How to Recover from Burnout with Meditation

Updated: Oct 5, 2021

Why mindfulness and meditation became so popular? A lot of us in high-pressure corporate jobs feel stressed and overwhelmed with high demands. We develop anxiety, insomnia and even burnout. In this post I will share how I learnt to meditate and how it helped me to deal with all of the above.

Yogi girl meditating in a yoga studio in a jungle
Yoga and meditation played a key role in helping me to recover from burnout, anxiety and insomnia

When did we start to meditate?

Long before apps like Headspace, people have been looking for ways to eliminate suffering and lead happier lives. Buddha was not an exception. He, however, had most persistence of all in search for a universal tool to minimise suffering.

Having spent a lot of time under a tree, he discovered a technique called Vipassana - one of the oldest Buddhist meditation practices.

Meditation is known to cure insomnia, reduce anxiety and relive stress. With many of us suffering from stress and high-pressure at work, the popularity of Vipassana is growing faster than ever.

What is Vipassana meditation?

Vipassana teaches you to methodically observe your bodily sensations, both pleasant and unpleasant, and exercise equanimity. In other words, it teaches you how to not react to things with craving and aversion. Once you learn that - nothing will get you out of balance. Which means you can endure any kind of stress without anxiety or loosing your sleep.

You can learn Vipassana free of charge (although a charitable donation is expected upon the completion of the course) and get a lot of other benefits along the way.

To learn the technique, you must complete a 10-day course - in complete silence, with no contact to the outside world, following a very strict schedule.

Why Vipassana meditation is so effective?

I first heard about Vipassana from a colleague 5 years ago when I was looking to get more serious with my meditation practice. It sounded great, but 10 days of silence seemed scary.

I was hoping I could try it before signing up for a full 10-day course. But it appeared not to be an option. 10-days is a must and there is a very good reason for that. This is the minimum amount of time you need to learn the technique properly.

Vipassana works so well because you learn it through experience and not just on a theoretical level.

Have you ever touched a hot kettle? I bet you remember vividly how painful it was. And no one would make you touch one again. This is precisely why learning through experience is so powerful. And Vipassana is taught following the exact same logic – you must go through the experience, no short cuts.

My first Vipassana meditation course, or 10 days of crying

I did my first course at a meditation centre Dhamma Dipa in Herefordshire, UK. I was going through a divorce and was desperate for anything that could help me deal with the pain.

In the western world we don’t like dealing with pain. Instead, we end up doing anything to avoid it.

In the long-run this approach is ineffective. When you distract yourself from the feelings instead of dealing with them, they bottle up and manifest later on in life in form of depression or insomnia.

Sunrise at Dhamma Sukha, Vipassana meditation centre in Spain
Sunrise at Dhamma Sukha, Vipassana meditation centre in Spain

The course is designed to leave you no space for distractions:

  • You are asked not to take anything with you apart from clothes and personal hygiene items.

  • You are fully cut off from the outside world - upon arrival, you leave your phone, earphones, Kindle, writing materials and anything else you might have, in the locker.

  • Men and women are segregated, and you only interact with people of your own sex.

  • Everyone is asked to dress modestly and not to interact with each other in any way, not just verbally.

All you do for 10 days is sleep, eat, meditate and take short walks in the dedicated area.

That is a lot of time with no distractions to deal with everything you haven’t dealt with in years. In those 10 days I went through a lot.

Childhood memories, dreams about the future, endless ‘to-do’ lists, past regrets, future hopes, things I must remember to Google when I get home, you name it.

It was shocking to realise how many unprocessed thoughts and feelings I had. I cried a lot, every day, few times a day.

It was agonising, but cathartic at the same time. Like pressing a ‘reset’ button on the phone. It’s annoying to wait while it restarts, but once it does, everything works perfectly again.

Early morning at Vipassana meditation centre in the mountains
Vipassana meditation centres are usually located in beautiful remote places conducive to meditation

Staying silent for 10 days was not the hardest

Staying silent is what most people fear most when signing up for a Vipassana course. Yet it was the easiest thing for me to do. And even somewhat liberating.