THE BIOLOGY OF BURNOUT AND
RISING FROM THE ASHES
BURNOUT AFFECTS 7 OUT OF EVERY 10 PEOPLE
Let me ask you an essential question.
Do you think burnout is an emotional condition, or a physical condition?
(Wait for it…)
The answer is …..YES.
Burnout is sometimes seen as a weakness at work or lack of resilience in our personal lives. The truth is, burnout is a widespread issue and is cumulative, meaning its effects on our bodies and mind build up over time, growing worse and worse. What feels like someone “not handling something well” is more than likely a firestorm of these symptoms and variables.
Burnout and Emotional Health:
Burnout is emotional and correlated to our mental health. When burnout sets in, we show up as exhausted, feeling helpless, trapped or detached, feeling a loss of motivation, having an increasingly cynical outlook, and a decreased overall sense of accomplishment. When we feel burned out we often isolate ourselves, compare ourselves, and examine the gaps between what is real and what we feel might be true. We develop stories to bridge these gaps, and they are often destructive and reactive, causing us to disconnect from ourselves and others, and to escalate a sense of self-doubt.
Burnout and Physical Health:
Burnout is a physical condition based in the brain, specifically in two areas: the pre-frontal cortex and the amygdala. When burnout affects the pre-frontal cortext, we have a much more difficult time connecting to insights about ourselves and others, and our attention, impulse control and memory are all affected. When burnout affects the amygdala, our “fight-or-flight” reflex is stimulated (and overstimulated again and again) and we almost never reach a state of resolution. This “partial” emotional signature keeps the amygdala churning on an unresolved issue and then we are hit with a new one, creating a building “stack” affecting brain chemistry and regulatory hormones.
What can you do to prevent burnout from building up?
Your body and mind need a break in order to work at 100%. Even if you are used to be being rushed, overscheduled, and overworked, the impact to your brain is physical and to your relationships is tangible.
Here are 5 Things You Can Do to Reduce Burnout:
- Practice the habit of “earthing” or “grounding”. Stand barefoot on the grass or laying on the grass, or stand directly in dirt. This practice improves sleep, normalizes your circadian rhythms, speeds wound healing, and resets your autonomic nervous system.
- Be clear about what you want. Having a vision for the future, boundaries, and clearly understanding your personal values all help you maintain perspective and mental/emotional balance. Getting clear is important, but its also vital to treat these things like your North Star.
- Organize your time and create a stable routine you can follow. This creates mental safety and takes the variables of re-establishing your schedule off the daily plate. One good rule of thumb is to make sure that everything you need to accomplish in a given day fits on a regular sized Post-It note.
- Don’t add overstimulation to overstimulation. Though you may want nothing more than to binge a show on Netflix while having a few drinks and some heavy food when you get home from a wild workday, your mind and body will thank you if you eat light, reduce or remove the alcohol, and get a lot of sleep instead of watching a screen.
- Go slow to go fast.When you are feeling burned out, evolutionary biology requires time for your brain to rest and recover. Consider taking a 5 minute break every 30 to 45 minutes. Breaks at the lower interval of time should be used when burnout is more acute. Grab some water or tea, talk to someone, walk a little, wash your hands, listen to a song. You’ll be more effective when you return to what you were doing.
Some of the Best Adaptogenic Herbs for Burnout and Adrenal Fatigue:
Many of these herbs make a soothing tea or are easy to take in tincture form. Once you receive medical advice to take them safely, it’s not necessary to wait for burnout to require these. They can be taken as a daily tonic to help you feel more well and balanced.
*Note: please seek the medical advice of your favorite healthcare provider, physician or alternative practitioner before taking any new herbs. You’ll want to talk about fit for you, dosage, and contraindications with any medications you take.
- Licorice Root – inhibits and breaks down body’s stress hormone, cortisol
- Maca Root – prevents increases in cortisol, adrenal size, and fatigue
- Siberian Ginseng – regulates the immune response and hormonal changes due to stress
- Holy Basil – calms anxious minds, and reduces rumination
- Schisandra Berry – stimulates immune system in calm, and calms during stress
- Rhodiola – reduces stress, combats fatigue, increases mental performance and resilience
- Mucuna – reduces stress and protects system
- Mulungu – calms the nervous system, calms the liver
More important than anything else? Don’t accept that the state of burnout you are currently in is the one you must remain in.