10 Tips For Spotting And Treating Burnout

Burnout. This is a term more commonly used now than in generations before. While life has always had periods of stress, the pace of modern life has seen a rapid increase in people reporting symptoms of burnout

Since 2019, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has officially recognised burnout as an occupational phenomenon. It states that it has three specific symptoms:

  • Feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion
  • Increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one's job
  • Reduced professional efficacy

What are the symptoms of burnout?

Burnout encompasses a wide range of symptoms that can severely impact people’s ability to live their lives.

This is not a definitive list of symptoms
, but some of the most commonly reported symptoms include:
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Exhaustion
  • Reduced energy levels throughout the day
  • An inability to concentrate. This can impact productivity in a workplace setting as well as in personal life
  • Lack of motivation/uninterested in anything
  • Headaches
  • Tension and muscle soreness
  • Irritability and low mood
  • Jumpiness (a sign of an overactive nervous system)
  • Impaired digestion
While it is common to have periods where everything seems harder, and your energy levels are lower (like during winter), if this feeling continues with no abatement, it is a sign of concern.

How can you recognise if you have burnout?

It is important to distinguish between nutritional deficiencies such as low iron and low B12, which can also present as low energy, fatigue, difficulty sleeping, and difficulty concentrating. If your blood tests come back within range, it might be burnout.

For some, it can be hard to distinguish between chronic long-term stress, exhaustion and burnout. Burnout is the result of weeks and months of sustained chronic stress. It can render some people bedridden and unable to function.

Whilst WHO specifically refers to burnout as a sole occupational issue, others believe burnout can also occur from and in other areas of people’s lives. Stress can come from unreasonable workloads, personal issues, bullying in workplace or from constant demands on your time with no rest.

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Most people can get through small periods of stress, recover, and return to ‘normal’ quickly. However, if you start to notice that everything is getting hard to do, such as your role, your workload, things at home, looking after yourself (such as eating well and exercising) or you are avoiding catching up with friends and family because you have no energy, this all could be a sign that you are on the way to burnout.

How do you treat burnout?

1. Boundaries

Saying yes to everything is not sustainable. Part of treating burnout is setting boundaries that you can easily enforce. In a work sense, this could look like not checking emails at home or on the weekends or designating the work you do at home to a certain timeframe. You could also start saying no to events you don’t have the capacity for

2. Take breaks, often

Your brain and body work better when you have regular breaks. Pilar Gerasimo, an American health journalist talks about why our body needs small regular breaks in her book ‘The Healthy Deviant'.

Just like your body has a natural 24-hour circadian rhythm, you also have ultradian rhythms (or fluctuations) throughout the day. These fluctuations require you to have small mini-breaks during the day in order to remain productive. 

This can be as simple as working for 50 minutes and then having a quick break to grab a drink or take a walk around. This allows your brain to quickly reset before starting a new task. You could also try the Pomodoro technique, where you work for twenty-five minutes and then have a five-minute break.

3. Take a look at your workload

How much you can actually do in a day? Be realistic. Do you need to delegate some work to someone else? Is there some extra help you can get to achieve what you need to do? If your workload is too high - address it. Because it will only get worse without intervention. While we all like to be helpful and productive, working at full pace all day everyday is not sustainable. Women and mothers can often get overburdened with the domestic load as well as their workload - Sam Kelly has some great tips in this space.

4. Get enough sleep

You know sleep is important, but if you are stressed or burnt out is even more essential. Sleep is an integral part of treating burnout because it’s when your body repairs and resets. The less sleep you have, the less reserves there are, and this can be when you start to get run down and sick. 

Sleep is a complex issue, but generally avoiding caffeine and alcohol in the later part of the day can help with a more restful sleep. You could consider adding in some nervine herbs like chamomile, Californian poppy, skullcap or magnesium to support the body relaxing before trying to get to sleep.

5. Talk to someone

If you are struggling to cope and treat burnout on your own, don't hesitate to seek help from a qualified professional. In most workplaces there is support called Employee Assistance Program (EAP). EAP allows people to see a range of therapists (counsellors, nurses, fitness practitioners, financial advisors etc.) for three free sessions. EAP is funded by some businesses for their employees - you can find out if you are eligible via your HR person or through EAP.

6. Herbal support

Treating burnout could involve adding some nervous system support via herbs or supplements. The majority of the plants recommended for burnout are plants that are either nervines (support the nervous system) or adaptogens (help you adapt to physical, mental and emotional stress). 
  • Chamomile is a very safe plant that has been used for hundreds of years to help with issues such as anxiety, stress, sleep as well as supporting digestion - which can be impaired from stress.
  • Lemon balm is a quick acting and tasty plant that can help calm people down. It is used to support stress, sleep and also works as antiviral to help with immunity.
  • Withania has become very popular to help with stress and exhaustion. It works as an adaptogen and also can be helpful for supporting sleep.
  • Rhodiola has been studied and shown to be helpful for people who are suffering burn out.
  • Siberian ginseng has been used to help those who are feeling burnt out. It is recommended that you take it for 3 months then have a break.
  • Holy basil has been used to support people who highly stressed and burnt out. It works as an adaptogen supporting the body in how it reacts to all forms of stress (physical, mental and emotional). It also supports the immune system which you need when you are under stress.
  • Bacopa can be helpful for mental cognition and mental wellbeing.
  • Licorice can help with cortisol metabolism. Cortisol is what we produce when we are stressed, high amounts of circulating cortisol can lead to weight gain, poor sleep and fatigue. It gives people that ‘tired but wired’ feeling. It is also an adaptogen so helps with our response to stress.
  • Oats are frequently recommended to support burnt out. It is a safe plant that supports your nervous system. Green oats can be used in a tea or in a tincture. Even eating oats can support your nervous system.
    • Linden helps with physical symptoms that can occur with stress and burnout such as headaches, muscle tension, irritation and frayed nerves.
    • Reishi mushroom is often recommended for chronic stress as it is an adaptogen that can help with stress, immunity, inflammation and sleep. We love Misty Day Plant Potions for anything mushroom.

    Other supplements for treating burnout:

    • Vitamin B complex. Look for ones that have activated B's within the formula - it is just one less thing your body has to do. Vitamin B’s are essential for energy, they help convert your food into energy as well as helping with overall health and repair. 
    • Magnesium to support both the nervous system but also to help with aching/tense muscles and headaches. If possible look for magnesium in the amino acid chelate or citrate format as it is easier for the body to absorb and utilise.
    • Vitamin C is a well known antioxidant that supports skin and joint health as well as your immune system. Vitamin C is essential for your stress response as your adrenal glands need vitamin C to help produce the stress hormones that the body releases when under pressure. Vitamin C is water soluble so it needs to be replenished daily as humans do not produce their own source of vitamin C.
    • L-theanine is a amino acid that naturally occurs in tea and mushrooms. It is now more readily available as a supplement to support people who suffer from anxiety and panic attacks. L-theanine helps to relax the brain and can reduce the physical reactions to stress.  L-theanine can also be taken with magnesium to help support sleep.

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    Please note that you can not supplement yourself out of burnout. Treating burnout requires more than just supplements. It requires a change in how you work, your lifestyle and sometimes your diet. The main thing with burnout is recognising the signs before it can get any worse.


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