How I dealt with a burnout

This post is the second part of my series on burnout. Read the first part to know how I got there.

The first month after graduating, I spent exercising and sitting on the couch. Exercising made me feel good, especially the running pulled me through. However, still no joy in programming.

It is interesting to note that I didn’t feel down all the time, it was very much work-related. Actually, most of the time I felt pretty OK. What worried me though, is not knowing if the joy in my work would ever come back. And if it wouldn’t, I had no idea of what career to pursue.

After two months, I reluctantly accepted a freelance gig. It would take about six weeks, and the deliverables included an iPhone app, an iPad app, a web application (both backend and frontend), and two Mac applications. It was very interesting, and I managed to get everything done and got some money out of it so I could pay the bills for the next few months. After the project was done I didn’t feel like doing anything for about two months, except for drinking coffee, running, and meeting friends. After that, I went backpacking in Spain for about a month, and when I came back (which was about half a year about my graduation) I finally looked forward to getting back to work again. Still, programming didn’t give me as much joy.

Fast forward another 6 months, during which I did some small consulting jobs, gave a 5-week training on iOS development, and started a startup. I felt well rested and looked forward to programming again. And when we started programming, it was a lot of fun. Unfortunately, the startup didn’t work, but I realized that the worst was over.

I had spent about a year doing as little as possible, programming-wise. I tried not to force myself, and tried out building stuff every now and then. My negative feelings slowly faded. I’m not sure if this is the best approach, but it worked for me.

In the last months, I have been building iOS apps on my own. I went through a major transformation during my burnout: I now see programming as a means, not an end. And I’m having lots of fun again. More about that transformation and the results in the next post.

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