought & written much at http://lukecall.net (a simple site; hopefully very skimmable; no sales; see the "life lessons" link about 1/2-way down the page, then maybe the "growth/mm" links like "emotional", and feel free to send comments). As I learn things over time, I try to add to it, in a systematic/organized/skimmable way.

All the best.

(some edits above for clarity)

edit: ps: after they rule out enough other things, CFS is a possibility. Wikpedia has a page, and more info for patients and practitioners is at https://batemanhornecenter.org . They seem honest n helpful, but hopefully that link is not useful :) .

Hey... PTSD is not something u can just walk away from. I was married to a girl who suffered sexual assault/ptsd before we met.... Its one of those conditions that will evolve with you and it will effect you in waves as well as via a steady undertone of anxiety.

I recommend you really focus on your healing journey. Its not something you can ignore. If you need someone random to talk to about about this with, send me an email.

Not to diminish her suffering, but I would like to counter a bit the inevitability of PTSD causing long-term harm.

PTSD occurrence in soldiers follows a bell-curve with only the lower quartile having a sustained psychological disorder. The middle majorities get traumatized but after a varying length of time enter a phase of post-trauma growth. One quartile is not significantly affected by trauma and can shrug it off.

Apparently optimism is a key element of trauma-resistance which is a trainable emotional intelligence skill.

I'd recommend the book "on mental toughness" from harvard business review for some more insights on this

I've been in a similar situation, and would recommend to take some time off and find a good therapist if that's possible for you.

In the Netherlands it's common to take sick leave and get paid 75% if you're sick for more than 2 months. Insurance covers the sick leave for your employer. I've been sitting at home for over a year now, working on my mental health, and just took on a new job. I can not recommend a burnout to anyone, for some outsiders it seems like I had a year-long vacation. This was definitely not the case, I hated it. It has been very healthy though in retrospect. Before my burnout I hated myself and felt like a complete failure, I thought everything was my fault.

I can highly recommend therapy as well, I've been suffering from depression for over 10 years, and finally sought out help last summer. It's trial and error, but for the first time it feels like I regained some control over my thoughts/life, and make sense of my behaviour.

In the period towards my total burnout (panic attacks/fatigue/depression), I was very irritable, emotionally unstable, drank too much, started taking drugs to handle the stress of working 50-70hrs a week and dealing with my life and deteriorating relationship with a suicidal and junkie boyfriend, amongst other things.

Taking time off, focussing on myself completely, breaking up with my boyfriend, cooking, walking and reading helped a lot. Doing small positive things. I cook for my ex now once a week, I like to see still him and just want to let him know I care about him, also it doesn't take that much energy and benefits us both.

Start saying no to people, define your boundaries, all that matters is you! Listen to your body. All the best!

Find the things you are currently grateful for and focus on that any time you feel out of it. I have faced what you are dealing with most of my life. I still have to have a routine to get out of bed every morning.

Others have said not to quit your job. I agree, you need more stability, not less. Maybe consider changing your focus? Maybe now is the time to try something new at your work, just to change some aspects of your environment. Only good can come from this from my perspective, either you realize you actually like your previous work, or you find something else more fulfilling. (and maybe less stressful?)

Helping others or even talking to others who are facing similar issues. (other comments are suggesting similar) I have found that if I talk with others who actively fight against their problems they are a help to me. If I find people who are struggling that need some help and I can help them, this also helps me.

But, the people I avoid are those that are actively not facing their problems and/or refuse to, avoid these people like the plague for the time being. (maybe down the road you will be stronger and be able to help them or tolerate them...)

You will be fine eventually. This is a temporary state of your life. This may seem trite, but it's true.

One thing I say to myself when I've been in real mental trouble, but not physical is to tell myself everything, right now, is fine. I am ok. I can do this one thing that is in front of me. This is often how I get out of bed to take a shower, this is a low stress activity that makes me feel better than staying in bed feeling terrible.

If I need to, I repeat this process through out the day. I am sorry you are going through this. I hope you get some comfort and strength you are looking for.

As tired as this cliche is, I have to ask if you workout.

I found that lifting or intense cardio helps me move out of my funks.

When I'm suffering through an intense workout I don't think about anything else. When I finish the workout, I can be so exhausted that I pass out and go to sleep. that in itself is a blessing.

Lastly, so much of stress is self-imposed. You are where you are, and whatever plans you have, are determined by you.

Be safe. Good luck.

Came here to say this. Even better if OP can find/afford a gym with a strong social component; I know people who only marginally care about fitness but really really care about seeing their friends at the gym and that is enough get them to go to the gym several times per week. But you won't find this at most cheap commercial chains where people just want to bang out some cardio and get out. You have to look around at more niche facilities to find the right vibe.

Working out and improving your strength can also give you a feeling of accomplishment, rightfully held, too, when there isn't any other source of that.

Take a long shower. Get a full night sleep. Take a sabbatical for as long as you need. Relax until you're bored. Then do whatever gives you joy. Then figure out if its your work (that is line of work etc), working conditions or something else that lead to your burn out. Make a plan to guardrail against it.

Personally for me, I need to take at least 1 personal day / 3 day weekend every month otherwise I start hating my work. I also need to take at least a week on a relaxing vacation (not sightseeing / running around doing stuff for a week!!) about every 6-8 months. I also try to work on _my_ schedule the best I can. I like to work from about 8am to 2pm and then some amount between 10pm-2am; for whatever reason those are my best working hours. Take as much time as you can to learn to listen to your body because I really think you can catch burnout before it reaches meltdown. I haven't had a proper burnout since 2016. Best of luck my friend.

Balance is of course important. But purpose is just as important. We must have good and useful reasons for everything we do. Anxiety and pain are just indicators that something is off balance or being done without good purpose and reason. The question we must all ask ourselves is, what am I even here for? Why am I alive today? What is my purpose? Whatever conclusion we come to, everything in our lives must flow from that purpose of existence. And when things don't seem to line up or add up, then we have to start back at square one and ask ourselves if our estimation of our purpose was wrong, and use the new hard earned life experience to try to figure it out all over again, and make everything flow from that, and keep repeating until we finally have a life without these internal alarms going off.

Priotize health for sure. That's the base. Everything else will come easier on a foundation of good health.

Thanks so kindly for the confidence of this statement. I feel like I’m gaslighting myself - if that makes any sense. So many confusing lines of thought that all seem valid, that settling on one just seems tough.

Perhaps try meditating? It's works for my negatively racing mind, usually. My thoughts are clouds, the state I wish for is a blue sky where clouds that appear are quickly dissolved or blown away. Try the trial of Headspace. I think they nicely hit the balance of not trying to force it, just never stop trying. An empty mind can feel very nice.

I never sunk as deep as you though. I get weeks of "stuck on negative issues in my life". Daily meditation of only 10 min already seems to help, I am by no means an expert by the way. Headspace helped me and when I try meditating now, I hear the voice of the Headspace woman (you can also select a man) talking to myself. When I feel bad again I may sign up for the service, but as said the 10 part trial is nice already.

Edit: 2 times meditation advice in 5 min ;) As below, it may not help very much very fast, still, after trying to actively calm my mind 10 min I usually feel better already. Even when it "fails" for 9.5 out of the 10 min.

No relation to Headspace btw ;)

I second this. Without good health, everything else is so much harder.

So I know unwanted advice should not be given, but I can't help writing my little version down. What has helped me fix my anxiety, concentration and procrastination issues is vipassana meditation - but you need a certain level of strength, it is not an easy path by any means. It will probably not help you as quickly as you need right now. I wholeheartedly recommend it though for the long run, once you have the bandwidth. It has the potential to change your life for the better and offer profound self-insight, if done correctly.

I haven’t read a lot of the comments, but I agree with not quitting your job. Looking for another though, maybe something to look at, at some point. For me a vacation overseas (I choose south east Asia) where there are beautiful beaches and people who like to have a chat, has done me wonders to get me back on track. I forget about the world back home, create new connections (even for a bit), and drop anxiety because the pressure of just being some where so foreign seems to force it out of me. When I get back I always seem to have a new sense of self. I can imagine it wont work for everyone and I could have got lucky on the nice people Ive met, but now I swear by a trip at least once a year for my sanity.

If you’re looking for someone to talk to about how you’ve been feeling and how better to cope, I highly recommend texting crisistextline.org

(I’m a volunteer counselor there.) The conversation is purely over text, with someone you listens non-judgementally and can offer coping strategies.

- at work ask for a task outside of your normal job responsibilities / something different to try and change your thinking

- find someone to share / bounce your concerns with or simply to hangout with

- volunteer to a kitchen soup or some community event ( you will see with your own eyes real pain and struggle)

- visit a church or a social group therapy where people share their stories and find methods to help or recommend help to one another

- buy a camper and work remotely. Park that thing near a lake or water, sunset or sunrise close to a water scenery helps you think and appreciate little things in life that we take for granted due to the craziness that takes most of our daily routine.

Good luck mate. Seek help. It’s out there, you just have to find it. -

First off, don't quit your job. Your job provides a routine for you to follow. Otherwise, you could begin to slip even further down the hole.

Next, you mentioned PTSD from sexual assault. This isn't burnout. You need professional psychiatric help. Please get it ASAP and stop reading random internet comments (like this one).

But if you can't find an appointment for a few weeks/months, some of the symptoms might be fixed with a multivitamin (OneADay or a generic equivalent - it doesn't push too far above 100% FDA daily value except for B12 and D, which are actually beneficial sometimes in higher doses).

It sounds like time to get back into mental health treatment so you can deal with the trauma because workaholism is no longer working as a distraction.

The end of a close relationship, sexual assault, and the passing of your mother are each things that can seriously challenge your self-concept in difficult ways. They also will take a toll on your ability to trust others. Together it sounds like too much too fast to be processed outside of survival mode.

If you can't get into individual therapy, maybe you can find a support group? Even something phone or chat based is better than nothing.

Please know that you are not alone and there are a lot of us here who have struggled and continue to struggle. And go for walks with no phone or music!

There is a possibility you could take a short term leave combined with a honest vacation where you do nothing but sit and collect dust. Time in nature without distraction is a big help I find.

I wish you all the best, remember to be nice to yourself as you are to others.

Unfortunately, there’s a lot of responsibility I’ve got to take care of, and a vacation is not an immediate option. I’m going to need to step up my mental health care in a serious way, and that will require staying in the city (Toronto).

I hear you, I did a way too long sting that was 24/7/365 on call, couldn’t fly more than 2 hours away. Super unhealthy over a period of a few years.

I try to remind myself of the reality is you’d likely be way more effective with time off away. Not to be morose, if you went away work would replace you within a week or a month.

What helped for me was learning to take one honest minute per hours, one hour per day, and one day per week. And build from there. Find the things that get you in touch with yourself and make them non negotiable.

In my mind, it would seem that unscheduled time off on your terms nowish is preferable to maybe having unscheduled time off on uncertain terms when you hit your limits.

Work can be a place to escape what's going on in life while processing, but if it's causing anxiety too, it's not helping and a break may be useful.

I want to let you know I am going through a similar situation. I did not quit work but I am taking a break from my work.

Have a wall or separation between work and life; find balance. Do not make work a priority in your life, separate the two.

Ask yourself brings you joy and happiness and just do it. Work does not define you, it should be a means to bring about joy and happiness.

If work is a place where you cannot achieve balance or a really negative place, I would work there until you find a better environment.

If work is a positive place, focus on what you have, reach out to people, ask them if they felt the same way and how they manage those feelings.

I wish you the best of luck on your search to find balance in your life.

1. Therapy, therapy, therapy. If it's not helping, change therapists until it does.

2. Find activities that help you recharge. It took me a long time to understand that "having fun" and recharging are not the same thing.

3. Look into the possibility of hiring a personal assistant to manage things like cooking and laundry, at least until your symptoms are more manageable.

4. Someone else recommended "Feeling Good" by David Burns. It's an excellent book that I always recommend, but I don't know if it's up to the task of helping with PTSD. Go into it understanding that it will help with a lot of your problems, but probably not all of them.

This is not work burnout my friend this is something far more caused by all you have gone through. I am assuming the "medical professional" you mentioned is some sort of mental health counselor, and is so that is great, if not definitely find one. In addition you may want to look into some sort of group therapy session. Speaking with people who have gone through what you have (most of us on this thread have not) is going to go a long way towards getting you the advice you need. On top of that human contact with those that have been through something similar is likely going to be helpful.

I recommend googling support groups in your area.

All the best.

I've been writing a series called Notes to a Young Software Engineer, and handling burnout was one of my first posts.

Most importantly, see a licensed medical professional. Burnout is often confused for other health issues, and you may not be dealing with burnout, but rather a larger health issue (e.g., PTSD).

If it is truly burnout, some that work for me are treating my body well, cultivating human relationships, and addressing root causes at work.


First, sorry to hear about your situation. Hang in there. Then, absolutely take a break from work. Don't try to power it through.

The inherent stresses of day to day work will be multiplied by 100x because of your emotional state. Take a break;

Seek therapy. Not those useless psychologists that just hear you and say nothing. The professional must actively talk to you, understand your situation and give you the wisdom you lack to get out of your emotional trauma.

Very important too, don't dwell in the past. Most people keep reliving that which has passed. Look forward. Seek what motivates you. What inspires you. Restart with a clean mind.

That sounds really rough. I hope you’re okay.

One thing that has helped me when I’m low is letting myself know it’s okay to just get a little bit done.

I don’t need to be unhappy my whole room hasn’t been cleaned, I can be happy at least I cleared out the used dishes.

Making sure most things aren’t an all or nothing proposition has been helpful in maintaining a more positive attitude for me.

“Boom at least did five pushups!”.

“Bang got those books in a neat pile!”.

It may not be a lot, but maybe you too can also receive some joy from the little things you’re rocking out daily.

All the best of luck and more peaceful times ahead lostgame.

I'm really sorry to hear this.

I can't say anything I've been through approaches what you've gone through. However, I have been burnt out recently with chronic health issues. I have some PTSD from some child abuse I went through, which means I struggle with burnout and stress a fair amount.

The hardest thing I've is the pressure we put on ourselves. Nobody is judging us harder than ourselves. There's nothing wrong with finding a work environment that is pretty laid back, and cut yourself lots of slack. I did this when my first child was born, and knew having a kid would really push me, especially given my abuse background. I stuck with a pretty 'maintenance mode' project, and wasn't stressing too much about work. I was certainly lucky to be in that kind of situation.

Definitely seek out mental health help (maybe you are as you're on a mental health break?). There are a lot of techniques for overcoming PTSD. EMDR, for example, is one very effective technique. There's also somatic psychotherapy. You can do this. Seek out support. And if you don't like your therapist, don't hesitate to switch. A good therapist can be a very personal decision.

If you work at a good place, and you feel safe doing so, maybe consider talking to your supervisors about your situation? I think it's tricky knowing whether to do this, and maybe you feel safe, but maybe you're afraid of the consequences? Both would be understandable. If you have a lot of trust in your workplace, talking about it would at least give them context for what you're going through, and you might be able to collaborate on a path forward that gets you help and gets you to a place in your career you can be laid back for a while. I've had positive results talking about my own issues to colleagues, but I know not every work place or boss is the same...

Culturally, Westerners are supposed to be cheery and happy all the time. I don't think this is reasonable. Forgive yourself and cut yourself lots of slack. I'm can be somewhat grumpy a fair amount, especially when sleep is impacted! Your negative emotions are perfectly valid and I think it's a shame we all feel stigmatized by expressing them in social situations

Best of luck to you!

Please don't count on EIP if you leave your job on your own. Employment insurance only kicks in if you are laid off or let go . You may be able to go on long term disability but please consult a lawyer.

It really depends on your work relationship with your manager and peers. If you have a great manager i’m sure they’ll be understanding enough to balance work responsibilities that you can go through the rough patch without resorting to quitting.

I can only imagine what you’re going through. As others have said, give yourself permission to feel. It’s okay to cry, to be angry (don’t break things tho) to feel like shit, to have a bit of insomnia.

Surround yourself with close friends, be easy on yourself and remember that time heals most wounds.

I would suggest to scale down a bit from work, you have already completed almost 1/4th of your career and if it gives you stress now, imagine 30 more years of it.

Then try to start helping people in anyway you can, like crossing a road, or buying coffee for a stranger, or go to a elder community..

These kinds of small acts will give your breathing space to think and enrich the mind and bring in more positivity.

Always remember that first thing is to get out of bad thoughts.. Therapy as someone said might also help , but it comes to affordability.

My two cents: give yourself some time; try to take it easy on the job (even if you feel pressure to complete -- "force" yourself to take it easy) or find another job. It's incredible how a little time goes a long way in relieving many symptoms of distress. And then, add some enjoyable things in moderation to your routine, like a hobby, playing music, dancing, etc, to help divert worry from the job (and reward yourself with satisfying activities).

Dunno if anyone else has mentioned this, but go get a full medical work up. I was feeling like you - traumatic divorce, much stress, etc. as that eased the burn out didn’t get better.

Finally went to get chemical help for the anxiety, and in the process found out: I was diabetic, hypertensive, and had a tumor causing a hormone imbalance (that probably triggered the first two symptoms).

Even if It turns out there is nothing medically wrong, it’s worth the time and effort.

Sorry to read of your struggles. i nearly skipped to reading the next item of interest but i recall how important it can be to echo "hang in there, as bad as things get, know that life is cyclical and it will get better, given time, perseverance, and reflecting"...aka 'always darkest before dawn'.

I cannot advise on the job, but the sooner you can communicate your burnout/work-behind status, certainly the better to improving your day.

Unplug, get away. Travel. Run, eat healthy, do yoga, meditate, take psychedelics (?).. and re-discover what you love about life. Make new friends.

It's been a very tough transition for me after a complete burnout two years ago.

Now I am divorced and the healthiest I have been in a long time.

I took a pay cut but I am enjoying my work again. Unplug. You can retool later when you actually care again.

Life is so much more than stupid computers, corporate bs and the technical puzzles we fret over.

First, I am very sorry, especially for the loss of your mother.

The answer I am about to suggest works wonders for me, and for lots of people I know, but is not for everybody. My answer is to suggest you seek out relief through religion. (Choose wisely, meaning investigate non-radical variants that center on improving world conditions.) Religion is known to have many benefits, including mental health benefits.

Good luck to you.

Consider MDMA-assisted psychotherapy.

It has shown great promise in treating PTSD, even severe, treatment-resistant PTSD.[1][2]

[1] - https://maps.org/research/mdma

[2] - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MDMA-assisted_Psychotherapy

Or a weekend of magic mushrooms in the woods...

Watch Office Space, and learn the lessons from there. It's just a job. You might actually be better at it if you don't give as much of a fuck - caring too much tends to lead you to taking on too much work, and that can only end in disappointment and burnout for everyone involved.

It's important to have some sort of a life outside of work, and to _prioritize it_.

As most have suggested quitting without anything else in hand is indeed not a good idea BUT that doesn't mean you should stay at your job.

You need routine, not a job per se.

So if you are financially secure you could consider going to school for a year, and get a degree in something that interests you. It can be a nice reset, while impacting your career and life for the positive.

“... two separate cases of sexual assault, and the passing of my mother.”

First of all I’m very sorry!!! I think that you could benefit a lot from a professional to help you heal from this. If you are up to it perhaps pursuing legal action to get justice might help.

When I lost my dad I got very numb and it was only a bunch of time and counseling that helped me recognize that and reconnect.

Is it possible to ask to work part time? Get 1-2 more days off to focus on health, personal projects, familly and friends.

Wow. I don't even know what to say or what kind of advice to offer other than, if you need a friend or somebody to talk to, I am here. Seriously. I've been through trauma and I think I can empathize, although certainly have no idea what you're going through. I am SO sorry.

I think a lot of offered advice here is very good. Do you exercise with any regularity? If not I would strongly suggest it. Exercise had a powerful effect on the brain at well as the body and can help you regulate yourself. Also, be sure to get some sunshine. Vitamin D is very important.

Second the comments about not quitting your job -- so long as your job does not overwork you. My added advice would be to have goals and find something to look forward to that you can hope to see through. Work on yourself as well, do things unrelated to work or tech outside of work.

I’m no expert but a few suggestions that have helped me in the past: a holiday to clear the mind, work is not your identity you need some free time from it, and it’s important to enjoy work so perhaps a more fun workplace or a change if your boss gives you anxiety? Hope this helps

Firstly, it's a very positive sign that you're reaching out. That is usually the biggest hurdle. Getting professional help is the first critical step. Connecting with someone who has been through this and come out the other side (and there's thousands out there) is the second. With the greatest respect to others here, I disagree that continuing to go to work is a must. Looking after your health is the priority here, otherwise the ability to go to work might be taken away due to the physical limitations that inevitably come with Burnout. How do I know this? See below. Meanwhile, if you hit me up via email or LinkedIn, Id be MORE than happy to set up a call. If my 5 years experience in managing this proves to be of some value, then I'm happy to give up 30 mins of my time. In the meantime, please take care. https://www.rebuildingburnout.com/about-me

I feel I need to disclaimer what I'm about to write so here goes.

Disclaimer: It's not my intention to offend anyone or brag or trivialize this. This is me asking a question out of curiosity and concern for my wellbeing.

Ok so, everytime I read about someone having a burnout or taking 3 months off to recover from burnout etc, I immediately think "oh here we go again, another crybaby". I know that everyone is different and everyone has their limits and that is ok. But I can't help but compare with myself and then I end up in the same question:

"Are all these people just weak, quick to complain, taking advantage of an employer, bad at managing their feelings and time OR am I just too hard on myself?"

While reading the OP's text, I have had some of the things they had, not everything. Reading other people's burnout stories sound familiar. I've had big breakups, I've had long steaks of overwork with little return in the expected results to be generated, I've had days where motivation was lacking for anything, not just work, I've had days where the lack of sleep causes lack of focus and motivation which causes more lack of sleep etc, and the list goes on.

What I find myself doing is just powering through. It might take a week or a month or three, but I end up fine or better than before. I don't know if that means I am stronger or better OR just not as burnt out as these other people. When talking with family and friends I have often said that what I want/need is more free time from work. That way I can relax and feel less stressed, and hopefully in due time work on some of my projects and ideas, yet so far I've been doing a normal 40 hours/week job with extra times often. I have tried to change my times to 4 days a week or 6 hours a day unsuccessfully so far. I sometimes feel I'm wasting this time.

How do you actually know is you are burnt out? How do you know if you can overcome it alone? How do I know if I'm not burnt out or if I'm strong enough to overcome it or if I'm stupid enough to ignore the signs or if everyone else is weak or if everyone else is doing the right thing?

That's all. I wish you best of luck and hope you feel better soon. Work is always better when it can be something you're proud of, and excited to go to. Again, I mean no disrespect to you or anyone else. This is my brain dumping all my thoughts and concerns in the hopes that I might get some interesting advice or food for thought. Thank you.

If you can power through it then you've never been in a burnout situation. Burnouts build up over months, if not years to the point you are no longer able to function.

It's not that hard to avoid them if you remain aware of how your environment impacts how you feel and don't just walk around ignoring an environment that puts you in a constant negative state.

Anyway, I do agree that it's an overused term. Some people just need a holiday, a change of job or a different romantic partner and they'll be fine in a short amount of time.

Does your boss/supervisor have any idea what you've been going through? Depending on the trust level between you guys, it may help "hint" your situation. See if there is room to discuss minimizing hours/stress/duties or even taking a short leave.

Do what you can to find happiness again. Rest is important. Lower your stress levels.

Talk to a professional before quitting your Job. HN is great but not able to tell you what to do here. A therapist can help you come up with a plan. They can help you evaluate if it's working.

You mention you are in Canada. I am guessing your job comes with a group benefits plan? Please take advantage of it. Benefits will typically range from reimbursement for therapy sessions all the way to short and long term disability coverage.

All the comments here are amazing, but one extra thing to add is if you have a good manager, work with that person to lighten your load. Having less to worry about at work will go a long ways into making sure you are able to recover more quickly.

I've found great calm in doing long walks. Especially on the way down from a good uphill hike when it's super early and there's noone else in the park.

For me it's sort of like forced meditation.

May better days be just around the corner for ya :)

Read “Feeling Good” by John Burns, and be sure to do the exercises in the book.

You need a break from work and proper medical attention.

Go speak to a doctor about if they can help you get the right papers so you can get an income and days off. That’s what the procedure is in Sweden.

> While on an insured mental health break for months

Keep your head up! 99,99% of this planet doesn't have mental health insurance. I had no idea it even existed.

Why does every single "Ask HN" get downvoted?

Dumb question: But have you taken a longish vacation? And I mean one that's 3-4 weeks or more that has nothing to do with work?

OP is canadian but in USA, the normal amount of vacation time is 2 weeks per year.

It’s about the same in Canada. 2-4 weeks depending on your job, seniority, and position if you’re in regular employment.

Pretty irrelevant, but why does OP post show as gray? Usually it is because of downvoted, but this one is upvoted.

Totally normal. Build something. Get those creative juices flowing again. Your new career will choose you.

1. Exercise 2. Eat healthy 3. Reduce hours worked per day 4. Spend time with friends and family

You're going to be okay.

You do have a huge amount of stress in your life. Plenty of people would break down under half that. (Seriously, suppose it was one sexual assault and the breakup. That is enough to fuck a lot of people up.)

I can't tell whether you already know this stuff. If so you can skip this paragraph:

If I came into my therapist's office and told her I had your symptoms, she would tell me that I had anxiety and depression from all the stress I was carrying around. I know this because I've already done it. I didn't want to do it because I didn't want to think of myself as crazy (mental illness has a lot of stigma attached to it), so I resisted for a year or two. But eventually my problems got serious enough that I couldn't deal with them any other way. Waiting caused me a lot of trouble. I'm still pissed that I can't get those years back.

I've never had PTSD, so I don't know what a therapist would say about your symptoms. But I do know PTSD is treatable, as are anxiety and depression. The treatments aren't as easy as taking a pill (though the option is there). They work slowly, and they're process-oriented, so they discourage you from asking when do I get better? But the time does come when you feel normal again.

A few pieces of random advice:

- Stop working until you get this sorted out. Mental health issues tend to take away your ability to introspect. You could get worse without realizing it, cause a lot of problems for your employer, maybe get fired and have a black mark on your record.

- You may not want to tell your employer why you're leaving. I don't know what the culture is like in Toronto, but in the US people can get a little strange about mental illness. Unless you get special mental health benefits or something (and maybe even then) it's a good idea to just say "personal issues" when they ask you why you're leaving.

- You say you have a medical person. In the US medical people dispense drugs and see you once every month or two. Therapists see you every week, and they help you solve the majority of your problems. If it's an option, find a therapist that you like. You may have to sit through a couple of duds. My therapist is the primary reason I'm healthy today.

- Understand that one possible endgame here is a breakdown where you suddenly can't work or screw something up catastrophically (I've been there too :-). Try to be graceful about it, but one way or another you should put everything down so you can focus on getting better.

- my email's in my profile if you want to talk.

Try vaping high cbd hemp flower daily after work for about two months. You can mix it with thc flower to achieve a full spectrum entourage effect. Relax. Listen to music. Let your mind wander and take you places.

Get off the amphetamines, if you're on any. Modafinil, Ritalin, whatever.

Go on this 10 day vipassana retreat: https://www.dhamma.org/en-US/index. It will immensely help you. (its free including lodging and food for 10 days)

Read “The Body Keeps Score” and “Full Catastrophe Living”

My deepest sympathies - that is quite a lot to go through in just one year. I have had my own battles with mental health issues, but never so concentrated (just protracted). Like others, I really think you need to find a therapist first. As for the modality, what immediately comes to mind is integrative [1]. CBT or Jungian would not be good options though, for various reasons.

A reputable therapist ought to offer a free first session (or half) to see how you two get along and it gives them a sense of what you're struggling with. It may take a few tries to find someone you click with (or a competent one), but stay at it. The exact modality does not matter so much as the quality of the relationship between client and therapist; Bowlby's attachment theory explains this in more detail (e.g. secure attachment == good parenting).

I went through burnout a few years ago (quit the badly run by sociopaths startup), went thru a good period (i.e. taking time off), got desperate for work (bad idea, but couldn't focus on what I'd planned to (aka get out of IT))), got a job, things were ok - and then went downhill again (the dead cat bounce) due to various environmental factors and also not really addressing some internal issues. So don't do what I did.

As for the job, you can always get another one (you're young enough). Again, don't do what I did - I had a ton of responsibility in the startup job and so put up with a lot of crap because a) I thought I was indispensable, b) all the tech was my baby, etc. At the end of the day, I finally realized too late I owned zero equity and the founders were deliberately exploiting me. Your company sounds much better, but still, too much identification with "the job" is endemic in IT and tends to lead to burnout.

And the PTSD worries me for some reason... just my intuition. So don't procrastinate (like I did...) Good luck.

[1] https://www.psychologytoday.com/gb/therapy-types/integrative...

[edit] I see you have a psychiatrist - good, but you should do talk based therapy also IMO - it may be my biases, but psychiatrists are only appropriate for biological based issues. It is the difference in the training. A stereotype perhaps, but when debugging software, do you immediately reach for the soldering iron and start replacing chips?

I'm very sorry to hear about your experience.

I went through a rough patch recently with mental health too. I know how hard it can be but I have come out the other side a much stronger person and a lot clearer on what is important in life. Always hang in there, it gets better.

Everyone is different I know and I don't claim to be an expert but thought it might be worth listing some of the big things that helped me and seems to help a lot of others as well, just in case you find something:

- Exercise like you've never exercised before. If you ever had dreams of getting in shape or conquering a fitness challenge nothing motivated me more than knowing I might feel a little bit better mentally for it afterwards.

- Sleep. I got serious about making sure I got a good night sleep which was extremely hard at times. All the sleep hygiene tips are worth learning. Not getting too hot at night, blocking out all light, ear plugs, sleep meditations, stretching before bed, reading something calm and positive before bed, writing everything on your mind down so you can let it go etc etc

- Every day writing down 3 things I'm grateful for (even small things like a warm cup of tea), 1 happy thing that happened in the last 24 hours and 1 thing I'm looking forward to. There's something to all the gratitude diary stuff.

- Meditation and mindfulness were often the best way to get a break from it. Learning these skills is one of the best things I've ever done.

- Controlled breathing gave me some control of my nervous system. To calm things down and slow my thoughts (especially in the middle of the night) I personally found the 4-7-8 breathing technique worked well for me if done properly but there's lot of others taught in yoga etc as well.

- Socialise and talk to people a lot, even if you don't feel like it.

- Help others. It is the right thing to do and it feels good and takes the focus off you.

- Learn new things, take on new challenges, things that you have no expectations about.

- Possibly the hardest but best lesson I learnt of all though was not to buy into the negative thoughts my brain was having. Realising that I'm only thinking that way because of the state my brain is in and that the state it is in today isn't necessarily the state it will be in tomorrow, next week or next month. The world is a great and amazing place. If it doesn't seem that way right now it's just because of the state I'm in now but that state will change and when it does change the world does indeed seem great and amazing again.

I also tend to agree with the advice of staying in your job. For me there was an element of not being able to deal with too much but at the same time, running from all responsibility and work wasn't the answer either so it was a balance to be found until I could get back to full capacity. Taking on as much responsibility as I could handle at each step helped to improve my self worth and helped a lot too. But that's just me so I hope you find what is best for you.

Hang in there and best of luck to you!

First of all, good job on taking a mental health break. I was burned out at this time last year and should have asked for a sabbatical, but I thought I could tough it out. I ended up having a falling out with my work and we parted ways. A few thoughts off the top of my head:

* Do a health assessment, maybe a physical/checkup, and address any digestive or sleep issues. I had undiagnosed sleep apnea for 10-20 years which lead to severe fatigue, then acquired IBS from (I think) a meat deficiency and lack of fiber while bodybuilding, similar to what vegetarians get after 3 years if they don't meticulously watch their nutrition. I thought it was leaky gut from a sensitivity to legumes and nightshades (Dr. Gundry has info about this) but in my case, I think it was that I had substituted legumes for meat so had worn through my gut lining and also wasn’t making serotonin from tryptophan in the gut. Anyway, I went heavy on the meat and took some prenatal vitamins for a week and my digestion and mood improved within a matter of days. It was honestly a miracle.

* If your physical health is fine, start working on your mental health. I just found out a few days ago that I probably have ADHD, after reading this article on HN https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=22129777 about it. I also discovered that I have task anxiety felt as a pain between my chest and stomach when I need to do something I’m wary of (I thought I only had depression). Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) has helped, mainly that I acknowledge negative thoughts as they come in and then let them pass, similar to with meditation. And I use The Secret/Manifestation to take negative thoughts like “I so don’t want to help them fix their website” with “thank creation that another opportunity fell in my lap, even though I can only save the lead right now until I’m feeling stronger”.

* My guess is that you have too much emotional baggage in your head that hasn’t been garbage collected. It will take you a period of time proportional to however long something was scribbling the hard drive in your head to recover from it. In my case, I normally do PHP and mobile development, but learned Java and Ruby for projects within 6 months that filled my head with anti-patterns that I had long ago stopped using. So I was mainly fixing mistakes in the code which I never would have made, which severely taxed my motivation. I was also on call at night 1 week out of every 3 so wasn’t dreaming. So I got so discombobulated that I was reverse engineering tasks all the way to their beginning and realizing that the entire project would have to be rewritten to make any changes. That annoyed the client and dropped my productivity to 10%. I’ve also been through PTSD due to the death of a friend 15 years ago that I felt responsible for, so slipped back into very dark and negative thought patterns of the whole world being against me. Which I realize now is what happens when someone has doubts about or loses their faith - what we might call a midlife crisis.

* If decluttering your mind through meditation and perhaps counseling feels too overwhelming right now, you can start with your immediate surroundings. I just spent the last few weeks cleaning my home office and shredding paperwork from 15 years ago. I had worked through burnout to depression 6 months ago due to my girlfriend having me do a bunch of home improvement projects around the house which got me over my starting friction. But cleaning my surroundings got me from depression to anxiety as my todo list shrank enough that I could see the forest for the trees. My task anxiety was so crippling that I was going days between getting even one thing done. But I discovered that by separating the thinking from the doing by building my todo list during one time period and working through it during another time period, I was able to act as my own boss. That let me visualize where I needed to be long term and then get into the zone while tasking, because it’s easier for me to do what other people tell me. While burned out, we often lose our ability to self-start.

* I don’t really have a fifth point, so a here’s a bunch grouped together: forgive yourself, be patient with yourself in your recovery, know that you are not alone (literally millions of people in the US alone struggle with burnout and depression), try to have as many emotional free expression tasks in your life as analytical so that you can do something constructive instead of procrastinate, talk to others who are struggling like yourself even if it’s just online forums and chat rooms.

I would say that I am pretty much back to normal, but unfortunately I haven’t really programmed in months. I am really, really struggling with the idea of going back to work. I need to, but feel uncomfortable taking on a full time job right now. I’ve been looking at freelancing, but unfortunately freelancer.com and upwork.com are completely saturated with 10-25 (as many as 85!) coder applications submitted for every contract I’m interested in. I’m trying the gig economy, but it’s kind of the off-season right now where I live so am only making $50-75 here and there. I’m looking into non-programming work that doesn’t emphasize problem solving as much - perhaps CAD or copywriting. I’m eager to work and full of energy and ideas, I just.. can’t write code.. right now. I’m hoping to get my blog back up and write some in-depth articles about the logistical side of programming and ADHD/PTSD/burnout/depression/anxiety, about solutions for when technical hurdles are not the problem. I’m up for anything, if anyone is in the same boat or needs help writing/planning/designing something.

This is excellent advice, especially the sleep apnea. Wishing the best of health & happiness.

Go on a very very long vacation!

Hi young man, this is not burnout. You seem to have reached the point where your outer ideas of life no longer serve the organic inner ideas of life per se, and so you have been creating all sort of pain around yourself in order to notice that the conflict you've created can no longer be maintained.

Go back some years to where you last re-wrote your self-definition and take out anything that's not real. This kind of struggle is one where you are going to have to extricate yourself from your thoughts and ideas, otherwise known as illusions, about life, and become an actual self-reliant/psychological adult .. which is supposed to happen at this stage/age.

If you can manage to keep your work connection as a means of everyday grounding, by all means do that while you mourn the end of childhood.

Anyhow, you wrote in the comments: Now that it's done, I feel like I can relax a bit and also accept that things can go poorly and it doesn't have to be devastating.

And that's the truth. I would underline it. Remember it while your emotions suggest that you should feel like shit. Then it will pass. Its not fair, its not easy, but adulthood is worth it.

Young man?

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