Burnout is a term where for extended periods of time an individual is outputting an intense level of personal and/or emotional contact. This is commonly seen in workplaces such as education, health care, and human services, as well as parenthood and activism. In these environments, it is a common norm to put others first and work long hours (i.e. not get time to yourself) and is often coupled with political/social/economic pressure such as financial constraints and lowered resources. The difference between stress and burnout is that if you’re stressed you’re still able to visualize that by getting everything under control, you’ll feel better whereas burnout is about not enough – so feeling empty, and just completely mentally exhausted, where you’ve got nothing left to give.
To put it simply, burnout is defined as a psychological syndrome of prolonged response to chronic interpersonal stressors on a job. Although it is a prolonged mental strain, we know that mental strains not only result in nutrient depletion such as B vitamins via stress response however a change in dietary and other lifestyle habits often accompany this due to the increasing fatigue and commonly, depression. An example may be usually (or ideally) you’d cook a nourishing meal for dinner but now you’re just so exhausted you order takeaway regularly instead. Or a way you’d manage your mental stress previously was going for daily walks outside, but now you just try to get extra sleep to cope with the fatigue. Now let me reiterate, these changes are completely okay for what you go through when you’re burnt out. Sometimes you just have to do what you can, to get through it.
But now, I’m going to teach you how to recognize signs of burnout and simple things you can do to support yourself.
Common signs and symptoms of burnout include:
· Mental/emotional exhaustion
· Physical fatigue
· Sleep pattern changes
· Feeling inadequate and guilty
· Cynicism towards the work
· You find most tasks dull or overwhelming
· You feel like nothing you do makes a difference
· Lowered immunity
· Frequent headaches
· Appetite changes
· Loss of motivation
(Please note: many of these cross over with depression. Depression does commonly present alongside burnout and if you are feeling like life is not worth living anymore, please reach out to Lifeline on 13 11 14).
Sometimes we aren't able to change the circumstances that lead us to burnout in the first place. So here are some simple things you can do from home if you can’t change the cause of burnout:
1. Prioritize good quality sleep (if possible). This includes keeping a regular sleep/wake cycle, incorporating a nighttime routine, reducing stimulants 6-8 hours before sleep, keeping your bedroom dark, cool, comfortable, and quiet, and reducing fluids consumed 1-2 hours before bed.
2. Consider these nutritional supplements to help get you through:
· Activated B complex – B vitamins help support nervous system health and function (supporting a healthy stress response), neurotransmitter synthesis, the immune system, sugar and carbohydrate metabolism, and general health, as well as giving you a literal energy ‘boost’ when you take them.
· Magnesium – supports a healthy stress response via playing an inhibitory key role in the regulation and neurotransmission of the normal stress response, and supporting GABA and 5-HTP transmission therefore supporting increased sleep quality, reduced stress and anxiety, and increased mood.
NOTE: I will always recommend seeing a practitioner 1:1 to determine which nutrients are most suited to you and your needs, and which are safe you for to take. This is only a general recommendation and is not suited to everyone. Please consult with your practitioner for personal advice.
3. Consider these herbal supplements to help get you through:
· Withania or ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) – supports mental and physical stress through modulating the HPA axis via its primary therapeutic actions of adaptogenic, anxiolytic, and immunomodulatory.
· Siberian Ginseng or Eleuthero (Eleutherococcus senticosus) – Primary actions of adaptogenic, immunomodulatory, and nootropic mean it is highly indicated for conditions such as chronic fatigue, exhaustion, and extreme stress.
· Rhodiola (Rhodiola rosea) – supports stress-related fatigue, poor sleep, depression, and poor cognitive function via its therapeutic actions of immunomodulatory, adaptogenic, antidepressant and nootropic.
· Astragalus (Astragalus membranaceus) – commonly indicated for those with low vitality who get sick frequently, exhaustion, and fatigue. Primary actions of adaptogenic, antioxidant, and immunomodulatory (possible immunostimulatory effects – caution).
NOTE: I will always recommend seeing a practitioner 1:1 to determine which herbs are most suited to you and your needs (there are so many more that may be beneficial for you), and which are safe you for to take. This is only a general recommendation and is not suited to everyone. Please consult with your practitioner for personal advice.
4. Find a way to fill up your cup again. This may be just 5 or 10 minutes a day where you listen to your favourite music, go for a quick walk, do some drawing, play a game, just something that lets you rest and you find joy.
5. Reach out for help. This may include reaching out to friends or family for help around the house, an ear to listen, for some homemade meals, a shoulder to cry on, or just for a hug. Also, consider reaching out to a qualified Naturopath to get 1:1 personalized support and services such as Lifeline on 13 11 14 to talk to a professional about your mental health.
Did you find this post helpful? Let me know below. And as always, I am always here if you need personalized support, I would love to help you. Click here to add me to your healthcare team.