Banishing Burnout12/06/2022, Chantal Di Donato, Certified Holistic Health Coach
A simple Google search on burnout, will give you almost six million hits! The results are not only articles from heath blogs, but also tips from Government Agencies and Health Institutions on how to avoid it.
Just ten years ago, it was frowned upon to express that we might have felt like we could not cope or function normally in the face of adversity and stress. But finally, it seems that we are coming to terms with burnout being a very real condition, that can have a catastrophic impact on one’s life.
Unfortunately, the recognition of it as a serious ailment, or a symptom of something else happening in our body, mind and spirit, has not completely translated into a system that supports minimizing it. Our pace of life and demands are not accommodating recovery or prevention. So, what is the solution to banish burnout from being part of our human experience?
Firstly, we need to understand what a burnout is, and then the solution is always to take personal responsibility and accountability to apply daily habits to prevent it altogether, or at the very least, recognize the signs and stop it in its tracks.
The Oxford Language Dictionary defines a burnout as: “a physical or mental collapse caused by overwork or stress”. I'd like to take this a layer deeper into our biology: A burnout is the lack of balance between the parasympathetic and sympathetic modes in our Autonomic Nervous System.
That means that we would have spent a long period of time in the sympathetic mode (fight or flight), where our adrenal glands are constantly releasing stress hormones to keep us going, and are unable to calm down. We want our parasympathetic system (rest and digest) to take over and allow our body to function and repair itself.
By understanding this definition, we can see why we are in trouble: We are expected to be on call beyond our contract hours to show that we are busy all the time, in order to seem productive. This constant busyness doesn’t leave any time for self-enquiry, nurturing and even basic needs such as sleep! We are hooked to our technology, never even allowing us a moment to truly disconnect! It is overwhelming.
If society’s overall view of productivity and connectivity are so far off, we cannot expect the system to banish our burnouts. We must make a conscious effort to take matters into our own hands, and truly dive into daily routines to help us prevent, stop and reverse burnout, and make sure, once it is gone, it doesn’t come back!
The following 10 tips are shared with the caveat that they do not need to all be integrated into our lives all at once. We must implement new habits that are sustainable long-term, or else we risk going back to our old ways.
1. Morning stillness
If your default mechanism is to wake up and look at your phone, it is time to change that! Adjust your morning routine to allow for five to ten minutes of stillness for yourself. As you wake up, be grateful for another day, your cozy bed and overall, your life, even in difficult times. Whilst your thoughts sit in gratitude, breathe deeply, in through your nose, and out through your mouth, to feel a sense of calm.
2. Make your priority list a PRIORITY
It is inevitable not to be chased by everyone about something. Sometimes, it is you who does the chasing if you have been procrastinating on a task. That is quite frankly the most stressful feeling. So, make sure each day you write down your priority list and number 1 to 5 what is the most important, with 1 being the most urgent. Anything after number 2, can be postponed to the next day. Our priorities are quite fluid so allow your list to also change, shuffling things around as needed.
3. Make daily movement a non-negotiable
Exercise is paramount to staying healthy to avoid burnout. But even more importantly, make sure you know what kind of exercise you need. If you are stressed, then doing a HIIT class is the worst thing you can do for yourself. When you add stressful exercise outlines to an already burdened nervous system, you are only accelerating that proverbial “hitting the wall” moment. Find movement that nurtures you. Walking in nature is the single most healing thing you can do for yourself. It allows you to truly reset and calm the sympathetic system down, allowing the rest and digest to kick in by stopping the production of cortisol.
4. Spend time with people who make you feel good
It is great to be a leaning shoulder for troubled friends and family sometimes, but make sure you do not get caught up in drama that is not yours. When a narrative is repetitive it can affect us mentally, spiritually and energetically, getting us stagnant in a low vibration. That takes a toll on our wellbeing and can lead to burnout. Emotional stress is as powerful as any other kind. In order to avoid that trap, it is key to have boundaries in place. If those boundaries are not respected by others, you have to be the one to uphold yours and take distance as needed. Surround yourself with people who teach you something, nurture your curiosity in new things and feel uplifted.
5. Take your diet seriously
Stress causes a very acidic environment in our body. Because fight and flight affect our digestive system, we are unable to utilize the fuel we ingest healthily. We are way beyond that we eat, we are what we can absorb. If our body is not working optimally in rest and digest, then we are unable to break down nutrients and absorb them efficiently. Cortisol secretion demands a high amount of energy to work and the body’s most efficient way to get calories is by using glucose. This is why (unless we lose our appetite completely, which comes with its own set of challenges) we crave sugar! And our body will go for the easiest, simplest sugars: junk! Eating an acidic diet then puts more oil on an existing fire - it is a recipe for disaster! Try and eat mostly green alkalizing vegetables and fruit.
6. Sleep is GOLD
A good sleep routine is absolutely necessary! Make sure you are going to bed at the same time each night, and sleep hygiene: staging your bedroom to be the perfect environment for a good night sleep. The temperature should be around 17°C and dark, so no artificial lights in the room. (Tip: make sure you have an alarm clock that can be darkened). You should have tranquility - so no noise, or white noise, if that allows you to sleep well. Nature sounds also have been found very helpful too.
7. Turn off all devices 2 hours before bed
8. Phone OUT
If possible, use a separate alarm clock and leave your phone outside your room. Not only for the issue that the screen causes with it's blue light, but also to avoid EMF(Electric and magnetic fields), which has been show to disturb sleep.
9. Switch off your WI-FI
Your broadband router will release EMFs and has been found to cause disrupted sleep, as well as other health issues. To support your body, turn it completely off overnight. It is harder in an apartment block, where every flat has Wi-Fi, but every little step helps! There are also EMF protective devices which can assist in minimizing exposure.
10. Learn to say NO
If you are a yes person, especially at work, where you most likely spend the majority of your week days, learn to say NO! It is important to have some compassion for yourself, and one way to show it is to acknowledge that you cannot do it all. Be polite in saying no and offer other solutions where possible. To take care of yourself you need time too and saying YES to everything eats into your personal time.
Health is wealth and no amount of money, success and popularity can give you back that treasure if you lose it. Look after yourself and empower yourself with research, knowledge and understanding, sharing the resources you find helpful with colleagues, family and friends! Change happens when the majority of people embrace it -sometimes it really does take a village!
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|About The Author|
Chantal Di Donato is a Certified Holistic Health Coach, Author and founder of Live Lean Health and Eco Dharma Village, a vegan eco-farm in Northern Portugal. She graduated from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition in New York City and from Aditya Yoga School. Her classes are not only yoga based but she has developed her own functional movement classes on the mat, focusing on strength and suppleness to keep the body healthy, strong and promoting longevity. Chantal is currently working towards finishing her Holistic Nutrition certification at EHI. She has also just launched her new Podcast, The Green Life, discussing health, lifestyle and green living with amazing guests such as Dr T Colin Campbell, Dr. Christiane Northrop, Dr Will Bulsiewicz, Dr Joel Fuhrman and Dr Kahn among others.
Her journey started over 20 years ago after a two-year-long battle with anorexia and 14 years destructive relationship with food, which forced her to then turn her life around due to health issues.