Depression or Burnout?

Burned out from life

Depression is a real issue today. It is something that most people can relate to, but not enough people prefer to talk about it. There are times in life where professional help is needed (I have been to a therapist off and on since I was 18), and on some occasions, even medical intervention is necessary. We all know depression sucks, but unfortunately, most people are not equipped with the knowledge and techniques to live a lifestyle free from the weight of it. It is something I have struggled with, and it has been quite a roller coaster for me at times. Recently I felt the familiar cloud of depression coming over me, but it didn’t make sense (modestly speaking, life has been good lately). After some self-reflection, I had a realization that I think can help a lot of people.

My story

Just a few weeks ago, I became self-aware of something that has been happening to me for years. After a long week of travel and work, I began a 4 hours drive home late on a Friday night. Over that drive, I became more irritable at even smaller things as the ride progressed. Every song that came across my music shuffle was not welcome, and eventually, I just sat in an overwhelmingly defeated silence. I began ignoring calls from family and friends as the darkening journey continued. The week has been stressful, and I was not only over it but life overall. I began to fantasize about the oncoming semi-trucks on the backcountry roads. All my stress and worries would vanish along with my seemingly pointless life up to this point if I just veered a little to the left. All I wanted to do was get home, shove my head into my pillow, and not talk to anyone. 

Sounds extremely depressing right? The truth is that it was incredibly sad. Unfortunately, this ominous feeling overtook me and ruined my Friday night which should have been a pleasant time with my girlfriend. Then I woke up Saturday with the same dark cloud over my head. I canceled plans with friends and did something that I do all too much, try to work out my internal pain. So I hit the gym and aggressively chased the goal of a fantastic workout that would wash my ominous soul with a flood of endorphins. To my surprise, no endorphins came, and the exercise left me feeling worse than I did before. Defeated and depressed, I came home, sat on the floor, and just stared at the ceiling. 

Around 4 pm that day, I finally had a breakthrough. After looking back on the previous weeks, I logically put together the reason for my feeling of doom and gloom. It was all so simple; it was a clear case of burnout that I should have seen coming a mile away. Logically my life was great. So great that in Icarus like fashion, I flew so close to the greatness that it burned me out. 

The weeks leading up to this point were full of exciting times. New job, lots of travel, catching up with old friends during that travel, and meeting lots of fascinating people with an expense card to cover all the alcohol to come with the social influx. As I do with most things I do, I took all of these experiences to the extreme and continued to employ an intense workout schedule started before the change in employment. To make all this possible, I did multiple things that ultimately led to my emotional demise. Over these few weeks, I neglected my sleep, nutrition, self-care, and used copious amounts of caffeine to keep it all going. 

Looking back at all this, I realized that I wasn’t depressed, but instead I had been burnt the hell out. My body was in disarray from poor nutrition and lack of sleep. To counter the lack of energy, I was drinking 300-400mg of caffeine a day. Most nights, I was out with coworkers or friends consuming at least 2-3 drinks. I also hadn’t meditated for weeks and had spent barely any time doing creative hobbies. These things all contribute to a perfect storm for burnout. 

I think it is an issue with many people in today’s modern world. We have so much access to things that it is easy for anyone to succumb to burnout. Even more concerning is the fact that I think some people mistake this burnout for being depressed and think something is wrong with them (also depression doesn’t mean something is wrong with you). This feeling usually leads to abuse of the very things that are taking them down the dark path. 

Recovering from burnout

After the realization, I was burned out and not depressed I needed to take some action. Here is a step by step of how I got out of my burn out within 48 hours. It may take longer for others, but the techniques can help you get on the right path. 

  1. Take a supplement to help with natural serotonin production and aid in better sleep. The main ingredient you are looking for is 5-HTP which helps the body produce serotonin necessary to achieve good sleep and relieve anxiety. I used “New Mood” by a company called Onnit, but you can find 5-HTP in the vitamin section at any local pharmacy. Take it right before bedtime. 
  2. Get a good night’s sleep (8-10 hours). Getting adequate sleep is the most important thing you can do for your body. The previously mentioned supplement can help aid in that night’s sleep and help you get into a relaxed state before bed. I would advise not setting the alarm the next morning if possible. Let your body wake up when it is ready.
  3. Sweat and stretch. Sweating is going to help your body secrete toxins built up from poor lifestyle choices. I would advise a sauna or doing some extended low impact cardio. The big thing is to get sweating and sustain the sweat for 15-20 minutes. After that do at least 20 minutes of dedicated stretching or flow yoga. Working and traveling too much cause our body to lock into unnatural positions. Stretching can relieve a lot of physical stress that you may be interpreting as emotional stress
  4. Breath! All too much, we forget how vital the necessary process of breathing is for our health. Take 15-20 minutes of your day to do a guided meditation/breathing exercise. I use the headspace app, but there are plenty of other resources online. Taking time out of your day to intentionally breath and sit in silence may be all that is needed to snap you out of a funk. 
  5. Do something for yourself. You can draw, read, paint, craft, hike, bike, play, etc. The whole point of this is to do something that you enjoy and do it for the sake of enjoyment. Any of these activities are taken to the next level if it involves nature. The biggest thing is to do something for yourself that brings about internal accomplishment and re-connection with your spirit. 

I hope this article has helped open some eyes the way mine had a few weeks ago. Since my burnout, I have been making sure to be more diligent about my sleep, decrease my coffee/alcohol consumption, and focus on recovery just as much as working out. Add in the minimum of 5 minutes of meditation every day that I hold myself to, and I would say I have been feeling pretty well. Please feel free to reach out with any questions or concerns. Thank you for reading!

With Big Love,


Leave a Reply