What exactly is burnout and why should you care
Updated: Feb 19
Burnout is all around us. The pandemic has exacerbated our already-worn out nervous systems. Burnout is more than just 'feeling' flat. If left untreated, it can create severe wear and tear to our bodies that over time leads to premature aging and disease.
Burnout is a mind-body syndrome that results from prolonged and unresolved stress. Said differently, it is when demands placed on you outweigh your resources and are too high for too long.
Although traditionally associated to the workplace, it is now -thankfully - widely accepted that anyone can suffer from it, specially caregivers and parents. Mums (at any stage of motherhood) seem to be hit the hardest, particularly post-pandemic.
In our modern lives, we are bombarded with stressors coming from the following three main loads:
Our bodies were designed to deal with acute stressors and resume balance. Our survival depends on how well we can do this. If we get threatened by an acute stressor, say a near-miss accident, broken bone or pathogen, our stress hormone levels rise to start a biochemical process to help us overcome the threat. Once the acute stress is resolved, our cortisol levels should return to normal. The problem is that most stress is now low-level chronic and stays unresolved.
The longer the stress response is switched on, the worse the wear and tear is on the body. This is the result of the body attempting to adapt to an abnormal level of stress hormones which are highly catabolic.
It is helpful to view burnout through a spectrum:
When stress becomes chronic, these are some of the physical and psychological symptoms people may experience:
❌Morning fatigue ❌Fatigue throughout the day and energy slumps
❌Difficulty falling asleep
❌Inability to handle stress
❌Dysregulated immune system
❌Weight gain or difficulty losing weight
❌Extreme tiredness after exercise
❌Apathy & cynicism
❌Loss of joy/sense of purpose
Any long-term strategy to deal with burnout has to look at increasing your resources and decreasing your loads - holistically. A combination of the following interventions is what I used to bounce back from burnout:
✔Eat nutrient-dense wholefoods
✔Balance blood sugar
✔Make time for connection and laughter
✔Honour sleep and regeneration
✔Listen to your body when it comes to movement
✔Rewire your nervous system
✔Get to know your stress response and start to build a new relationship to it using mindfulness
However, what the recovery journey looks like exactly for you will be different as we are all bio-individual and at different stages on the burnout scale.
But the time you invest in getting back to balance will be worthwhile.
When you take time to create more balance, increase self-awareness and reconnect to your body, you will not only lift the physical symptoms of burnout and future-proof your health, but your mindset will shift. Life will still happen and there will be countless things that you cannot control. The difference will be in the meaning you give to situations and the freedom to choose your reaction.
What is your experience dealing with burnout? I’d love to know! 👇
If you want to learn more about burnout, give a listen to this episode of Mind Your Mind podcast where I unpack stress.