How Long To Recover From Burnout? | Defeat Burnout (2023)

The length of time it takes to recover from burnout varies between days, months, and years. It depends on how long your burnout has been building, how intensely you have fallen into a burnout, and how quickly you can remove or better cope with your burnout triggers.

In this article, we’ll go deep on the signs to look out for that signal you could be at risk of burnout and the recovery process. If you are an individual or company seeking bespoke support with burnout, contact burnout expert Emma at I offer a range of 1:1 coaching options, self-study courses, masterclasses and voice note and text coaching to help you collapse time on your recovery.

This article does not constitute medical advice. If you are experiencing a severe health condition, then you should consult a medical professional.

Table of Contents

(Video) The Fastest Way to Recover from Burnout

The signs of burnout

Burnout is the name we use to describe a condition of extreme stress that can result in a mental and physical breakdown if left untreated. The symptoms can sneak up on us over time and are easy to associate with other things, and therefore, dismiss.

Christina Maslach, a leading burnout expert, categorises the symptoms of burnout into three areas.

  1. Physical and emotional exhaustion – involving extreme fatigue of the kind that can not be cured by a good night’s sleep.
  2. Cynicism and detachment – feeling increasingly pessimistic about your job, and perhaps your home life. You may start to hide away from others, and possibly become irritable or tearful.
  3. Feelings of ineffectiveness and lack of accomplishment – it starts to feel harder and harder to do activities. You may experience brain fog and other unclear thought processes. You may start losing your short term memory.

How Long To Recover From Burnout? | Defeat Burnout (1)

Can you recover from burnout?

When I was first treated for burnout by a psychiatrist, I asked whether I was broken for life. He told me that it would take time, but that I would make a full recovery. In his experience, the length of time that the burnout had been brewing was how long it took to come out the other side.

That’s where I then drew a blank. I’d always worked in high stress, high-pressure environments, and up until now, I thought I had thrived in them. Just when had that switch happened?

At the time, I found it hard to believe that I would recover, but my psychiatrist was right, I did recover. It happened very slowly, with minor improvements in the following months, culminating in significant improvements within three months and then six months. By my first anniversary, I felt like a whole person again.

(Video) BURNOUT: How long does it take to recover? Popular stress question answered!

But that’s my experience from a severe burnout that led to complete breakdown.

If you have experienced a few of the physical symptoms and listen to your body immediately, it hopefully won’t reach that stage. Chronic stress levels leave clues. Early on, it could be the case that all you need is to listen to your body, take a weekend off, have a holiday, or talk to someone. If you feel your symptoms easing, then you know you’ve found a routine and resources that work for you.

Some busy executives manage to keep their stress in check simply with a morning exercise routine that gives them perspective and balance.

Workplaces are increasingly aware and supportive of employees’ wellbeing needs and mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression, which are connected to burnout. If you feel overwhelmed by your to-do list, there is strength in reaching out for support. If it’s impossible to do that with your colleagues, see if your company offers a confidential employee support and advice line.

How to recover from burnout

The best way to recover from burnout depends on how severe your symptoms are. For example, with a less severe job burnout, you may feel immediate benefit from:

  • prioritising rest, whether that’s longer nightly sleep, reducing your work hours or taking a holiday.
  • regular exercise, especially yoga, which has strong mental health benefits.
  • eating nutritious food.
  • spending less time on social media and work communications.

If your burnout is more severe, for example, overwhelming stress, exhaustion, and heart palpitations, then you may need expert medical attention. Your burnout recovery may include:

(Video) Burnout Is Now A Legitimate Diagnosis: Here Are The Symptoms And How To Treat It | TODAY

  • seeing a psychiatrist or psychologist
  • cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT)
  • medication for anxiety or depression
  • working with a burnout mentor or coach for support with your recovery
  • time off work for medical leave
  • a phased return to work with fewer hours and responsibilities
  • ultimately a change in career or job role if there is no way for you to reduce your stress to an acceptable level in that environment
  • nutritional guidance for overall well being
  • time to reconnect with things that bring you joy
  • an exercise plan tailored to your energy levels and adapted at various stages of your burnout recovery. For example, initially short walks and building to more strenuous activities over time as your exhaustion decreases.

No matter what level of burnout you are experiencing, you can be proactive in your own recovery.

I offer the following support options to help individuals collapse time on burnout recovery:

  • High touchpoint, in-depth 1:1 coaching and mentorship with optional hypnotherapy to speed up habit change
  • The Burnout Recovery Masterclass Series for self-study
  • A one-off 90 minute consultation with a week of voice and text note support
  • Voice note and text note coaching-only options – email emma@defeatburnout to check availability
  • Monthly live masterclasses with replays available at
  • A free newsletter

How Long To Recover From Burnout? | Defeat Burnout (2)

My story

I experienced a serious burnout in 2017. In hindsight, it had been building for some time. I’d been working flat out in my career for years and neglecting to take proper care of my mental and physical health in the process.

I was in a very dark place with little to no energy for at least three months. The extent of my illness meant that working was not an option, and I had to see a psychiatrist, take medication, and go to weekly cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) sessions.

I did not see it coming, and I struggled to comprehend how it had happened to ‘someone like me’. I’d prided myself on being a tough cookie who was incredibly resilient and a career powerhouse. Now, I wasn’t sleeping, and I was in physical pain. Everything felt impossible and scary.

(Video) Burn Out to Brilliance. Recovery from Chronic Fatigue | Linda Jones | TEDxBirminghamCityUniversity

At that stage, I was pretty much convinced that my life was over and that I’d feel this broken forever. I am now writing this article three years on, and I can safely say that is not the case. However, burnout has changed me. It led me to leave the corporate world and be my own boss to more easily balance my needs with my need to achieve. I’m also now far more conscious of the need to be kind to myself and be more empathetic to others. I now realise there are times when individuals can’t pull themselves together; I was one of them.

I’ve realised that time is limited, and I only want to spend my time on things that feel meaningful.

How I recovered from burnout

Medical professionals guided my recovery due to its severity and because I was unable to work initially. However, I also did my own research and built some additional recovery strategies based on my mindset.

I realised that I had developed some negative thoughts about the world and lost my confidence and motivation. While CBT helped with this a little, I found a better answer within the personal development literature. The things that helped me to improve my thoughts and feelings included:

  • Journalling. For the first time in my life, I forced myself to spend time with my feelings and let everything come out. I even ended up writing my burnout story in a book that I plan to publish to help others.
  • Time with loved ones. While it was great to receive some support from the team at work, my family were the people I felt I could most be myself around without putting on a mask. They were there for me at every step of my recovery.
  • Finding new ways to make my brain work. After always being a high flying professional, it was tough to stop working, and I lost a sense of my self-worth in the process. I filled the gap by taking baby steps to learn new skills as my energy and concentration allowed. During the early stages of my recovery, I could not read or concentrate on a TV programme. As my wellbeing improved, I would read for short periods, and then progressed to taking a self-development course that connected me with a new network of people and the satisfaction of learning something new.
  • Gentle exercise. I had always been a fan of pushing myself hard to burn the maximum calories. Burnout forced my body to stop and then take baby steps to get it fit again. I progressed from gentle walks to gentle yoga, which I found helped me to regain some control of my mind and stop it spinning with too many thoughts.
  • Reframing my thinking. Burnout taught me how to focus on and be thankful for what I had, rather than mourning the lack of what I used to have. In this way, I set new goals for my life that have ultimately led to me being far happier and satisfied than I was when I put all my self-worth and energy into my corporate career. I realised that there were very few aspects of it that I missed, and that I had missed out on so much life outside of the office, which I began to rediscover.
  • Investing in coaching and mentorship to find myself again and come out the other side stronger.For me, that path involved rewiring how I think and completely changing my career to one that now lights me up and is easy for me to be at my best in for the long term. That’s why I am now so passionate about working with individuals to help them do the same. Find out more about working with me as your burnout mentor.

Get support to break free from burnout

If you are reading this and dealing with a burnout, trust that you will recover. If, like me, you find it hard to believe at this stage, borrow my belief that it will happen.

I offer the following support options to help you to collapse time on burnout recovery:

(Video) How long does it take to recover from autistic burnout

  • High touchpoint, in-depth 1:1 coaching and mentorship with optional hypnotherapy to speed up habit change
  • The Burnout Recovery Masterclass Series for self-study
  • A one-off 90 minute consultation with a week of voice and text note support
  • Voice note and text note coaching-only options – email emma@defeatburnout to check availability
  • Monthly live masterclasses with replays available at

And the following free resources:

Video: Can I recover from burnout?


Does it take 5 years to recover from burnout? ›

Burnout recovery may take as long as three years: A study of coping: Successful recovery from severe burnout and other reactions to severe work-related stress.

What are the stages of burnout recovery? ›

You can think of the recovery process as building up a temporary wall between you and your job. Doing so entails the four simple steps of psychological detachment, relaxation, mastery, and control (Sonnentag, Mojza, Demerouti, & Bakker, 2012; Fritz, & Sonnentag, 2005).

How do you recover from severe burnout? ›

14 tips on how to recover from burnout
  1. Track your stress levels. ...
  2. Identify your stressors. ...
  3. Create a habit of journaling. ...
  4. Seek professional help from a coach or therapist. ...
  5. Build a support network. ...
  6. Get enough exercise. ...
  7. Speak up for yourself. ...
  8. Learn stress management techniques.
Oct 25, 2021

How does the brain heal after burnout? ›

Try to do healthy activities as part of that self-care, such as “trying to get to sleep and eating healthy foods not high in sugar,” Arnsten said. “Alcohol is what people often reach for to relieve the stress, but it actually makes you feel worse the next day … and the same thing with benzodiazepines like Valium.

How long is the longest burnout? ›

Tune in. Burn out.

Our boy and Victory Stunt Team rider, Joe Dryden, made it in the Guinness World Records by completing a massive burnout. 2.23 miles to be exact, at Orlando Speed World on a Victory Octane. Oooo mama, that's a humdinger!

When burnout goes too far? ›

Ill health related to stress is the most common cause of sick leave today. When stress goes too far, there is a risk of developing exhaustion syndrome, an illness that can take a long time for the body and soul to recover from and whose warning signals should be taken seriously.

Is A burnout reversible? ›

Burnout doesn't go away on its own; rather, it will get worse unless you address the underlying issues causing it. If you ignore burnout, it will only cause you further harm down the line, so it's important that you begin recovery as soon as possible.

Is burnout temporary or permanent? ›

Burnout symptoms are usually temporary and disappear after you address them. If not addressed, these can also affect your physical health and cause heart disease, obesity, high cholesterol, and even type 2 diabetes. Depression symptoms, on the other hand, can get in the way of your daily life and are longer-term.

Does it really take years to recover from burnout? ›

Burnout Recovery Time

Since burnout affects people differently, recovery time hinges on how a person experiences work-related exhaustion. Because of this variation, recovery time can take anywhere from a few weeks to several years.

How do I recover from a burnout without quitting my job? ›

5 Tips for Managing Burnout When You Can't Just Walk Away
  1. Reframe Your Mindset. Consider the role you're burned out from and remind yourself why you started, Thornton suggests. ...
  2. Make Time for Self-Care. ...
  3. Ask for Help. ...
  4. Maintain Your Social Life. ...
  5. Set Boundaries.
Jan 29, 2023

Can burnout feel like a hangover? ›

One of the biggest signs of burnout is a “busyness” hangover.

Can burnout cause permanent damage? ›

Research shows that not only does burnout affect your mood and productivity--it actually affects your brain function. Participants in burnout studies showed enlarged amygdalae, and thinning of the frontal cortex.

What does severe burnout feel like? ›

Being burned out means feeling empty and mentally exhausted, devoid of motivation, and beyond caring. People experiencing burnout often don't see any hope of positive change in their situations. If excessive stress feels like you're drowning in responsibilities, burnout is a sense of being all dried up.

Why does it take so long to recover from burnout? ›

Our brains can change due to burnout, so after many months of experiencing burnout, we need to grant our brain the appropriate time for healing. This will require patience, and, of course, your conscious choices of developing helpful coping strategies and habits that will help heal your brain and body.

What is the best exercise for burnout? ›

Aerobic exercise, like running, can help your brain recover from mental exhaustion or burnout, according to new research. This may be because this type of exercise provides recovery for your cognitive processes and nervous system so they can function more effectively.

How long does it take for the brain to fully heal? ›

A plethora of complications from traumatic brain injuries, ranging from minor cognitive delays to debilitating and life threatening symptoms such as seizures and coma, can follow the victim for years after the injury. You need to know that brain injury recovery time can take anywhere from a few weeks to ten years.

How long does it take for the brain to recover from a nervous breakdown? ›

The Duration of a Nervous Breakdown Varies by Individual

These mental health crises are highly variable, lasting a few hours for one person or weeks for another. There are many risk factors for having a nervous breakdown, and the more an individual has, the greater the chance is that a breakdown will last longer.

Can burnout last for 2 years? ›

It can take weeks, months, or even years. In order to begin the process of healing, you'll have to recognize the signs your body and mind give you once you're teetering at the edge.

How long should a burnout break be? ›

In some instances, employees still report feeling burnout even after one year, and sometimes even after a decade (Cherniss, 1990). Other naturalistic studies suggest recovery takes between one and three years (Bernier, 1998).

Should you tell your boss you're burned out? ›

Talking to your boss about burnout can benefit your well-being. It is a way to open the door to constructive conversations that can help get you back on track and feel better about work. With support, this may improve your job gratification and overall performance.

Can burnout cause physical damage? ›

Burnout was a significant predictor of the following physical consequences: hypercholesterolemia, type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, hospitalization due to cardiovascular disorder, musculoskeletal pain, changes in pain experiences, prolonged fatigue, headaches, gastrointestinal issues, respiratory problems, ...

Is burnout a reason to quit? ›

Is burnout and stress on your list of good reasons to quit a job? If your job has lost its luster and you feel like the long hours, pressure and anxiety aren't worth it anymore; you're not alone. Every day, people quit their jobs due to the emotional exhaustion and chronic stress of demanding roles.

How do you live after burnout? ›

Handling job burnout
  1. Evaluate your options. Discuss specific concerns with your supervisor. ...
  2. Seek support. Whether you reach out to co-workers, friends or loved ones, support and collaboration might help you cope. ...
  3. Try a relaxing activity. ...
  4. Get some exercise. ...
  5. Get some sleep. ...
  6. Mindfulness.

How do I know I'm burnt out? ›

Burnout tends to come with a feeling of complete exhaustion that doesn't dissipate with normal recovery tactics like time off, a work-free weekend or a vacation. Signs of burnout include: Excessive use of substances, including alcohol, drugs and prescription drugs. Physical and mental overwhelm and fatigue.

Does burnout mean you're weak? ›

Remember: Burning Out Doesn't Mean You're Weak, Incapable, or a Failure. This is my own Achilles' heel when it comes to burnout.

Can you fully recover from chronic stress? ›

Fortunately, it is possible to manage and alleviate chronic stress. Improving lifestyle and making better behavior choices are essential steps toward increasing overall health.

How long does it take to recover from introvert burnout? ›

An introvert hangover can last anywhere between few hours to few days, depending on the severity of the exhaustion and it's okay. There is no need to feel guilty or apologetic about your need for some solitude.

How do you pull yourself out of a burnout spiral? ›

To start, try these tips:
  1. Prioritize. Some things just have to get done, but others can wait until you have more time and energy. ...
  2. Delegate. You can't do everything yourself, so if more tasks than you can handle need immediate attention, pass them off to someone you trust.
  3. Leave work at work. ...
  4. Be firm about your needs.

Does burnout feel like anxiety? ›

These symptoms clearly overlap with depression. While this may be true, burnout also significantly aligns with anxiety. Symptoms like inability to focus, changes in sleep, and lack of motivation can come from a depressed state. In contrast, these symptoms may also come from generalized anxiety disorder (GAD).

Can burnout lead to PTSD? ›

Persistent and chronic occupational stress and burnout are considered predictors of post-traumatic stress [17,18].

Can burnout change your personality? ›

New research has suggested exposure to stressors in the workplace can alter personality over time,” says Gemma Leigh Roberts, organisational psychologist and founder of The Resilience Edge.

Which is worse stress or burnout? ›

Burnout is the accumulation of unchecked and built up stress over a period of time. Think of burnout as the larger, meaner, older brother of stress. It requires stress to exist, but you can have stress without being burnt out.

Can burnout lead to a nervous breakdown? ›

More serious mental disorders like postpartum depression or schizophrenia can even manifest in psychotic episodes. These are all signs of extreme burnout that can eventually lead to a nervous breakdown.

Can burnout have long term effects? ›

The negative effects of burnout spill over into every area of life—including your home, work, and social life. Burnout can also cause long-term changes to your body that make you vulnerable to illnesses like colds and flu. Because of its many consequences, it's important to deal with burnout right away.

Do people ever recover from burnout? ›

Burnout doesn't go away on its own; rather, it will get worse unless you address the underlying issues causing it. If you ignore burnout, it will only cause you further harm down the line, so it's important that you begin recovery as soon as possible.

What are the long term effects of burnout? ›

The most commonly reported residual symptom was reduced stress tolerance, but many patients also reported problems with concentration and memory and sleep disturbances that plausibly are residual symptoms due to the former exhaustion.

What does extreme burnout feel like? ›

Job burnout is a special type of work-related stress — a state of physical or emotional exhaustion that also involves a sense of reduced accomplishment and loss of personal identity. "Burnout" isn't a medical diagnosis. Some experts think that other conditions, such as depression, are behind burnout.

Does burnout cause people to quit? ›

Is burnout and stress on your list of good reasons to quit a job? If your job has lost its luster and you feel like the long hours, pressure and anxiety aren't worth it anymore; you're not alone. Every day, people quit their jobs due to the emotional exhaustion and chronic stress of demanding roles.

Does burnout lead to mental health issues? ›

Burnout can be a cause of a mental health disorder, but mental health conditions can also cause burnout. According to a study conducted by the University of Macedonia, burnout has an interconnected relationship with both depression and anxiety.

Is A burnout irreversible? ›

The good news is that burnout can be prevented and is not irreversible — consider a complex interplay with engagement, stress and depression. Most importantly, you need to realize the importance to reach out for help if you have already passed the breaking point.


1. Burnout: Symptoms & Strategies
(Demystifying Medicine McMaster)
2. How to Bounce Back from Burnout in 3 Simple Steps | Allan Ting | TEDxWilmingtonLive
(TEDx Talks)
3. What is the Meaning of Burnout | How to Recover From Burnout Symptoms
4. How to recognize burnout and the best ways to recover from it
(Click On Detroit | Local 4 | WDIV)
5. Recovery from Autistic Burnout
(Autism From The Inside)
6. How to Recover from Burnout in 3 Steps | Pharmacist Burnout
(Dr. Jessica Louie - Burnout, Financial Freedom, Pharmacist)
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