How to recover from burnout

Burnout is an intense form of stress in our internal environment. 

We lack motivation, drive, we are dissatisfied, we lack energy and feel depressed. Burnout is a feeling of hopelessness that is ongoing.

Stress is good in small amounts, when it is temporary. 

When we’re under stress we release two stress hormones – cortisol and adrenaline – which increases our heart rate, blood pressure and even increases glucose to prepare the body for an intense time. 

This is a primal reaction and a natural way to protect ourselves as if we are being chased by a lion, which is very rare!

BUT we are now experiencing this same amount of stress each and every day. We have a chronic problem without adequate recovery. This is why we are not coping with our lives, we don’t have the energy or motivation to look after ourselves, our family and any turmoil that may be happening around us. 

If you don’t recover from your chronic stress, your adrenals which produce your stress hormones, can quite literally become exhausted. This is what is known as adrenal fatigue.

If you are like me, an A type personality who likes to control her environment, we are often more hard hit when things start spiralling out of orbit. My cortisol is higher, I don’t feel well, I’m more overwhelmed and on edge. I even feel more inflamed. 

I used to keep pushing through this state, by trying to perfect my environment in order to cope. More exercise, more meditation, more journaling and even though these are good tools, for a stressed person the more we “should” do the worse it is.

Physical symptoms of burnout

  • Exhaustion
  • Lack of motivation
  • Food intolerances
  • Bloating
  • Low immunity
  • Depression
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Irregular periods
  • Infertility
  • Recurrent infections
  • Lack of libido

Strategies for recovering from burnout

 These are some things that I see work and my toolbox is varied according to the individual:

1. Start with your nutrition and controlling blood sugar levels

Nutrition is your foundation. It is so pivotal in managing stress levels. When most of us are burnt out we will reach for high sugar, high salt, easy to grab refined foods. This is not what we want as the minute our blood sugar levels rise, we release more cortisol. Fasting is another form of stress, so be mindful of this during times of stress. 

Focus on a nourishing plate. A ton of vegetables and greens, some good fats, some good quality protein and some berries. Eat meals and not snacks.

Avoid excess caffeine, this often precipitates burnout as it mimics the stress response and release of cortisol and adrenaline. You may feel you need the energy but it will be short lived, rather focus on eating good meals and a coffee if you need it after your meal or before 10am for women. Green tea is better as it contains L-theanine which does not cause the high energy release.

2. Invest in your sleep

Burnout can disrupt your circadian rhythm, decreasing the quality of your sleep. Poor sleep also raises cortisol and hypersensitises the stress response, further priming the body for burnout. 

3. Turn off all blue-light emitting devices a few hours before bed

Blue light triggers cortisol and suppresses the sleep hormone, melatonin. Engage in a habitual, nightly ritual to help the body engage in a predictable wind-down routine for example a hot bath and chamomile tea, and don’t drink or eat within a few hours of sleep.

4. Take magnesium and ashwagandha at bedtime

I supplement nightly with magnesium and ashwagandha from the Natroceutics range. These two in combination at night are a game changer.

  • Magnesium: A plethora of literature associates magnesium deficiency with anxiety, stress- related symptoms and sleeplessness, and most of us are deficient in magnesium. Epsom salt baths are great tool for relaxation and a chance to unwind for 20 minutes. 
  • Ashwaghanda: An adaptogen which helps the body ‘adapt’ to stress and is excellent for high cortisol and hormonal imbalances. It brings home equilibrium.

5. Set boundaries and honour your time

Our lifestyles today are all about perfection and we have a YES-TO-EVERYTHING culture. 

We need to learn to set boundaries, honour our time and inner capacity to do it all. Our boundaries need to be set in areas where we feel we are not coping – relationships, work, friendships and commitments. 

We need to stop normalising feeling like we do, having no energy, sleeping poorly, being in toxic relationships, eating badly, feeling depressed with lack of zest for life, using drugs, food and substances to get through the day and life. 

Sometimes it means making tough decisions, leaving the familiar behind and going where there is discomfort. To radically change our lives or even our states of mind. You are not going to just snap out of feeling this, it will take time. If you need help, ask for it.

Be gentle on yourself and the process, trust in life.  Life is there to support you every step of the way.

You deserve better. 

With love
Vanessa

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