The Camp Burnout online recovery program is a step-by-step recovery program for people who have chronic stress or a burnout. What is its goal? To help people to get back to a stress-free life as quickly as possible. We asked nine questions to the program’s founder, Rik Eysink Smeets:
What was your reason for making Camp Burnout?
“In 2019, I got a burnout. I was a consultant for large companies around the world. I worked hard, partied hard and flew all over the world. But after living this lifestyle for a few years without any problems, something changed all of a sudden: my work started to give me anxiety, and I wanted to stay away from it as much as possible. I became unstable, anxious and sad. I only slept three to four hours a night and got panic attacks.
“Every meeting I had in my calendar led to anxiety, which only disappeared if I completely emptied my calendar. On bad days, I had to choose between either going for a walk with the dog or doing the groceries. Doing both was too much.”
“My life came to a standstill and what was left of me was a fearful pile of misery. I felt depressed, my body hurt, and my psychologist told me what I was already afraid of: I had a burnout. This was the moment that I started on a desperate and often exhausting quest for a way out of it. How in the world could I ensure that I got back to ‘normal’? Where I could get my fun, stress-free life back? I wanted to do something, but what?”
Did anyone tell you what to do?
“Oh, no. One of the things that most surprised me is that no-one comes to help you when you have chronic stress or a burnout. If you fall out of a window and break your leg, someone will call 112/911/999 and an ambulance will come to bring you to the hospital, where doctors will do everything they can to ensure that your leg will recover in the shortest time possible so you can do everything you love again. But if you have chronic stress or a burnout, no-one’s there for you. No 112/911/999. No ambulance. No doctors. Nothing. Even though millions of people every year go through the exact same thing. Then I thought, ‘If so many people get chronic stress or burnout, why isn’t there an established recovery plan? Why isn’t there something that I can have at my fingertips that can point me in the direction of recovery?’ Then, I gave myself the mission to make the best recovery program for chronic stress and burnout possible based on all the knowledge that there is out there.”
But wait a second, aren’t there psychologists who can help you?
“Absolutely. But there are a few problems with psychologists. One, psychologists are incredibly busy. There are often waiting lists, or you can only get an appointment after one and a half weeks. In that case, you spend one and a half week unnecessarily living in panic, fear, depression and whatnot. Two, psychologists are expensive, and chronic stress and burnout are no longer covered by insurance (in the Netherlands). No idea why. You’re easily down €1,000-1,500 just for part of a treatment plan. Not everyone has that kind of money lying around. Three, psychologists work on a ‘you-tell-we-ask-basis’. Put another way, a psychologist will only give you a lesson or exercise to follow when you indicate that you’ve come up against something. But you then first have to live with coming up against it for two weeks before the psychologist says, ‘oh but there’s an exercise for that’. So, I thought ‘if that exercise exists, and if most people need that exercise during their recovery, why don’t they just get it at the start of their recovery?’ This has therefore become one of the most important parts of Camp Burnout: everything you need in order to recover is already in the program.”
How is Camp Burnout different?
“Camp Burnout is an online recovery program for people who have chronic stress or a burnout. The program is step-by-step. Put in another way, you start at the top and work your way down to the bottom. In that way, you walk through the five important ‘steps’ that are needed to unlock your recovery and reduce your recovery time. Each time, you get a lesson and then a simple exercise for you to implement that lesson in your daily life.
“See, recovery from chronic stress or burnout isn’t rocket science. The exercises and lessons are known about. They’re just often spoken about in incomprehensible medical jargon in articles written by academics or locked up in a psychologist’s brain. No-one’s ever taken the effort to translate them for chronic stress or burnout patients’ lives and so create an understandable order to things and thus a recovery plan.
“What we’ve also done is make the program simple and enjoyable. All the lessons are audio or video, and if a subject is complicated, we explain it using animations. The exercises are incredibly easy to implement. And so on and so forth.”
Can’t I just get better on my own?
“When people notice something wrong with their bodies, they never doubt about whether a specialist should take a look. But when something’s wrong with the mind, the first response is always ‘that’ll resolve on its own’. Weird. But this is partly explained by the fact that people do come to your aid when you break a leg but don’t when your mind suddenly stops working as it should. Recovering on your own from chronic stress or a burnout is possible, but it largely leads to a process of trial and error and constantly finding out about solutions which were actually already jumping out at you a month earlier. Figuring things out for yourself simply makes the process unnecessarily long and frustrating. That’s why Camp Burnout exists: to give people a Plan and ensure that they take the steps that lead to their recovery.”
Is Camp Burnout not just the same as those books about chronic stress or burnout that I can buy in a shop?
“No. With all respect, most of those books are full of well-meaning, but useless, tips, such as, ‘Go for a walk in nature. You calm down when surrounded by nature.’ Means well, but if you have a broken leg, we don’t say, ‘have a cup of mint tea’. That’s simply not how recovery works. If you have chronic stress or a burnout, you’re past the point where you can just go and relax. You have to recover, and you do that by meeting the Conditions for Recovery and creating the best conditions for your body to be able to do its recovery work.”
What do you think when you hear people say that chronic stress and burnout are just fashionable illnesses?
“They’re right. Society as it is is apparently an excellent breeding ground for chronic stress and burnout. We all want more, more, more. Pushed by social media, we’re not happy until we’ve got millions in the bank, a dream job, and a perfect body. But that, of course, isn’t healthy. Chronic stress or burnout comes about when the bar is always just a bit higher than you can reach. In this way, each day becomes a never-ending battle.”
What’s the solution to this societal problem?
“I think a lot of responsibility rests with our employers who don’t fully understand their employees. For example, in the financial sector or legal profession, people often work 100 hours or more per week. That then comes to six days a week, from 7 a.m. to midnight. It’s not odd at all then that these employees develop feelings of depression and experience physical pain. In one way or another, the idea that people are indestructible robots who never break down continues to reign supreme in the minds of employers. Those who do have to take a step back are simply seen as ‘too weak’ for the job.
“I worked in advertising myself where people were quite literally locked up in a cubicle until they had ‘the idea’ for the pitch. At that company, there were people having to take a step back from work every month due to chronic stress or burnout. But unfortunately, people aren’t robots. And if they can’t take in the same amount of energy that they use every day, their battery is going to run empty, and they’ll need to take a step back sooner or later. As an employer, you need to take responsibility for this, even if it’s just checking once every quarter if anybody’s developing symptoms of chronic stress or burnout. In that way, you can get there before it develops, and you can prevent people from falling over the edge.”
Is Camp Burnout the solution?
The Camp Burnout online recovery program works brilliantly if you’re suffering from chronic stress or burnout and helps enormously with shortening and relieving your time of recovery. But it is of course not a solution for the root of the problem: the fact that people get chronic stress or a burnout. The next step from Camp Burnout then is to work on something here, as well. You’ll hear from us when we’ve got something.
Rik Eysink Smeets (1985) was 33 when he got a burnout. As a consultant, he works for clients all around the world. In 2021, he founded Camp Burnout.
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