How to Overcome Burn-out… Naturally!
We all feel stressed and exhausted at various times throughout the year. Between work, caring for loved ones, and dealing with daily responsibilities, there is often little time left for self-care. And yes, a good night’s sleep or vacation from time to time helps, but even with those rests, many people simply get overwhelmed and don’t recover so easily.
With a seemingly endless to-do list and hardly any breaks to recharge, we can experience burn-out. burn-out is not just a slang term for exhaustion, it is also recognized by the World Health Organization (WHO) as an occupational phenomenon. The good news is, there are effective ways to help prevent and recover from this burn-out, naturally.
What is burn-out?
The International Classification of Diseases (ICD) defines burn-out as “a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.” Notice that it’s not the workplace stress that causes burn-out in this definition, it’s our inability to manage stress properly.
So, how do you know if you’re suffering from burn-out?
Common symptoms of burn-out according to World Health Organization (WHO):
- Feelings of low energy to the point of exhaustion
- Distant feelings or negative feelings towards one’s work
- Inability to get things done at work
Experts at WHO say that this definition of burn-out doesn’t apply to our personal lives, but should only be used to describe work-related stress. Mental health reports that if a stressor is short-term, then it’s stress, not burn-out. However, if it becomes hard to wake up in the morning to perform your job, and you feel cynicism, depression, or lethargy regularly, then you’re likely feeling burn-out.
Who Does Burn-out Affect?
Burn-out can affect anyone who has a daily role in the home, office, or other workplace that they are obliged to perform. In other words, most people are at risk for burn-out. A 2012 report by InformedHealth.org shows that occupations most at risk for burn-out include:
- Healthcare professionals like doctors, nurses, and surgeons
- Any “helping” professions
However, they do mention in their most updated report from 2017, that just about any employee these days is prone to burn-out. A January 2019 article by the Cleveland Clinic reports that caregivers are especially prone to fatigue, anxiety, and depression related to burn-out. Such people may feel guilty for providing themselves with self-care, or may feel an uncontrollable burden on themselves financially and emotionally.
In this report, Cleveland Clinic health experts say that those with burn-out are more prone to symptoms like:
- Withdrawal from family and friends
- Changes in appetite or weight
- Frequent sickness
- Loss of interest in activities they once enjoyed
A 2019 research article in Acta Biomedica reported the effect of burn-out on healthcare workers specifically. Study results show that workers with emotional exhaustion often make negative lifestyle choices like alcohol or tobacco abuse. This in turn could lead to increased risk of chronic diseases like heart disease over time.
What Can You Do To Recover From Burn-out?
When it comes to burn-out recovery, patience is a necessity. You didn’t develop burn-out overnight, so you’re not going to recover overnight. So as you start looking to recover, take each of the following tips one at a time. Implementing them one at a time instead of all at once can help you see what works best for you over time to feel better and less stressed. Plus, if you try to make too many lifestyle changes at once, it could end up contributing to your fatigue and stress.
A 2017 study in the Journal of Occupational Health examined the link between physical activity and burn-out. Study results show that although more research is needed, physical activity can be an effective strategy for helping reduce burn-out.
One type of exercise that shows great promise for helping those suffering from burn-out is yoga. A 2019 study in the Journal of Clinical Medicine showed that yoga can help reduce stress in healthcare workers. Study results show that yoga helped improve physical health, sleep, stress levels, and burn-out.
Also, a February 2018 article in Monitor on Psychology looked at recent research findings related to burn-out, which revealed that both cardio exercise and resistance exercise could help reduce burn-out.
When taking time to recover from burn-out, researchers suggest resisting the urge to isolate yourself from others. You may not want to discuss your feelings with others, but it’s important to maintain connections. Your family and friends can help you talk through your stress, especially if they’ve also gone through it. Not all of us are extroverts — don’t feel like you have to fill your calendar with social commitments that drain your energy and leave you exhausted. But we are created for community and we need each other’s help and support, so do make it a point to connect with people you trust and love.
Eat A Healthy Diet
It’s undeniable that health experts across the board suggest a healthy, balanced diet to help fight and prevent physical, mental or emotional burn-out, which brings inflammation to the body. Eating plenty of antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables, and drinking plenty of water is vital to fighting whole-body inflammation.
A 2019 study in Frontiers in Neuroscience showed that changes in the gut microbiome may lead to mood disorders. Therefore, changing the diet and adding certain anti-inflammatory foods may help not only help combat stress, related to burn-out, but also correct a gut imbalance that could be making the problem worse. .
Experts at the University of California-Los Angeles Center for East-West Medicine suggest the following foods to help reduce stress:
- Vitamin C rich foods like oranges and strawberries that can reduce levels of the stress hormone cortisol in the body.
- Complex carbohydrates like whole grains, fruits, and vegetables that can increase levels of the “feel-good hormone” serotonin in the body.
- Omega-3 fatty acid rich foods like fatty fish such as salmon as well as nuts, seeds, and avocado can reduce surges of stress hormones.
Other Tips For Fighting Burn-out
Experts at Skywood Recovery Center in Michigan also suggest taking a daily break from technology to help with burn-out. In addition to this, they suggest finding time to start each day with a relaxing ritual. This could be a quick yoga routine, or just a cup of warm lemon water and a chapter of your favorite book. These small changes in your routine can make a great difference long-term in recovering from and/or preventing burn-out.
Burn-out is a real condition that can negatively impact your body and mind. It can make you a less productive and less present in your own life. That’s why it’s important to take proactive steps to recover from burn-out if you feel you are suffering from this condition.
If you feel you may be on your way to burn-out, take the steps we suggest here to try and prevent it. Also, don’t be afraid to talk with a healthcare professional like a psychologist or physician to help you devise a plan to recover. And having a strong work, family, and friend support system is a great way to delegate tasks, talk through stress, and prevent burn-out.