Let’s talk about Burnout
Feeling stressed out? run down? constantly exhausted? It might be burnout.
Feeling super tired, stressed and run down lately? You are not alone! The endless demands of work, personal responsibilities, and the constant pressure to excel can leave us feeling depleted, both physically and emotionally. That’s why it’s so important to prioritise self-care and consider strategies like nutrition to combat burnout and restore balance. Let’s explore how we can use the power of nutrition to rejuvenate both body and mind.
What is burnout?
The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines Burnout as follows:
“Burnout is a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed. It is characterized by three dimensions:
– feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion;
– increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job; and
– reduced professional efficacy.
Burnout refers specifically to phenomena in the occupational context and should not be applied to describe experiences in other areas of life.”
Burnout is a state of chronic physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion typically caused by prolonged and intense stress, often related to one’s work or personal life. It is characterized by feelings of overwhelming fatigue, cynicism, detachment, and a sense of reduced accomplishment or effectiveness in one’s tasks or responsibilities.
Our adrenal glands, which are small organs located above the kidneys, usually deal with stress by producing hormones like cortisol. However, if the stress remains for a prolonged period of time, the adrenal glands will continue releasing these hormones until the glands become depleted and burnout or “adrenal fatigue” can occur.
Signs & symptoms of burnout
Burnout involves much more than just having an extra busy week. Burnout can manifest in various ways, including physical symptoms like headaches or stomach problems, emotional symptoms like mood swings or irritability, and cognitive symptoms like reduced concentration or forgetfulness.
Signs of burnout may include:
- Chronic fatigue
- Brain fog
- Weight gain
- Low libido and signs of hormonal imbalances (such as skin issues, changes to menstrual cycle, digestive issues, etc)
- Mood changes (such as low mood, anxiety, irritability, low resilience and patience)
- Hair loss
- Cravings for sweet and salty foods
- Decrease in performance (either at work, home or both)
- Sleep issues (such as trouble falling asleep, waking up in the night, insomnia)
- Frequent illnesses (stress impacts the immune system)
f you find yourself experiencing several of these signs and symptoms, it’s important to acknowledge them and take proactive steps towards self-care and seeking support. Burnout is a serious condition that warrants attention and intervention.
Tips for managing burnout
While there will always be things in life that are beyond your control, there ARE steps you can take to help treat and prevent burnout. Key tools for combating stress include: sleep, music, exercise, nature, talking, and food.
Our bodies burn through more nutrients during times of stress, so this is a crucial time to pay extra attention to feeding yourself well. Focus on consuming a variety of minimally processed, nutrient-rich foods every day such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains, eggs, fish, poultry, beans and legumes, nuts, and seeds.
As tempting as it may be to load up on sugar and caffeine during this time, neither is going to help with stress, and both can lead to even further hormonal imbalances, crazy blood sugar levels, sleep disturbances, and more. So while sugar and caffeine are still okay in moderation, be sure to not let either be the bulk of your diet.
Some foods deal with the effects of stress like lowered immune system, high blood pressure, etc. Important nutrients that help achieve these results include:
- Vitamin C – supports the adrenal glands and stress response. Since it is used up more rapidly during times of stress, extra is needed to support the body. Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant and can protect our bodies and brains from damage associated with stress. Citrus fruits are good sources.
- B Vitamins – These are also key nutrients for the adrenal glands and needs are increased during stress. Crucial for nerve function, mood regulation, and energy production. Found in leafy greens, lean proteins, legumes, and fortified cereals.
- Complex carbohydrates – encourage the release of serotonin which is calming and reduces blood pressure. Try whole grains, vegetables and fruits.
- Omega-3 – has been shown to reduce stress hormones and can protect against heart disease and depression. Foods to try include: nuts and seeds – e.g. pistachio, almonds; and fatty fish e.g. tuna or salmon.
- Magnesium – Magnesium works against fatigue and headaches. Good food sources include green vegetables and soybeans.
- Protein – the amino acids in protein rich foods help repair tense muscles and tissues and support hormone balance. Sources include Lentils, pulses, seeds, lean white meat, fish and eggs.
- Adaptogenic Herbs – these herbs help the body adapt to stress, regulate cortisol levels, and enhance resilience. Different herbs provide different benefits e.g:
- Turmeric – boosts brain function and helps to reduce depression
- Ginseng – calmness, improved memory and immune system
- Ashwagandha – helps to reduce anxiety
- Astragalus – can help combat fatigue
- Goji berry – improves energy
- Prioritize sleep – Sleep often goes to the wayside when there is so much to do and you feel like you can’t turn your brain off. Yet sleep deprivation will only make burnout worse, aim for 7-9 hours of sleep each night to allow your body and mind to recharge.
- Set boundaries – Set clear boundaries in both your personal and professional life. It also involves possibly changing your routine to better support your lifestyle. Learn to say no when necessary, and allocate time for rest and relaxation.
- Stress reduction practices – Cultivating mindfulness through practices like meditation, journaling, deep breathing, yoga or even a dance around the kitchen! These can all help calm the mind and reduce stress levels. Make this part of your daily routine.
- Engage in self-care – There is a saying that says “You can’t pour from an empty cup”, which holds so much truth. Taking care of yourself isn’t selfish, it’s essential. Pay attention to your physical and emotional needs. Rest when you’re tired, eat when you’re hungry, and take breaks when necessary.
- Ask for help – It’s crucial to recognize when you need support, and reaching out can make a significant difference in overcoming challenges. Whether it’s seeking advice from a trusted friend or family member, consulting a professional, or leaning on a support network, remember that you don’t have to navigate through difficulties alone.
Burnout is an unpleasant condition that occurs due to chronic stress leaving you feeling exhausted, sluggish, and just not yourself. Recognising the signs early and taking proactive steps to address burnout is crucial for your overall health and quality of life. This may involve implementing self-care practices, seeking professional support, and making necessary adjustments in your work-life balance. Remember, prioritizing your well-being is not a luxury, but a fundamental necessity for a fulfilling and sustainable life.
Struggling with burnout, book yourself a Free Nourishing call to find out how I can help: