Burnout, stress and anxiety is at an all time high and with 2020 being a year like no other, humanity has had to adapt quickly to challenges never faced or seen before in our time. Burnout is brought on by prolonged stress and is a state of physical, emotional and mental exhaustion, usually accompanied by symptoms of fatigue, insomnia, anxiety and a decrease in motivation and performance.
In May 2019, The World Health Organization (WHO) redefined burnout as a reaction to prolonged or chronic job stress, describing it as an“occupational phenomena” that should only be related to the workplace! The WHO characterized burnout by three main symptoms;
1. Energy depletion and exhaustion
2. Negative feelings towards your job and
3. Feelings of reduced professional ability.
However, humanity has experienced vast changes and challenges to everyday life in the past 12 months. 2020 has shown that the pace we had been living and working at was no longer sustainable. It has enabled many people to slow down in their life, perhaps by working from home and no longer commuting. For others life has rapidly sped up, many parents now having to juggle home schooling, children at home 24/7, and working. Add in the uncertainty of jobs, financial security, isolation, depression, anxiety, loneliness and losing loved ones, unsurprisingly many people are feeling physically, mentally and energetically depleted. These factors have contributed to an epidemic of burnout that is not just attributed to the workplace but also parenting, caretaking, relationships, mental and emotional health. Prolonged stress eventually takes its toll on the mind and body.
It is paramount more than ever before to implement self-care and carve out time for you. Self-care is a necessity and not a luxury in order to bring balance to your mind and body. You must fill your cup up first, to be in a position to give back and help others, rather than to give from a place of exhaustion and depletion.
Societal programming may have conditioned you to believe that you must ‘do more to get ahead’, ‘work hard, play hard’ and continually be ‘doing’ and in productive mode. The continual striving, perfectionism, people pleasing, comparison and competing is exhausting! Self worth has been wrapped up in success at work and how productive you have been. I always say to my clients you are a human ‘being’ not a human ‘doing’. There has to be a balance of BEING(stillness, relaxation, restoration) with the DOING, the yang and the yin. It is not summer all year round and it is the same with you, if you respect the cycles of the day, make time to switch off, rest and just be you are less likely to burnout.
As humans in the Western world we have become disconnected from nature, our food, environment, intuition, relationships and our true selves. Our ancestors and civilizations that came before us lived a much slower pace of life and more in harmony with the cycles and rhythms of nature.
Here are some of my top tips to help you prevent or recover from burnout.
● Morning Ritual- how you start your morning sets your state and energy for the day. I strongly recommend not reaching for your phone first thing. It’s an opportunity to give back to yourself. Whether it’s taking 10 deep breaths, doing yoga, writing 3-5 gratitudes or meditation. Do something that is just for you and helps you to connect back to yourself.
● Sleep rhythms- sleep is the best medicine there is. The optimal time for sleep is10pm-6am. Growth, healing and repair hormones are released during this time. When this window is missed, you are missing out on crucial repair time and hormonal regulation.
● Turn off devices- at least 1 hour before bed. Blue light from TV’s, mobiles, computers, tablets and devices stimulate the release of cortisol (stress hormone) tricking the body into thinking it’s daylight and suppressing melatonin (the deep sleep hormone).
● Boundaries- practice saying ‘NO’, your YES has no power until you say no. If something doesn’t feel aligned for you or you’ll feel resentful if you say yes, say no and notice how your body feels afterwards.
● Move emotions- feelings of frustration, anger, sadness, grief, loneliness, anxiety may get internalised and play out subconsciously in your life if not felt and moved through. Carrying these emotions can feel heavy and draining. Move emotions through the body through breathwork, dance, shaking, somatic movement.
● Ask for help and support- especially for those that are always seen as strong and capable. It can be quite hard to ask for help but trying to do everything on your own/ figure it all out can be exhausting and lead to burnout. Whether it be with friends, family, partner or working with a coach, mentor, therapist or nutritionist ask for the support you need.
● Make time to play- physical and mental exhaustion creates disharmony and discord in the body, diminishing creativity. Make time to play daily and do something fun that brings you joy. It might be watching a comedy sketch, drawing, painting, roller skating, bike ride in nature, colouring in, dancing in your living room. Whatever it is for you, play is powerful as it engages more of the right brain hemisphere connecting you to your creativity, intuition, imagination and flow states.
● Avoid caffeine and sugar- If you are already feeling on edge, high alert or utterly fatigued, caffeine and sugar can wreak havoc with your hormones and may just tip you over the edge. They can be too stimulating for an overly stressed nervous system. Opt for more calming and soothing teas instead like chamomile, dandelion, fennel and peppermint and cooling foods like cucumber, coriander and watermelon.
I recommend picking just ONE of the tips to focus on and begin incorporating that into your life. Long lasting change comes from small steps at a time.
Francesca Blechner is a Holistic Health Coach and Author of ‘Self-Care for Life in the City’, how to nourish your mind, body and soul in a fast-paced world. She helps entrepreneurs overcome burnout, gain clarity, reconnect to their true self and show up leading with power and presence, so that they can bring their gifts out into the world.