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Are Psychedelics the Answer to Burnout?

They’re not going to make you more productive, but they can illuminate the source of your burnout and help you move forward

Thanks to new research and a universal desire to flee reality, psychedelics are quickly stealing the spotlight from CBD. They appear to ease depression, anxiety and stress. They may remedy PTSD, addictions and eating disorders. And according to a study that launched this past summer, they could even treat burnout, a blanket form of exhaustion that’s affecting an increasing number of Americans.

We’re still waiting on results, but there’s certainly reason to believe that psychedelics can act as countermeasures against burnout, albeit in a roundabout way. As a psychonaut on r/Shrooms tells me, the only real cure for burnout is liberating yourself from the cause, “not masking it with drugs.” While true, the source of burnout can sometimes be unrealized, which makes it hard to plan a reasonable escape (plus, not everyone can just up and leave their shitty jobs). It’s also easy to get locked into calamitous patterns of thinking and endless cycles of non-doing, which can make burnout more of a semi-permanent state of mind.

This is where psychedelics — and their impressive ability to recruit new modes of thinking — come in handy. “They illuminate the source of the burnout, meaning you may discover that you don’t actually like your job,” says Nicholas Levich, co-founder of Psychedelic Passage, a network of psychedelic guides. “Perhaps you don’t have any boundaries when it comes to work and how it intrudes on your personal life. Or maybe you aren’t honoring your own needs: Perpetually being in a state of putting others first is another common cause of burnout.”

In other words, psychedelics won’t necessarily alleviate burnout in the same way that Tylenol relieves a headache. Instead, they’ll provide the insight needed to make adjustments that will eventually remove the primary stressor. “Psychedelics can most definitely provide a ‘reset’ or ‘shaking of the snow globe’ to fill in the regular ruts and start fresh,” says PJ, a trip sitter at Akasa Journeys. “I had a client who’d just moved to a new place in the city after living in the mountains, and one of her interests in taking a journey was to help reset for the big change in living space and style.”

This sort of “reboot” is crucial when it comes to dealing with burnout, because again, an individual who’s struggling under such pressure likely has a hard time seeing the greener pastures ahead. To that end, as PJ explains, psychedelics can arouse deep insights and emotional releases that may help a person make sense of, or say goodbye to, something they’re stuck on.

For example, an Independent article by psychedelic entrepreneur Jonathan Sabbagh details how ketamine-assisted psychotherapy helped him realize the source of his burnout was an undiagnosed case of PTSD. “This life-changing realization prompted me to quit finance and go back to university to study clinical psychology,” he writes.

Meanwhile on r/Psychonaut, a consciousness explorer explains how shrooms and LSD motivated them to reconsider how they use their time, which included reassessing their longtime career in software development (and selling their PlayStation) to live a simpler, more meaningful existence. (Though, the comments caution them to be financially sensible before making any rash, psychedelic-induced decisions, which seems prudent.)

In short, Levich says psychedelic experiences can “provide a perspective shift or simply give someone permission to slow down and listen to the needs of the body, all of which help prevent the burnout that’s all too common in our society.” The real hard part, however, is heeding those new insights and making actual adjustments to your day-to-day life. You can trip all you want, but the psychedelics aren’t going to apply for new jobs (or overthrow capitalism). That’s on you.