By: Heather Lillico, Nutritionist & HAVN Life Wellness Expert
It’s hard to imagine anyone that isn’t feeling exhausted at this point. We have the usual pressures of work and home life, and then throw a pandemic on top. An event that’s kept stress levels chronically high for too long. It’s only natural that this would affect our mental health. But for some, it’s crossed over into that buzzworthy word: burnout. How do you know if you’re burnt out and what do you do about it? Let’s dive in!
How do I know if I’m burnt out?
As a Nutritionist that focuses on anxiety, I see a lot of clients with burnout. Some of the most common symptoms are:
- You’ve lost interest in activities you once enjoyed
- You feel utterly depleted, like there’s nothing left to give
- It’s hard to get out of bed in the morning
- You’re exhausted during the day
- You have trouble sleeping at night and may wake up around 2-3am without being able to get back to sleep.
- Unexplained weight changes
- Physical issues like frequent headaches or stomach issues
What do I do about it?
If bells are going off when you read those symptoms, it’s time to make some changes! Read on for 4 ways to get back on track after burnout.
1. Figure out what you can offload
Burnout is really about overload. Your life has reached a point where your hormones can no longer cope with that high level of stress. It’s time to see what can be taken off your plate. This often involves an honest discussion with a manager at work or with your family for duties at home. Explore meal delivery services or bringing in a cleaner once a month to lighten the burden of tidying up.
Now is not the time to sign up for a new course, or try an intense new HIIT exercise program. It’s time to slow down. Many people with burnt out also have high-achieving, perfectionist tendencies, making them want to take on more and more tasks. Be aware if that’s your typical way to function.
This is also a great time to practice that important word “NO” when others ask things of you. Make sure you’re not overcommitting yourself, leaving no time for self-care.
2. Start finding mindful moments to relax
Working mindfulness or meditation into your routine is a must for recovery in my books. This teaches you how to respond to stress in a way that’s productive, or at the very least, not detrimental. To achieve the benefits of meditation without spending hours practicing, work in simple breathing exercises into the day.
One of my favourites is a technique called boxed breathing.
Here’s how you do it:
- Inhale for a count of 4
- Hold the breath for 4
- Exhale for a count of 4
- Hold the breath on empty for a count of 4
Do this cycle 4 times in a row. Aim for that pattern at least once a day, especially before a stressful meeting or event to regulate your nervous system.
3. Nourish your body with real, whole foods
What do many of us turn to when we’re stressed? Sugar! It’s comforting and gives you a boost of energy your body desperately craves. But it’s also affecting your blood sugar and setting off your adrenaline.
During recovery from burnout, the goal is to keep the nervous system as relaxed as possible, and keep adrenaline quiet. Diet can help by keeping your blood sugar stable. Focus on slow release carbohydrates like whole grains, lentils and beans, and include high quality protein with every meal to keep blood sugar stable. Now is the time to eat the rainbow: the more fruits and vegetables you eat, the more antioxidants you have protecting your body from damage.
4. Use herbs to rebalance your hormones
Finally, Mother Nature’s plants can bring balance back to the body. Three of my favourite herbs for burnout are:
- Rhodiola - helps with cortisol regulation and fatigue
- Ashwagandha - helpful for sleep and cortisol regulation
- Magnolia - lowers cortisol and improves mood
Bonus: medicinal mushrooms Reishi & Cordyceps can also be helpful for managing stress and increasing energy!
Now is the time to prioritize yourself and your mental health. Start with small changes and focus on what’s realistic right now. That’s how to get back to the real you, the one who feels energized and can cope with whatever life throws their way.