There are many different and individual ways to get out of a crisis, a burnout or a state of depression. Here are the things that helped me.
Reflecting, I found the first major steps for me personally were:
Take care of the nervous system
Rest, learn to relax, find peace and quiet and sleep as much as possible
Let yourself be guided by what interests you and find joy
There are probably more steps in between those steps, too. I have done many, many things to turn my life around since burning out. Meeting some people at the rehabilitation center for psychosomatic illness who were in the same situation as I was in more than two years ago, it made me think.
Some of those people were at the rehab center for 5 or 6 weeks for intense therapy then expected to or were expected to go straight back to their jobs and continue as before. I could not imagine this path for me and was very grateful that I had the time and space to take those three steps I mentioned above!
I could not have recovered while remaining in the environment which made me sick in the first place.
No amount of autogenic training, meditation or walking would have been enough to counterbalance the negative effects I was experiencing in that environment.
A year to recover
It was very important for me to have a lot of time and space. The first psychologist I went to see told me I would probably need about a year to recover. I was relieved at the thought of having a year’s space but was also quite shocked at his estimation of recovery time. I had no idea!
We all need different things
I have come to understand that different people prefer or need different methods. Some people feel they need to be busy to recover from depression and have a routine which is their own self-care strategy. Others do not have the privilege of being able to stop and rest as they have obligations like looking after their children and earning a living and need to find methods between that to support their recovery.
I needed a lot of time and space to take care of my nervous system. Finding ways to look after my nervous system was the first step in learning how to relax.
I found meditation very useful. I used and still use many different meditations from YouTube and the Insight Timer App, as well as my own creations. There is something very soothing about someone guiding you through a meditation, like visiting a different world, going through a body scan or listening to some affirmations (positive words and beliefs). It is an effective way of distracting your busy mind and focussing on something positive.
I know meditation isn't for everyone. Sitting still isn't for everyone. But any act of focusing inwards is an act of self-love and it helped me A LOT. It was probably the first step to my recovery.
I also find moving my body very beneficial. When I first burned out I was told to walk for an hour every day. It is an effective way to distracting your mind and at the same time releases hormones which make you feel good. This can help you relax and even sleep better.
Of course it doesn't have to be walking, any kind of exercise is likely be beneficial. Walking was good for me as my body was exhausted (see my blog: When My Body Said No) and any other kind of exercise was out of the question.
Try a Joy Journal
I learned many new nervous-system-regulating skills during my Mind-Body Medicine Facilitator training which helped me immensely. During the training I also found more of what interests me and what brings me joy, what lights me up. It was at that time I started a “Joy Journal”, which I thoroughly recommend for anyone feeling down, overwhelmed or burned out!
Writing things down and recording how they made you feel, like with a joy journal, you can start to shift your focus away from the negative and remember (or be reminded by reading it through every now and again) the joys you have experienced and sometimes how easy they were.
Joy regulates the nervous system
Maybe it is just a walk in the sunshine. An uplifting talk with a friend. Laughing at something ridiculous, or maybe you saw an interesting bird or animal on your way somewhere. Recording these moments is very effective because our brains do have a negative bias, they love to remember the negative and disregard the positive. You can however re-train your brain in this way!
So if you are feeling restless, unable to relax or have trouble sleeping, obviously I recommend seeing your doctor! But I also recommend finding ways to relax and rest and have fun that suit you and recording the good bits as often as possible.
When your nervous system is calmed and you have rested enough, you will start to feel more sparks of interest and joy throughout your day. Follow them! They will help you feel better and guide you to your own unique path.