Last updated: February 28, 2024

Fitness & Health - Stress Management
Warning Signs, How to recover once you hit the wall

After more than 25 years of playing the role of high tech entrepreneur, I found myself burned out at age 45. I define burnout as having developed shaking hands, a feeling of dullness and nervousness, and a medical condition known as GERD or acid reflux. I didn't want to be in a state of mental and physical decline as I approached age 50 so I started to make the necessary fundamental changes in my life:

My first step towards recovery was to extract myself from the unhealthy business environment I found myself in by leaving Intrinsyc Software where my relationship with some of the members of my board of directors had become strained, my sense of 'self worth' was under attack, and my 'leadership role' was being undermined. Then I worked with my family and my doctor on calming myself down and finding a deeper sense of inner peace and mental balance (which in part involved me letting go of my constant desire to please other people and seek their approval). And finally I worked on a drug free approach to resolving my GERD condition (see my web page on this topic).

I meet a lot of business executives in their mid 40s who find themselves in a similar position to the one I experienced: a feeling of burnout, loss of vitality, and worst of all, a loss of passion and love for the things in life that have always given them pleasure. This is the onset of depression and it is sometimes hard to spot until its too late. Once you have found yourself in the pit of despair, you can find it is a long road back to good mental and physical health. Some people never fully recover so it is best to recognize the effects of long term stress as early as possible and start to make the fundamental changes in your life that will be necessary to allow for a full and complete recovery.

Some people may find that taking anti-depressants are at least a partial solution to the problem but the truth is that only about 1/3 of people find relief from these drugs while almost everyone experiences unpleasant side effects. Before resorting to powerful and potentially harmful drugs I strongly suggest addressing the root cause of the burnout/depression. As a minimum you can learn techniques to manage the stresses you are experiencing (a change in your perception of things via counseling and using stress reduction techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, etc.), getting more regular exercise which will boost your healthy brain chemistry, cutting out stimulants and depressants such as coffee, simple sugars, and alcohol, etc. But you you also may need to make structural changes in your life such as the choice of career/job or even your spouse - if that person is sucking the life out of you. Sometimes the changes required are deep, although you will want to be careful about making judgements about other people in your life until you are feeling better yourself.

I managed a complete recovery in about a year's time. For some people it may take longer - the point is that the process is often long and slow. You are setting about re-training your body and mind and even reseting some of the key relationships in your life to allow you to achieve a new mental/physical balance. Having the support of my family and making this my top priority was the ticket to my success.


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