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Has social isolation and working from home made us more aware that we may be suffering from burnout?

April 25, 2020

Now that life has slowed down as we social isolate and work from home do you still feel exhausted, anxious or teary?

Most of us have had a huge change to our daily routines since social isolation has taken place. We are no longer seeing clients face to face (like myself), going into the busy office, most of our children are being home schooled along with catching up with friends and family for dinner or drinks after work. Some of us might not be working at the moment due to closures in their industries. There's extra stress just there!

Extra stress has been put on us by setting up our technology so that we can work remotely or home school the kids! Oh gee whizz - learning new things or accessing platforms that keep crashing adds to our stress levels!

I thought that by not travelling to clinic two days a week, not being in peak hour traffic, working from home and not having to deal with all the usual daily stresses of our daily routines would have been a blessing. Apparently I have been living in my little bubble (which I love most of the time!) Most people are posting on social media that they are drinking more alcohol, stressed out about home schooling, not having enough hours in the day to finish their work or not having a quiet place at home to concentrate. Me time no longer exists as our morning walk includes are partners or our children along with everyone else in the neighbourhood and their dogs!

Are you experiencing any of the above 'remote working' and social isolation issues?

You may be already experiencing symptoms of burnout? Working from home might have sounded pleasant in the beginning and now your feeling stressed, overwhelmed and anxious once again. These are symptoms of burnout.

What causes burnout?

Burnout occurs after a period of stress, trauma, sleep deprivation or burning the candle at both ends. It is characterised by cortisol levels that are either too high or too low, which then leads to illness. Other term that we use as natural health practitioners is adrenal dysfunction or adrenal fatigue and this is becoming far too common in our modern culture, and more prevalent in women.

So why is it that women are the ones most prone to burnout?

1. We’re optimists

We always think we can get more done than we actually can. We overcommit. We say yes to things and work out how to do them later. This would be totally fine, except we end up committing to way too much. Unfortunately we are too proud to backpedal or to say NO, so we just suck it up and deal with it, telling ourselves that we can rest later, but “later” never comes.

2. We have an “I’ll sleep when I’m dead” attitude

Life is short. We are hard-wired to achieve, and achieve, and achieve, often at the expense of all-important self-care, wind-down time, or sleep. I’m guilty as charged of working into the night, using that 9pm surge of cortisol to crack on behind the laptop and do a webinar, podcast or module from a course/s that I'm doing! There may well be a deadline that truly does need to be met and that’s okay. Work late if you need but if you are doing it all the time, we need to have a serious chat, because how sustainable do you REALLY think this is?

3. We have FOMO (Fear Of Missing Opportunities)

What if we take time out to rest, and that golden opportunity that we havee been waiting for passes us by? I know women who are addicted to showing up constantly in business groups on Facebook, or at local networking events, or on their own social media pages and groups. They think that if they stop and rest that they will miss out on crucial connections, or news, or a potential client. If you show up in those spaces feeling drained, tired or worn out, you will not attract the right connections anyway. Those opportunities go to the people who feel vibrant, present and have the space in their lives to take on new challenges.

4. We set the bar really high, and then raise it some more

As soon as we reach a certain level, instead of enjoying the view from there, many of us are instead immediately at it again – head down, bum up, striving to reach the next goal, and the next goal. And then we move those goals. We tell ourselves “if only I can reach ….. (insert big, personal/career/fitness/financial goal here) ….. then I will be happy.” When we reach it and we do not feel happy, so we immediately we set a new measure of happiness and make a game plan to achieve it. It can be a vicious circle for some of us.

Take a moment to think about what could happen if we stopped to admire the view, just for a short while, and congratulated ourselves before striving to reach the next goal?

5. We’re addicted to busy

That feeling of being on point, like you have had a shot of caffeine directly into your veins, and you’re going to smash through your whole to-do list in record time? That’s our good friend cortisol, a stress hormone that is produced when we’re busy or under pressure. It induces a process known as “the fight or flight response.”

Cortisol is addictive. It makes us feel ALIVE. But unfortunately, operating in that state all the time just is not sustainable. After a while, you do not have the energy to smash the to-do list anymore. Coffee stops working for you so you are having more coffee, then you start on those awful energy drinks! You start to feel shaky, drained, and maybe even anxious or depressed. The side effect of too many fight or flight moments over a long period of time?

Cortisol becomes elevated in the early stages of adrenal fatigue, and depleted in the later stages. In other words, that “on point” feeling does not last forever… and it is replaced with something far worse - burnout.

All areas of your body are affected, thyroid hormones become out of whack, reproductive hormone become imbalanced, digestive problems begin along with a huge toll on both your immune (you might be getting sick more often) and nervous system - panic attacks, anxiety, feeling overwhelmed or depression.

So next time you are buzzing through the day, ask yourself, “Is this healthy energy or am I running on stress hormones?”

6. We feel guilty or lazy if we rest.

If the word “rest” causes you to feel guilty or lazy, then it’s time to reframe it to “recharge.”

I understand your resistance – many of us come from a good upbringing with a solid work ethic, where we were told that it was not ok to take a day off or have a quiet day – I mean – no wonder we feel guilty for doing nothing! But there is power in those quiet moments – it is when I take something off my plate that a space opens up for the magic to happen, creativity flows. In terms of my business, new clients book in, new recipes are created, blog posts and ideas are born. I know it seems counter-intuitive, but I have learned the hard way as I've had burnout a couple of times over the past ten years and sometimes you need to do less to achieve more. Pushing harder is a creativity-dampener.

What Does Burnout Look Like for Men?

Burnout manifests itself differently in different men. In some cases, it's physical symptoms. Recent statistics have shown that 77% of Americans have symptoms—physical symptoms—associated with stress. It might be palpitations, it might be your skin is breaking down, or it might be achiness all over.

Then there are emotional symptoms. For men, it's not usually weepiness, it's anger—irritability, bad temper, irrationality. You might be lashing out at people and they're saying, "Whoa, what's that all about?" And you can't explain what's going on.

Many men might hit one or two of these marks . . . if you hit one or two, it's time to take action.

There are mental symptoms as well. Mentally, a lot of men find it difficult to focus, they may be distracted, or exhibit negativity. Some might become obsessive in their thinking—mulling one thing round and round and round and round.

Socially, men withdraw when they are moving along that spectrum of stress, anxiety, burnout, and depression. They withdraw from their wives, children, and friendships, and become quite isolated.

What happens if these symptoms are left unchecked?

Signs and symptoms of burnout and adrenal dysfunction include tiredness or exhaustion, anxiety, depression, muscle aches, poor sleep, brain fog, mood swings, changes in digestive health, PMS, or a feeling of being ‘on the edge’ or overwhelmed. The body is trying but is no longer able to cope with stress the way it used to.

What can I do to heal these symptoms?

If you’ve been reading along, nodding your head because you’re already experiencing the signs and symptoms of burnout, don’t wait for it to get worse! Lets take something off our plates during our time of social isolation BEFORE our body reaches burnout point.

Who or what can you say “no” to over the next few weeks? For me it is not picking up as many extra shifts in aged care as I want to focus on my business, myself and being at home and enjoying having my family home at mealtimes (most of the time), my dogs, cooking new healthy meals and my plants (I might need that essential trip to the nursery!)

Is there something that you can get rid of in your schedule that doesn’t serve you? Perhaps it’s something that makes you feel heavy and dull just thinking about it. Or is there someone toxic in your life that’s sapping your energy? Do you need to remove yourself from them for a while, until you get your energy and resilience back?

How would your day/week/month look if you made YOU the priority? By putting yourself first (I know it can be difficult if you are home schooling your children at the moment) and trying to work from home but to begin to heal your adrenals and nervous system will save you from having more severe symptoms down the track.

And remember – you don’t need to fill the spaces that you create in your schedule (and in your life!) Warning: It will probably feel unnatural and counter-intuitive. At first, the spaciousness that you create can trigger feelings of agitation. That’s ok. This too shall pass. Especially once you realise that it’s actually causing you to become more productive in the hours that you DO work. Give it a go and report back!

Beginning to healing your adrenals by reducing your stress will benefit not only you but your family as well as in the end everyone wins as you will feel so much better. Your energy, vibrancy, mood will be so much better along with you sleeping better and you will feel lighter (your high cortisol stomach will have flattened!)

Dietary Changes

Yes you will need to change your diet - as a Naturopath I am able to assist you with this along with prescribing healing herbs and supplements to make you feel awesome again!

  • An anti-inflammatory diet is a great dietary change as burnout is all about high inflammation;
  • Cut back on sugar as in highly processed foods - substitute this with fresh fruit;
  • Cut back on your alcohol - it is not healthy to have wine o'clock every day, I know as I have tried this and put on so much weight! Have an alcohol free time whilst healing your adrenals - your liver will love you;
  • Replace your two or more coffees with 1 cup of coffee (preferably black) each morning. Try different teas - organic is the best and there is so much to choose from these days.
  • Drink more filtered water - with lemon/lime or frozen (organic) berries for extra flavour.

If you are needing more support, recipes, coaching and being prescribed the right supplements please book an online consultation with me - mention this blog and I will give you $20 off my initial consultation price (this will be done via a refund as my prices are linked to a pre-payment on my booking site.)

Repair, Re-balance, Restore

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