I recently did a LinkedIn Live interview and event with Joyce Brocaglia, the founder of Executive Women’s Forum. Among other things, we talked about the negative effects of stress and how it can lead to burnout. There is a reason C-suite turnover is high. According to a study by the National Institute of Mental Health, 72% of entrepreneurs are directly or indirectly affected by mental health issues compared to just 48% of non-entrepreneurs.
Are you surprised that more and more people are dealing with extreme stress, anxiety, and depletion? Burning out isn’t a phenomenon that we can blame on the pandemic. Sure, that added to the stress but it wasn’t solely responsible for our depletion. Not resting, not taking breaks, burning the candles at both ends is glamorized in most workplaces and cultures. Being constantly on the go, depriving yourself of sleep, ignoring the power of personal, human connection can all be detrimental for your physical, emotional, and mental well-being. The trio can make it difficult for an individual to function well in their daily life.
Burnout is a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. It occurs when you feel overwhelmed, emotionally drained, and unable to meet constant demands. Stress that contributes to burnout can come not only from your job/business/work in general but can also stem from your overall lifestyle.
The term “burnout” is relatively new, first coined in 1974 by Herbert Freudenberger, in his book, “Burnout: The High Cost of High Achievement.” He originally defined burnout as, “the extinction of motivation or incentive, especially where one’s devotion to a cause or relationship fails to produce the desired results.”
Burnout is a gradual process. The signs and symptoms might be subtle at first but become worse as time goes on.
The signs of burnout symptoms:
- Do you feel unmotivated every morning?
- Are you unable to find any joy?
- Have you become cynical or critical at work?
- Are you struggling with maintaining productivity?
- Does your family walk around you on eggshells?
- Do you drag yourself to work?
- Does the idea of even dressing up for work exhaust you?
- Do you struggle with getting started at work?
- Do you find it difficult to focus?
- Have you become irritable or impatient with colleagues, clients, or loved ones?
- Do you lack the energy to be consistently productive?
- Are you struggling with quieting your mind?
- Is your digestion feeling off?
- Do you experience frequent or erratic headaches?
- Do you feel constant fatigue and no amount of rest replenishes you?
- Does family time not uplift you?
- Do you lack the desire to exercise?
- Are you using food, drugs, tobacco, caffeine, or alcohol to feel better or to numb your feelings?
- Is your skin breaking out?
- Have your sleep habits changed?
- Are you experiencing a loss of interest in things or feelings of hopelessness?
- Do you feel sad and lack control over your life?
- Have you noticed that your immunity feels low?
- Are you starting to fall sick frequently?
Burnout is a real thing. Most of us have some days in our life when we feel powerless, overwhelmed, or unappreciated. Days when nothing gets us going. A large majority have had days when getting out of bed felt like a chore and required strong determination and will power. But if you feel like this most of the time, you may be burned out. If you experience extreme symptoms or feelings of depression and/or suicide, please talk to your doctor/mental health practitioner.
A Holistic Perspective
According to Ayurveda, in the case of burnout, toxins (in Ayurveda called “ama”) accumulate in the physiology and create fatigue and heaviness. The agni (digestive fire) becomes low. Lack of vital nutrients combined with stress along with a strained nervous system will do the rest and reinforce the feeling of being burned out.
In Ayurveda, the Type A’s, or the pitta types, tend to burn out a lot faster. They are bright, ambitious, go-getters – intense, focused, and determined, but don’t always know when to pause and replenish. Their perfectionism can be their biggest enemy. When they go off-balance, they can become cynical, judgmental, or critical and eventually burn out. The vata individuals are more “delicate” and get anxious and exhausted easily. The kapha types have the highest endurance of them all.
From an Ayurvedic perspective, here is what you can do to prevent burnout:
Diet: Eat a diet that addresses your doshic vikruti (constitutional imbalance). An Ayurveda practitioner can help you identify your doshas and imbalances. In general, eat freshly prepared, seasonal, and nourishing foods. The foods you eat can reduce your blood pressure and help keep your heart healthy. Also, pay attention to how foods feel in your body. There is a gut-brain connection. If you feed yourself a diet rich in nutrients, your brain will receive all of the sumptuousness versus if you choose a meal that’s processed and laden with sugar, your brain receives no nutrition. What do you think happens to our moods?
Sleep: Get into bed before 10 pm. Practice good sleep habits. Don’t let deadlines or Netflix derail your schedule. Sleep restores well-being and helps protect your health. It sharpens your focus and productivity. Sleep can also impact your immunity.
Exercise: Movement is the best form of therapy and medicine. Exercise and physical activity are great ways to feel better, boost your health, improve your emotional/mental health, and have fun. When a client tells me that they don’t like to exercise, I reiterate to them that they probably haven’t explored what kind of movement brings them joy. You don’t have to go to the gym or sign up for a 5K. But move at least 30 minutes daily. Regular physical activity can help you to better deal with stress. It can also take your mind off work.
Pause: Not everything had to be completed yesterday. Breaks are okay and necessary. Rest is therapeutic. From a place of nothingness, birth of great ideas. Pause to smell the roses, to hang out with family, to cackle with friends, or to heal your old wounds. Pausing helps us reflect and rejuvenate.
Meditate: It’s a great way of reducing stress and developing concentration. Start small. If you want to start meditating, try choosing a form of meditation based on what you want to get out of it. Even if it’s 10 minutes a day, carve out time for mental flossing. Overall, meditation is available and accessible to anyone. It’s a simple way of improving your mental and emotional health.
Fact: Burnout can leave people feeling exhausted, empty, and unable to cope with the demands of life. If left unaddressed, burnout can lead to an array of mental health issues and/or other autoimmune diseases, diabetes, blood pressure, and others.
Disclaimer: The purpose of our articles is to provide information. The information is not intended for use in the diagnosis, treatment, cure or prevention of any disease. If you have any serious acute or chronic health concerns, please consult a trained health professional. If you are looking for advice from a trained Ayurvedic practitioner, contact Sweta Vikram here.
To read more about this topic on SEEMA.com, check out Steps Towards Stopping Burnout at Work