Burnout is a word we’re all hearing a lot of lately. Many people are overwhelmed with current events, stressed, or overworked. But there are ways to fight it!
We spoke with Parsley Health’s Health Coach and Registered Dietitian Amanda Perin MS, RDN on how to identify symptoms of burnout, and some ways to manage it.
What are symptoms of burnout and anxiety?
AP: Signs and symptoms of burnout will look different for everyone, but be aware and on the lookout if you or someone you love is experiencing any of the following:
- Spending more time alone than normal - avoiding activities that would normally bring joy
- Having more emotional high and lows
- Feeling overwhelmed, fear, anxiety, or self-doubt that is hard to shake
- Feeling “alone” and “doing it all”
- Working longer hours than normal and still being preoccupied with work while not at work
- Not taking time for yourself
- Feeling detached from your core values, beliefs, or goals
- Shorter temper
- Feeling like you can’t think straight, lack focus, or have brain fog
Can you explain burnout vs. stress?
AP: Of course, stress and burnout seem like they are similar, but in actuality are very different. Burnout is mostly associated with work, versus stress in other areas of our life.
Burnout in the workplace leads to feelings of wanting to isolate from our jobs or becoming cynical about the work that has to be done. Feelings of being under-appreciated can also lead to burnout.
Then we think about stress. Stress and burnout are kind of like the chicken and the egg. Which one came first? Both feed into one another, but studies have shown that burnout can affect our stress levels much more than stress can affect burnout. That means it can start leaking into other parts of our lives and causing stress.
How can burnout affect our mind-body connection?
AP: Burnout can cause us to feel:
- Complete emotional and physical exhaustion
- Fatigue - where you feel you need a nap to continue with your day, insomnia, or waking up with no energy
- Brain fog, or not being able to think clearly
- Sick more often due to a weakened immune system
- Anxiety or depression
What are some things that can lead to burnout?
You’re always on:
- Do you remember when work/life balance was a thing? No matter how many ping-pong tables there are in the conference room, it’s harder than ever to strike a true work balance as technology has made it easier to be accessible anytime, anywhere. Remote work! Airplane WiFi! Hotspots! Slack!
You can’t say no.
- A fear of disappointing others or even your own anxiety of underperformance can make it hard to say no to tasks outside of your job scope, or commitments you don’t really have time for.
You’re working in a toxic environment.
- Respondents to a recent Gallup poll cited five main reasons for job-specific burnout including unfair treatment at work, an unmanageable workload, lack of role clarity, lack of communication and support from management, and unreasonable time pressure. When employees feel supported by their manager and not crunched for time, they’re about 70 percent less likely to experience burnout.
Your screen time is taking a toll.
- It’s virtually impossible to avoid screens, even if you don’t work at a computer all day, but research is pointing to screens, scrolling, and social media as contributors to burnout. Blue light from electronics, particularly when used two hours before bedtime, led people to wake up during the night, and sleep around 16 minutes less per night, one study found. Social media use has repeatedly been linked to higher levels of anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem. One case study in the New England Journal of Medicine even found that viewing a smartphone in bed has led to temporary blindness in some.
You’re constantly multitasking.
- Eating lunch while working, sending emails while in a meeting, and juggling between multiple screens? If you feel like your brain has too many tabs open, you’re actually less productive, more easily distracted, and more prone to make errors, found researchers at Stanford. People who frequently use several media devices at once actually have lower grey-matter density in the region of the brain involved in emotional regulation, than those who just use one device occasionally.
You don’t feel like you have time for yourself, or that taking time for yourself is too much effort.
What are some ways to manage stress, anxiety, and burnout?
AP: Take a look at your diet, because when we are in times of stress our cortisol levels are high, which means our blood sugar is usually low. During those times we aren’t going to be thinking about what foods will nourish us the best, the thought is usually wanting something that is comforting - a simple carbohydrate, dessert, or some type of sweet food. When we choose those foods in times of stress, our blood sugar will spike, then crash and perpetuate the feelings of needing more of those foods to have energy.
- Things we can do are really focus on blood sugar balance, which will help with brain fog, fatigue, and concentration. Making sure you have 4 things present at each meal - Greens/veggies, Protein, Fiber/complex carb, and fat. Also, ensuring you are eating with 3 to 4 hours in between each meal or snack will help support your blood sugar levels.
- Making sure we are also adequately hydrated will be playing a big role on energy levels, and helping decrease stress in the body. A dehydrated body is a stressed body.
- Find time to move your body, and try to get outside for at least 20 minutes per day.
- Prioritize time for yourself. When experiencing burnout, there tends to be a belief that there isn’t time or space for you. Find one thing that can help, whether that be reading a favorite book, taking a hot bath before bed, or listening to your favorite music.
- Try to avoid caffeine, especially in the afternoon, if you are experiencing a lot of stress. Consider integrating matcha, herbal teas, or coffee alternatives. These will all have antioxidants or adaptogens that can help decrease stress within the body.
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