Burnout- definitely what I’d consider a buzz word nowadays, and for good reason. It’s one of those medical diagnoses (yes- it actually was deemed a medical diagnosis in 2019 by The World Health Organization) that you hear the name and automatically know what it is. In fact, there’s a good chance that you may have already experienced it. We commonly think of burnout related to decreased productivity or feelings of apathy, but awareness of physical symptoms is important as well. Burnout can occur when your body is constantly in “survival mode” or constantly running on stress hormones. Physical symptoms often look like fatigue, low mood, lack of sleep, brain fog, anxiety, and poor gut function- safe to say you probably aren’t feeling so great.
This is where I come in. I feel like there are so many nutrition and lifestyle habits that can not only help you get to feeling like yourself again, but help prevent burnout from happening in the future. Just like many other things, there isn’t ONE secret to healing or preventing burnout, but compounding habits are so powerful. First, let’s start with what is actually going into your body.
To put it simply, your sympathetic nervous system has been in overdrive for quite some time. Your body is smart, so this is telling your body that the other systems aren’t really a priority. Your body is not “safe”, so it slows digestive processes and hormones (sex and thyroid). Ultimately, this can leave us feeling fatigued, moody, and we may have some overt gut symptoms due to a less than ideal gut environment. Also, to keep up with demands, your body may be running through nutrients like magnesium or B vitamins at a much higher rate than normal, leaving you depleted.
So where do you start? Let’s look at lifestyle factors to really emphasize that parasympathetic nervous system (rest & digest) again. This can be done by activating the vagus nerve, the longest cranial nerve that connects the brain to the gut. This can be done by activities such as deep breathing, walking, cold exposure, humming, connection with others, nature time and laughing. It is helpful to rework these naturally into your everyday life.
From a nutritional standpoint, the first place to always start is to make sure we are eating enough with consistent, balanced, mindful meals. This helps to balance the blood sugar and ensure we aren’t fueling the fire with undereating. Next, you can look into specific nutrients. As always, I’d like to introduce my absolute favorite- magnesium. There is so much that it does, but in a nutshell, it can help your body relax. I’d also focus on vitamin C and B complex vitamins that might be running through your body at a faster pace than normal.
Like everything, there is so much individualization when it comes to this. That is why it is helpful to get started on the small stuff and potentially team up with a practitioner to solve the bigger issues. I do believe that pulling yourself out of a place of burnout is a tough thing to do, but you’ll come out with so many valuable habits in your toolbox to manage your energy and help increase your stress resilience for life.