Experiencing burnout has become a really common part of modern life. It happens when long-term stress and anxiety undermine our core sense of well-being and we feel mentally, emotionally and physically exhausted.
You may be aware of burnout building up gradually, or it may feel as though it has come on suddenly, although it will have been preceded by a period of prolonged or chronic work-related stress (work may of course, be related to your job or unpaid such as being a care-giver, or a combination of both).
How to Spot Burnout
Symptoms of burnout are broad, depending on your vulnerability but are likely to include exhaustion, loss of enthusiasm, worry & anxiety, sleep problems, tiredness, irritability & mood swings and generally a lack of joy.
Other common signs that may develop are increasing use of substances such as alcohol and drugs, feelings of overwhelm and fatigue, inability to make decisions, loss of motivation, avoiding social interaction, inability to concentrate and, in extreme cases, feelings of hopelessness or suicidal thoughts.
A lot can be done to help with burnout, but as always, the first step is acknowledging that something is wrong and that some changes need to be made.
How to Turn Things Around
The word ‘burnout’ indicates that your inner fire has been allowed to burn low and your energy and enthusiasm for life needs to be nurtured and rekindled. To prevent burnout if you think it is developing or to turn it around if it has already taken a hold, it can be helpful to review your life and check that your work and lifestyle still support your inner sense of purpose and what you want from life.
There are many practical things you can do to nourish and encourage the return of energy and vitality and we will discuss some of the best ones, though if you essentially feel on track in life and that your world is supporting your spirit then this process will be much more sustainable.
It is often a ‘reset’ for mind and body that is needed, so going on a detox retreat, such as those offered at TheLifeCo, might be the best thing you could do for yourself to kickstart recovery from burnout and get back on top form.
Strategies to Help You Reset
Yoga can be very helpful in nurturing the body back to health, I always start the day with a short exercise regime – literally only 10 minutes: but if you can begin the day with a few exercises for body and mind, it’s a really good foundation and it has a cumulative effect over the months and years that you do it too, so that you keep both more supple and resilient.
Good things to try out are Qi Gong, yoga and pilates, and I do a blend of all three tailored for what I want to focus on and the season. The Qi Gong element has a mental component that involves doing a physical movement alongside saying to yourself several times, “Don’t worry, be happy.” It’s a small thing but if you can say that to yourself and really feel it, even for a minute or two every day, over time it works like a ‘homepage’ for your mind and emotions to keep returning to.
Similarly, many studies have proven regular meditation to be very effective at increasing feelings of well-being and balance. Meditation is both calming and can help re-energise us by putting us back in touch with our inner sense of purpose and life force.
Sleep the Great Healer
Sleep is a great healer for mind and body; good relaxation and sleep is key to reversing the damaging effects of stress and burnout. Unfortunately, when we are feeling anxious or exhausted and need sleep the most, it escapes us. A good tip is that if you are finding it difficult to sleep make sure you build in extra relaxation time to compensate for it – that means time away from all screens and doing something that helps you to feel relaxed, such as meditating, having a bath, reading something uplifting or just dozing.
Adding essential oils such as lavender, mandarin, rose or neroli to the bath is very relaxing and using similar essential oils in a diffuser can create an atmosphere conducive to more optimistic thoughts. Better still, book an aromatherapy massage with a qualified massage therapist and enjoy the benefits of touch in addition to the healing properties of the essential oils.
Your diet must be nourished and supportive of your body to recover and rebuild from burnout. Base your diet on natural, plant-based and unprocessed whole foods that contain B vitamins, magnesium, vitamin C and omega oils – all of which support our body, mind and resilience.
Pay special attention to B vitamins in your diet, which are so important for energy production and improving symptoms of stress. B vitamins work together, so taking a B complex supplement can be really helpful – they’re water soluble, so a daily top up is a good idea.
As part of your reset and to get yourself out of the bad eating habits that may have contributed to getting burnout, it can be really helpful to go on a detox program, kickstart the lifestyle changes you need to make to feel healthy and vital again.
Certain herbs and superfoods have been shown in trials to be highly effective in relieving symptoms of stress and burnout. The key ones to look out for are adaptogens, which help our bodies adapt to and manage stress better. Research shows that adaptogens not only help the body deal with stress more effectively, but they can also increase stamina, mental wellbeing and even improve longevity. One of the most effective adaptogens is Ashwagandha.
Ashwagandha is a truly remarkable herb for our times, though it has been used for thousands of years in Ayurvedic medicine. It can help if you are exhausted from stress or overwork, it relieves exhaustion, anxiety and insomnia and in the true nature of adaptogens is balancing by being both calming and yet still builds energy and vitality.
Other adaptogens to consider include Maca, which enhances strength and stamina, helps balance out of kilter hormones and is a renowned aphrodisiac. Siberian Ginseng is particularly good if burnout leads to a weakened immune system and you are suffering from bouts of infections, colds and flu in addition to exhaustion.
Finally, it can be part of a process towards regeneration and healing to admit that we need some extra help and go to see a homeopath or acupuncturist for constitutional treatment or treat yourself to an aromatherapy massage, or better still book yourself into TheLifeCo for the ultimate reset experience.
Susan Curtis, RSHom