9 Ways To Beat Burnout

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If, after a good night’s sleep, you’re still exhausted and struggling to make it through the day, you may be suffering from burnout. It’s an increasingly common condition that affects thousands of people due to stress, poor diet and unbalanced lifestyles. In light of Mental Health Awareness Week, we went to two experts to find out more.
Photography NIK SHULIAHIN/UNSPLASH

It’s An Intense Form Of Stress

“The term ‘burnout’ was first used by a psychologist in the 70s. It’s a feeling of mental and physical exhaustion, overwhelm and cynicism. Burnout is usually caused by a gradual build-up of emotional, physical and mental stress. People who are in burnout can lack energy and motivation, and feel depressed, demoralised and dissatisfied. Stress tends to be temporary and connected to a specific situation, whereas burnout is a feeling of hopelessness. Someone who is stressed will be fuelled by nervous energy. They’ll be pacing the room, chewing their nails and shouting at someone. Someone who is in burnout, however, will be slumped over their desk, staring into the void and saying nothing.” – Hannah Martin, psychotherapist, coach & founder of Talented Ladies Club

It's Often Referred To As Adrenal Fatigue

“When we are stressed, the body releases stress hormones (cortisol and adrenaline) which increases blood pressure, elevates heart rate and boosts available energy by flooding the bloodstream with glucose to mobilise the body for battle. Historically, this would have enabled us to run from a lion, and indeed, acute, short-lived stress can be beneficial in sharpening our concentration, energising us for the task at hand. However, the body has not evolved to handle the pressure of modern-day prolonged stress: consistent exposure to stressors such as long work hours, caring for family members, experiencing emotional turmoil, family deaths and economic stress can all have the opposite effect. When we experience chronic stress, without sufficient recovery, the strain put on the body increases your risk of burnout. Your adrenal glands, which produce your stress hormones, can quite literally become exhausted.” – Lara Hughes, clinical nutritionist & naturopathic practitioner

Perfectionists Are More At Risk

“Doctors, nurses and parents are more prone to burnout, but interestingly, personality can also render you more at risk of the condition. Type A personalities, comprising incredibly driven, perfectionist individuals who value control are also likely to burn the candle at every end. Not only is this because they’re more likely to always be ‘on the go’, but because they tend to have higher circulating levels of cortisol, which may energise them in small bursts, but ultimately puts them at higher risk of burnout.

When we experience chronic stress, without sufficient recovery, the strain put on the body increases your risk of burnout.
- Dr Lara Hughes

Intense Exercise Could Play A Part

“During exercise, the body releases cortisol, the stress hormone. In short bursts, this helps dull inflammation, and blood cortisol levels return to normal relatively quickly. However, when we exercise intensely, blood cortisol levels can remain high for several days, resulting in catabolism, or break down of muscle – and impeded performance and recovery. If sufficient rest, recovery and low-intensity sessions are not factored in, this is a recipe for burnout. The result is not only declining performance, but frequent onset of infections and injuries, mood changes and lack of motivation to train, and complete exhaustion.” – Lara

Symptoms Can Be Varied

“The most common symptoms of burnout include complete exhaustion, even after a good night’s sleep, an inability to perform usual daily tasks, a lack of motivation and blunted emotions, a feeling of overwhelm, and feeling detached from family and work. However, given burnout’s impact on an array of hormones and the immune, nervous, reproductive and digestive systems, it can also lead to low immunity, infections, gut problems like food intolerances and bloating, headaches, joint pain, reduced recovery from exercise and fertility problems and low libido.” – Lara

 

Want To Beat Burnout? Here’s What The Experts Recommend…

01

Be Selfish

“Know what you need from life to be happy and fulfilled. This can mean making tough decisions and leaving secure but uncomfortable situations, such as a toxic job. But having the courage and taking a risk in the short term is much better than slowly losing the will to live in a job or situation that’s not right or good for you. Staying in toxic situations can quickly erode our self-esteem and hope, so it’s important to act quickly rather than waiting for something better to come along or hoping someone else will resolve the situation for you.” – Hannah

02

Make Smart Meal Choices

“Nutrition plays a central role in managing stress. Skipping meals or eating foods rich in simple carbohydrates ultimately results in a hypoglycaemic state which increases cortisol and your stress response. Whilst you might not feel like eating or crave sugared, salted and highly refined foods during times of stress and fatigue, these will worsen burnout. Fill up on vegetables, lean protein sources (especially oily fish), nourishing omega-3-rich fats (avocado, nuts and seeds, cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil) and fibre-rich carbohydrates (quinoa, brown rice, oats, buckwheat).” – Lara 

03

Avoid Caffeine

“Caffeine dependency often precipitates burnout. While you may feel more energised and alert in the short-term, caffeinated beverages mimic the stress response, stimulating the release of adrenaline and cortisol. Consider swapping coffee for green tea, which contains nervous system supporting L-theanine to enhance focus while also promoting relaxation. Have no more than 400mg of caffeine (around three to four cups) daily, and in times of stress, limit further.” – Lara 

04

Incorporate Botanicals

“Adaptogens – a type of herbal supplement – help the body ‘adapt’ to stress. Historically, they were used in times of war to give soldiers extra resilience. Medicinal mushrooms are a good place to start, especially in powder format – add to smoothies, juices, soups and stews. My favourites include reishi and chaga. Mushroom specialist Hifas da Terra offers a range of capsule and powder formulas.” – Lara 

05

Prioritise Sleep

“Burnout can disrupt your circadian rhythm, decreasing the quality of your sleep. However, poor sleep raises cortisol and hypersensitises the stress response, further priming the body for burnout. Turn off all blue-light emitting devices a few hours before bed (which trigger cortisol and suppress the sleep hormone, melatonin), engage in a habitual, nightly ritual to help the body engage in a predictable wind-down routine (e.g. hot bath, chamomile tea) and don’t drink or eat within a few hours of sleep.” – Lara 

06

Take Regular Epsom Salt Baths

“Get into the habit of adding one to two cups of pure Epsom salts to your bath and soaking for at least 20 minutes. A plethora of literature associates magnesium deficiency with anxiety, stress-related symptoms and hyperarousal of the stress response. Conversely, magnesium supplementation can dampen anxiety and circular thinking. An Epsom salt bath not only allows for the intra-dermal absorption of magnesium, but for some time out to relax and unwind.” – Lara

07

Set Boundaries

“The modern world does not facilitate boundary setting, and we’ve been conditioned to push boundaries. Whilst this might sound sexy, the physical result for our body is not. It’s important to set clear boundaries – whether that be work hours, boundaries within your relationships or even limiting mal-adaptive practices like binge drinking. Journalling can be a good way of identifying maladaptive themes and discovering your boundaries.” – Lara 

08

Don’t Overtrain

“For gym goers, it can be easy to go faster for longer, and downplay the importance of a rest day. But physiologically, this can do a lot of damage, especially if you exercise across multiple hours, which elevates cortisol for up to a few days. Leave intense training sessions to the afternoon (when cortisol is naturally lower), limit your training to one hour or less, ensure you disperse enough low intensity steady state (LISS) sessions in your regime – and take at least two full rest days weekly. Eating carbohydrate and protein rich meals immediately after exercise will also help blunt your cortisol response.” – Lara

09

Be Patient

“Burnout doesn’t occur overnight, and you’re not going to ‘snap out of it’ instantly either. It can take you a few weeks or months to fully recover, but with the right help you should notice encouraging signs. If you are struggling, don’t be afraid to enlist professional help. A qualified therapist will help you to identify the causes of how you are feeling, explore ways to cope and support you as you make positive changes.” – Hannah 
 

For more information, visit TalentedLadiesClub.com and Wholistic-Health.co.uk. If you need immediate mental health support, the Samaritans are available on 116 123. The Counselling Directory can also help connect you with therapists in your area – visit Counselling-Directory.org.uk

DISCLAIMER: Features published by SLMan are not intended to treat, diagnose, cure or prevent any disease. Always seek the advice of your GP or another qualified healthcare provider for any questions you have regarding a medical condition, and before undertaking any diet, exercise or other health-related programme.

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