It’s that time of year again where everyone is feeling stressed, overworked, and in need of a holiday. For some of us, this state of physical and emotional exhaustion is more than just stress. It is in fact burnout.
So, what is burnout, and what can we do to avoid it? We have collated everything we know about burnout and the top tips to prevent it bringing you down this mid-year.
What is burnout
In today’s busy world, we are working more, sleeping less and turning to coffee and sugar to make it through our day. Only to wake up and do it all over again. This is a recipe for burnout.
To put it simply, burnout is a state of total emotional, physical and mental exhaustion. It's a chronic negative response in the body caused by prolonged elevated stress. Those experiencing burnout often feel overwhelmed, emotionally drained and unable to cope with the endless demands of life.
The difference between stress, chronic stress and a burnout
It’s important to understand the difference between stress and burnout. Whilst they share common symptoms, both chronic stress and burnout significantly predispose people to a number of additional conditions, including cardiovascular disease, gastrointestinal inflammation, depression, anxiety and substance misuse.
Stress refers to your body’s natural ability to respond to internal or external pressures. Its purpose is to prepare you for challenges, both negative and positive. Stress isn’t necessarily a negative reaction. In many instances, it can help you become alert and achieve your goals. For example, a project deadline can lead you to focus.
Cortisol is our primary stress hormone made by the adrenal glands. It is regulated by the HPA axis, which connects our adrenals to the hypothalamus and pituitary gland in our brain. When we experience a stressful event our HPA axis directs the adrenals to increase cortisol output, causing blood glucose levels to rise and stimulates our fight-or-flight response!
If you are under stress, and the trigger or stressor doesn’t go away and becomes prolonged, the body’s stress response remains switched on and unable to bring the body back into balance. As the body is constantly in stress mode, the body diverts energy away from functions that it deems non-essential when under threat and causes organs and systems to receive less energy and nutrients.
The prolonged exposure to stress eventually leads to dysfunction of the HPA-axis, causing a blunted response of our stress hormone cortisol and aldosterone. Aldosterone is another steroid hormone required for regulating blood pressure and minerals potassium and sodium. This low or flattened adrenal response leads to extreme mental and physical exhaustion and if not addressed can lead to chronic fatigue syndrome.
Signs of burnout
- Feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion
- Little to no motivation to work on tasks
- Feeling easily irritated, frustrated and overwhelmed
- Lack of sleep & waking unrefreshed
- Physical exhaustion such as headaches, stomach aches and weaker immune function
- Decreased satisfaction and sense of accomplishment
- Increasingly cynical and negative outlook
- Neglecting your needs and turning to unhealthy coping strategies
How do I avoid mid-year burnout?
- Start the day with a breakfast that supports stable blood sugar levels.This looks like low sugar + high protein, with lots of healthy fats and fibre.
- Reduce intake of caffeine, sugar, refined carbohydrates, and alcohol.These foods are easy to become dependent on and contribute to inflammation levels that cause stress in the body.
- Aim for variety + abundance of vegetables, adequate protein and full of omega-3 fatty acids.
- Prioritize sleep. Lack of sleep leads to increased levels of cortisol, more irritability, and dependence on stimulants to get through the day.
- Schedule free time and activities that bring you joy. This can be anything - painting, reading novels, journaling, self-care, getting outside, anything!
- Establish a mindfulness practice. Research shows that meditation can effectively decrease our cortisol level and help improve our circadian rhythm for better sleeps! Mindfulness can also look like breath work or being fully present and engaging the senses in an experience such as while eating or going for a walk outside!
- Get outside & move your body! I know we say this all the time, but working out is not only great for your physical health, but it also gives your mood an instant boost and helps relieve stress.
- Take time off. Time away from work or whatever might be causing you stress helps you switch off and improve your work-life balance. Prioritising a long weekend or vacation does wonders for your mental health.
Adaptogenic herbs help the body to adapt to stress, both physical and mental. They help to calm and restore balance or provide us with energy when needed to adapt to the effects of stress. This adaptogenic blend contains herbs such as Withania, Saffron & Schisandra to improve the body’s capacity to adapt to stress.
B vitamins are majorly drained during times of stress, so replenishing these levels will not only support your body's recovery but will help you feel much better! This high strength B-complex is designed to actively release nutrients into the body over an 8-hour window to support the body during times of physical and mental stress.
Magnesium is also depleted during times of stress; magnesium helps us to calm down and helps promote more restful sleeps. The Fusion Magnesium Advanced powder provides a therapeutic dose of bio-available magnesium to support your nervous system’s stress response, provide muscle relaxation, assist with restful sleep and so much more.
The high bioavailability of greens powder means that the nutrients are absorbed extremely well by the body and available to be used to straight away. This not only means maximum health benefits are obtained, but many people experience an immediate energy boost from such a concentrated source of nutrition. This Greens & Reds powder is a potent, nutrient-rich greens drinks that contains 23 nourishing greens & reds to support gut health, increase energy and offer unrivalled levels of nutrition in every scoop.
Research shows that supplementing with omega 3 can bring you back from burnout, decreasing emotional exhaustion and depersonalisation. If you’re not getting your twice-weekly portion of oily fish, like salmon, sardines or mackerel, then a supplement is the simple way to ensure you’re meeting the required dose of omega 3 to keep your brain happy. The Nordic Naturals Complete Omega is ideal for the whole family and can help boost your intake of Omega-3’s.
Remember that stress is inevitable in today's world, but it's how we equip ourselves and support our bodies in combatting that stress that can make a world of difference! If you think that you're experiencing the effects of chronic stress or burnout, our team of naturopaths can help - reach out to us today! Visit www.gr8health.com.au/wellness-method