One pandemic that appears to be vaccine-resistant is the issue of mental health in the developed world. If we haven’t suffered from stress and mental health-related problems ourselves, we will probably know someone who has. In Japan, it’s such an issue that they have given it death related to burnout the name of “karoshi,” which means “overwork death.”
We are bombarded daily with information on our phones, social media notifications, a different global crisis every month, and we haven’t even had breakfast yet!
Disclaimer: If you are suffering from any physical or mental health issues, please consult a doctor. Speak to a doctor before changing your diet, taking a supplement, or taking up exercise
While some short-term stress can be good for the immune system, chronic stress is generally terrible for us. With the mobile phone now an ever-present part of our daily lives, it is easy to become overwhelmed and mentally burnt out.
Spotting Signs of Burnout
Getting confused, feeling overwhelmed, and constantly tired could result from many physical or mental issues – so be sure to see your doctor.
However, a common cause in the professional world is burnout.
Medical Doctor Paul Kopeck states in his TEDx Talk that he even gets emails from children who think they may suffer from burnout. A few generations ago, it was only elderly people that started to lose their memories, these days, even youngsters are showing signs of cognitive decline.
When stress causes the body to release adrenaline and cortisol, these stress hormones effectively shut down or minimize the ability of the brain to function outside of anything that is deemed unessential for survival. So recalling what was said during last week’s meeting, for example, might be a struggle.
Paul Kopeck suggests that stress will first begin to shut down or “attack” the hippocampus, making it difficult to recall events and facts and focus. Stress can also affect our ability to make decisions, and all these can lead to feelings of sadness, anger, and hopelessness.
Fatigue is another big sign that you may be suffering from burnout. In fact, it is one of the underlying symptoms that indicate there is some physical or mental problem.
Signs of burnout include:
- – Tiredness
- – Weakness
- – Headaches
- – Muscle pain
- – Change in appetite
- – Change in sleeping patterns
- – Low immunity
- – Cynical or negative outlook
- – Feeling alone
- – Use of food, alcohol to cope
- – Projects and becoming angry with others
Stress is not the same as burnout. Stress, for example, can typically lead to anxiety, while burnout tends to lead to depression. With stress, emotions are overreactive; with burnout, emotions tend to be blunted.
Causes of Burnout
Burnout is often caused by prolonged stress, which can be physical and mental. It can also come when we have an ambition that we have attempted to achieve but not think that it is beyond us or that the chance has gone.
When we feel that our ambition or goal is no longer attainable, we can become agitated and push harder to fulfil it, but soon we become hopeless and adopt of global perspective of negativity and cynicism.
Treating Burnout – Make it a Priority
The terrible thing about burnout is that we can become stuck in this state for years. In a society that is full of stress and with so many people suffering from stress, we are tempted to just put up with it and plod on.
We should prioritize burnout, however, as something that needs to be dealt with. After all, if it destroys much of the pleasure we feel in life, why are we pursuing other things when the key to being happy is dealing with burnout and stress?
– Decide to do something about burnout
You may need a single event to push you to acknowledge that there is a problem and decide to do something about it. For example, you may go to the doctor to get a diagnosis. However you come to a decision, you must make one and put your health at the top of your ‘to-do list.
– Find Solutions
To find reliable, science-based, and personalized solutions, you should seek the help of a professional. However, we will touch on some common strategies and solutions later in this article. Whichever way you go about finding solutions to burnout, write them down and stick to them. A good start might be to get enough quality sleep and to spend time in nature.
– Be Consistent
Whatever you do, if you want to change your life, you have to be consistent. Remember that it takes around six weeks to form a habit. Things will get easier, but until then, stay disciplined and push through. If you are in a state of poor mental health, it is probably because you have adopted habits that do not lead to a happy life.
Get Enough Sleep
Around 50% of people in developed countries don’t get the recommended 7-9 hours of sleep each night. This can lead to all kinds of issues physically and make us feel terrible.
Again you must discuss sleep and any new foods or supplements with your doctor.
Having a bedtime routine can help a lot. Take time to wind down, turn all electrical devices off, dim the lights, have a bath, and enjoy hot cocoa.
If a bedtime routine doesn’t work, then some foods and supplements may help. Hemp-oil, glycine (an amino acid), magnesium, 5 HTP, hops, valerian, and passionflower are all backed by science. For example, you can click here to see a scientific paper on passionflower and sleep. Talk to your doctor before trying this or any other herb.
Deep breathing from the belly can also help to put us into a state of relaxation. Many of us adopt shallow, chest-breathing due to poor posture, which can lead to higher heart rates and blood pressure.
Digestion & Diet
Digestion is often impacted by stress, which can lead to systemic inflammation, which, like lack of sleep, makes us feel awful.
Speak to a qualified medical doctor or nutritionist before changing your diet or addressing digestive issues.
With great care, you can look at dietary protocols such as the FODMAP diet, intermittent fasting, and the use of supplements such as collagen and hemp oil to help reduce symptoms of poor digestion. Again, a regular deep breathing exercise can help digestion, as the body tends to digest food more efficiently when it is relaxed.
Try a Month without a Phone
A significant cause of being overwhelmed in terms of sensory input is our phones. If you can live without a phone, it might be worth trying to do so! If you can’t entirely remove the phone from your life, try and switch it off in the evenings.
If you run a business, you can use a 24-hour call answering service like Moneypenny. Your clients will enjoy 24/7 customer service, and you can enjoy time enjoying your evenings and weekends without having to listen out for your phone constantly.
Exercise in Nature
Exercise is excellent for all types of mental health problems. Green exercise – exercise outdoors in nature, particularly near water, has been scientifically proven to have significant and immediate benefits in terms of mental health. Plus, you get all the physical benefits usually associated with exercise.
If you do the same exercise indoors versus in a green space, you see more extensive improvements in self-esteem, mood, and greater reductions in stress.
Always talk to your doctor before taking any adaptogens.
Nature usually has some kind of solution. Adaptogens are herbs or medicinal mushrooms, such as cordyceps, which help our bodies adapt to stress. In many ways, they neutralize the adverse effects of long-term stress, provide us with more energy and focus. They have been used for thousands of years in ancient cultures to treat a variety of illnesses. Rhodiola Rosea, ginseng and ashwagandha are all popular adaptogens.
Burnout is a significant problem. It is terrible for our health and terrible for our quality of life. Decide to make your health a priority and formulate a plan to rejuvenate your body, mind, and of course, your spirit. Sleep, diet, exercise, and social interactions are all key elements for rejuvenating ourselves and preventing the physical and mental problems that can occur with burnout.
Photo by Fred Moon