Burnout, what is it and what you do about it.
Burnout is a very real problem in today’s world. A result of constant long term stress either from work, your personal life or a combination of the two. The burden of responsibilities and tasks becomes overwhelming, and there is not enough time to rest and restore to some sense of balance.
Essentially, you are running on empty.
We know that stress is a part of everyday life, for everyone alive. It doesn’t matter who you are, where you live, or what you do, we will all face stress. Your body has an internal system that helps respond and cope with the everyday stress of life.
But what happens when these systems don’t work the way they should? What happens when they break down?
A lot of the recent research has focused on the burnout rates amongst health care providers, working extremely long hours, and putting themselves and their needs last, essentially draining themselves of their internal coping mechanisms.
Let’s face it however; health care providers are not the only people who are vulnerable to burnout.
Everyone is susceptible to burnout.
It’s not just the high achieving, or people with a stressful or demanding job, or parents of young children. More and more people are trying to balance busy lives and giving so much of themselves to everyone else that they don’t realize they are burning the candle at both ends.
How can you define burnout?
Burnout has three dimensions and is described as
- Feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion
- Increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job; and
- Reduced efficacy in all parts of life
When you’re in a state of burnout, it can be difficult to fulfill your job’s demands, while also showing up in your personal life. This may lead to feelings of failure, anxiety, depression, low productivity and strained relationships. Burnout affects mental, emotional, and physical health.
What are the symptoms of burnout?
Burnout can look different for everyone but these are some of the symptoms you may experience. It is important to note that there is both a combination of emotional, mental, and physical symptoms with burnout.
Symptoms may include:
- Chronic fatigue
- Sense of failure and self-doubt
- Detached, feeling alone in the world
- Loss of motivation
- Increasingly cynical and negative outlook
- Decreased satisfaction and sense of accomplishment
- Reduced performance
- Difficulty with memory and concentration
- Chronic headaches
- Difficulty sleeping
- Vulnerability to illness such as colds and flus
- Anxiety/ depression
- Alcohol or substance misuse
- High blood pressure and heart issues
These are some questions we would ask you to ask yourself…
- Do you feel stuck in your current situation, wanting to make a change, but not having the energy to do so? Unsure where to start?
- Do you wake up tired, unrefreshed, and unmotivated for the day, unsure how you will get through it?
- Do you have trouble focusing, and overthink everything leading to overwhelm?
- Are you beginning to question yourself in everything you do?
- Do you see other people with abundant energy, and feel disappointment in yourself asking ‘why can’t I do this?’
- Are you gaining unwanted weight because you’re eating differently to try to increase energy – going to the wrong foods for quick energy, leading to shame, guilt, and inadequacy?
- Do you worry that feeling this way is a sign you’re getting older faster than you should and that your best years are behind you?
- Are your relationships with your family, friends and colleagues suffering because you aren’t able to engage with them like you used to?
If you’re nodding your head to some or all of the above then you may be experiencing burnout.
How do you test for burnout?
When considering burnout, it’s important to rule out other conditions that may mimic these symptoms. Your Naturopathic Doctor will do a thorough health history and investigation, along with some blood work and physical exams to rule out other underlying deficiencies or disorders that may be contributing to your symptoms.
Some common testing that is helpful to help rule in/out burnout includes:
- Thyroid (TSH, T3, T4, thyroid antibodies)
- Vitamin B12
- Vitamin D
- AM Cortisol
- CRP and/or ESR (inflammatory markers)
- HbA1c and fasting blood sugar
- Hormones (Progesterone, Estrogen, Testosterone, DHEA)
Specifically for burnout, your naturopathic doctor may discuss the 4 point cortisol salivary test, or the Dutch Test’s Cortisol Awakening Test.
This test measure cortisol levels at 4 specific times of the day, to assess the diurnal pulsation of your cortisol, as well as your cortisol awakening response.
In clients who are experiencing burnout, we typically see a blunted or negative cortisol awakening response, as well as low cortisol levels throughout the day.
What are the treatment options for burnout?
You may be thinking, doesn’t everyone suffer from this? Isn’t it normal to feel like this, isn’t that just life to feel exhausted?
Although burnout is unfortunately common, it is not normal to experience, suffer, or endure.
Our Naturopathic Doctors can’t take away the responsibilities and stress that comes with life (although they wish they could). What they can help with is your body’s ability to buffer these stressors, the stamina to cope with them, and provide you with the tools and resources to help you recover.
They will have a thorough discussion with you about the things you can control, like nutrition, exposure to nature, physical activity, and daily habits that can allow your body to recover from burnout in a vary strategic manner.
They may also discuss IV drip therapy to provide your cells with the micronutrients needed to replenish ATP and cellular energy systems contributing to depletion, or supplements such as adaptogens and specific vitamins/minerals which support your body’s stress pathways, hormones (like cortisol, thyroid, melatonin and other), and ability to buffer stress.
The symptoms and experience of burnout is specific to the individual, and therefore the treatment plan should be individualized as well.
If you think you may be suffering from burnout, reach out to one of our Naturopathic Doctors today. Although it may be common, it is not normal to feel this way!