6 Ways to Overcome Burnout

Are you feeling completely emotionally, mentally, and physically exhausted? You feel like you can’t keep going? Today, we are going to talk about burnout, which is actually an ICD-10 code, i.e., a medical diagnosis.

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What you need to know

You’re exhausted in all aspects, and you feel like there is nothing in you to do what you need to do. You might have a lack of energy, daytime sleepiness, and overall lethargy. You might feel like you perform poorly at work, at home, or even in other aspects of your life.

Stages of stress 

When considering the nervous system or stages of stress, we have our state of social engagement where we’re connected, mindful, grounded, curious, and safe. When in fight or flight, we’re in survival mode. Our body and nervous system do everything to protect us.  We’re either fighting: angry, frustrated, worried, anxious, or even in a panic state, or in a freeze state, where you can feel shut down, overwhelmed, disconnected, and maybe even suicidal. In this freeze state, there’s blood sugar dysregulation, significant sleep disturbances, feelings of exhaustion, fatigue, and procrastination, where you just feel like you cannot do what you need to do despite knowing what you should do. 

It’s important to recognize this because in looking at the stages of stress, stage 3 stress is where burnout exists. 

What can you do about it?

Let’s get into the important part: what can you do about it? 

1. Identify if there are any physical causes

The number one thing I want you to think of is being able to identify if there are any physical causes of your burnout. For example, do you have a medical condition like hypothyroidism or Hashimoto’s? Do you have a nutrient deficiency, such as vitamin D or iron, contributing to this depletion of energy that prevents you from doing the things you love and want to do?

This will require some investigation. I strongly encourage you to reach out to a functional medicine practitioner, a dietitian, or even your doctor to help identify the underlying root causes of why you might be feeling this way.

2. Focus on your sleep

Focus on your sleep, not just the quantity but also the quality. It’s not only about the number of hours you get each night but also about the conditions that promote restoration, repair, and healing for your body. This may vary for each person, but it’s one of the most crucial factors.

Consider wearing blue light blockers after 7:00 p.m. and establish a nightly ritual before bed. Use down-regulation techniques like breathing exercises, vagus nerve exercises, somatic practices, yoga, or hypnosis as part of your pre-sleep routine. Additionally, pay attention to the room temperature, ensuring it’s cool and dark, and optimize your natural circadian rhythm.

There are numerous ways to enhance sleep hygiene. I recommend starting with one approach, turning it into a habit, and staying consistent with your sleep pattern. This consistency will help optimize your natural sleep-wake cycle, contributing to the healing process for your body.

3. Sunlight

Ideally, aim for 20 minutes of direct sunlight within the first 20 minutes of waking. It’s essential to be outside, even on a cloudy day, as the sunlight’s photons influence cortisol levels. This natural exposure helps increase cortisol production in the morning, supporting melatonin production at night and optimizing hormones related to the sleep-wake cycle.

Sunlight during the day offers benefits beyond vitamin D; it positively affects mood and overall health when consistently integrated into your routine. This shift can help move you from stage three stress and burnout towards a state of social engagement and connection.

If getting outside, especially in the morning, is challenging, consider using a SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) light. Bright light therapy has proven helpful for the mentioned benefits. Set it up during breakfast or coffee time as an alternative when outdoor exposure isn’t feasible. While it may not match the Sun’s effectiveness, it serves as a valuable alternative.

4. Regulate your blood sugar

This might sound a little far-fetched, but it is the most important thing to regulate your stress, fatigue, and overall energy levels. The simplest way to achieve this is by eating every 3 to 4 hours. This means having something when you wake up, not necessarily attempting to fast during this time, but assessing your current state and striving for consistently balanced meals with a focus on protein.

Ensure each meal includes at least 30 to 40 grams of protein to stabilize blood sugar. If cortisol is dysregulated, leading to multiple awakenings during the night or early morning peaks, consider having a small snack before bedtime. Pumpkin seeds are a good option, providing zinc, magnesium, protein, fat, and fiber to stabilize blood sugar, along with magnesium promoting better sleep.

Alternatively, try a scoop of peanut butter. Peanut butter contains tryptophan, a precursor to serotonin, which in turn is a precursor to melatonin. This can positively impact mood and sleep regulation and help balance blood sugar throughout the night.

5. Vagus nerve exercises, somatic practices, etc.

It wouldn’t be me if I didn’t talk about vagus nerve exercises, somatic practices, and meditation. These tools and strategies can be incredibly helpful in regulating your nervous system. In the burnout state, where thoughts of “should, should, should” lead to procrastination and overwhelming fatigue—emotionally, mentally, and physically—it’s crucial to shift focus to the body in a positive way.

Step out of your head and into your body, initiating movement and bringing awareness to your sensations and feelings. Consider vagus nerve exercises or explore somatic practices like body drumming, where you shake, tremble, and discharge excess energy that may not serve you well. There are numerous positive practices to integrate gently; it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Start with small steps to explore your emotions, feelings, and physical sensations at a deeper level.

6. Re-evaluation

Lastly, consider re-evaluation. This involves reassessing everything: your work, your life, your relationships. Can you learn to set boundaries and say no when you have nothing left to give? Recognize that the last bit of giving can be particularly depleting. Acknowledge this and say no, allowing yourself to say yes to your own needs.

Take a deep, inward look at everything in your life at the moment. Make adjustments to grant yourself the incredible opportunity to live life to the fullest. Embrace your authentic self, enjoy your work, your family, your relationships, and all that life has to offer. Providing yourself with this chance is crucial.

If you found this helpful, please give it a like, share it, and comment below. I’d love to hear where you are on your journey. If you need assistance, we’d be delighted to help. Reach out for a discovery session, or join us in the Movement Paradigm app, where we have an incredible community dedicated to whole-body health. That’s precisely what we’re offering, and we want to help you heal and address the root of your health issues. Remember, you can overcome burnout, and we are here for you. Have a great day!

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3 Stages of Stress

Ever wondered why stress affects us the way it does? Dive into the intriguing world of the three stages of stress, where we unravel the science of your body’s HPA Axis and sympathetic nervous system activation. Discover these stages, learn how to identify them, and equip yourself with the tools to treat stress effectively.

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How Stress Affects Our Body

Let’s start by discussing how stress affects our body. Stress can be categorized as both good and bad. Good stress, known as eustress, can be related to physical exercise or the excitement of an upcoming event, for example. Eustress plays a vital role in our performance, but today, we will focus on the three stages of stress and how acute stress can transform into chronic stress, impacting our bodies.

The HPA axis, short for the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, is the body’s stress pathway. When we encounter a psychological or physical stressor, our limbic system, the brain’s emotional center, detects a potential threat. This sets off a series of events, with signals sent from the limbic system to the pituitary gland in the brain, which, in turn, signals the hypothalamus. The hypothalamus then prompts the pituitary gland to communicate with the adrenal glands.

The adrenal glands respond by releasing cortisol. If this stress continues for an extended period, it can lead to a persistent activation of the HPA axis. It’s crucial to understand that when the HPA axis is activated, it triggers the sympathetic nervous system, putting us in a fight-or-flight mode for survival.

When the sympathetic nervous system is upregulated, or the parasympathetic nervous system is downregulated, it’s like having the gas pedal pressed down continuously. The longer the HPA axis remains activated, the more our sympathetic nervous system stays in overdrive.

In 1963, Hans Selye pioneered understanding physiological responses to stress, a concept known as General Adaptation Syndrome.

Stages of Stress

Stage 1 – Arousal

Let’s examine a typical cortisol rhythm. Around 6 a.m. to 8 a.m., we experience the highest peak of cortisol, which gradually decreases as the day progresses, particularly as bedtime approaches when melatonin takes over.

In a stage one arousal state of stress, both cortisol and DHEA levels are elevated. DHEA is a crucial hormone associated with vitality, often called the “anti-aging hormone.” Initially, this response is entirely normal, resulting in episodic increases in both hormones followed by a return to baseline. Typically, in this state, you may not experience any symptoms, but you are stimulated, and there is a rapid release of catecholamines. This is essentially a natural and expected response.

This scenario applies when we encounter episodic stress throughout our day or life. The HPA axis and sympathetic nervous system become activated temporarily, but we ultimately return to our resilient baseline state. Everything remains well within the normal range.

Stage 2 – Adaptation

Now, this is where we are adapting to a higher cortisol point. This can manifest as elevated cortisol points at various times throughout the day or even persistently high cortisol levels, particularly in the morning. It’s not uncommon to wake up at two or three o’clock in the morning due to cortisol peaking prematurely.

In this situation, cortisol remains chronically elevated while DHEA levels start to decrease. This is when you might experience stress-related symptoms such as panic attacks, anxiety, depression, or feeling both tired and wired simultaneously. Instead of winding down for sleep at night, you find yourself with the energy to keep reading, cleaning, or tackling various tasks despite feeling tired.

Stage 3 – Exhaustion

So, think of it this way: if your adrenals have been pumping out cortisol for so long, then at some point, your body’s natural homeostasis is affected. At this point, cortisol is now low, and DHEA is low.

Various things typically occur in this stage, but you are likely to experience significant chronic fatigue. You’ll also notice more depression than anxiety, although anxiety can still be a significant part of it. Low blood sugar and glucose dysregulation are common patterns here.

When looking at a cortisol graph, there will be at least two to four points that are low on the cortisol rhythm. Normally, it starts up around 6:00 a.m. and gradually decreases throughout the day. However, in this case, multiple points are low. This can lead to symptoms such as fibromyalgia, dizziness, brain fog, inflammation, allergies, and even early menopause, which is another sign of stage three stress.

Other common symptoms are cravings for salty food, dizziness, and easy bruising.

Understanding the Stage of Stress You Are In

So, as you can see, each stage is very unique in its presentation. Some individuals may present with signs of stage two or stage three, which is common. However, I believe the first step I recommend is to try to better understand where you are. Simply identifying your stage is an excellent starting point for healing your body, and knowing that you can do it is important.

Your body is designed to heal itself, so when you start providing it with the things it needs and desires, you can significantly impact your health.

Tips for Overcoming Stress

Here are a few important tips, regardless of your stage. What stage are you in right now? Simply identifying it and understanding stress a little more is a great starting point. 

Tip #1 – Focus on Your Nutrition

Focus on your nutrition! Especially if you are in stage three of stress, where you’re experiencing a lot of blood sugar dysregulation and low blood sugar in general, this is an area that you can really begin to eat every three to four hours. I would not recommend fasting in this situation. Instead, concentrate on balanced meals that include protein, healthy fats, and fiber sources, and consistently consume whole foods throughout the day. 

Even if you find yourself in a slight caloric surplus, it’s important to note that most people I encounter are actually in a caloric deficit, which can contribute to more stress on the body.

So, keep in mind that the focus here is on whole foods and consistently eating high-quality nutrients. This approach aligns with my next suggestion: to ensure you’re replenishing nutrients. If you’re consuming very few calories or fasting, all of these practices can deplete your body with the essential nutrients needed for a healthy nervous system and stress mitigation, making you more resilient.

Therefore, emphasizing the intake of optimal nutrients and whole meals is a crucial step in managing stress.

Tip #2 – Nervous System Regulation

If you’ve read any of my blogs, you can see lots of different examples of this, but this can start with simply moving your body. This can be any type of breath work, movement, authentic movement, somatics, and vagus nerve exercises I have provided you. It could be anything to consistently regulate your nervous system in a healthy way. What are your triggers, and what things really are fulfilling you?

Tip #3 – Optimizing Sleep

I’ve written a few blogs on sleep, but here are some ideas: First, you want to think about down-regulating your nervous system to be able to go to sleep. Have a ritual before you go to bed. Wear blue light blockers if you’re using your phone, TV, or tablet because, in this case, it’s actually signaling to the receptors in your retina that it is morning time. 

When you wake up, your ritual is even more important. You want to ideally try to get morning sunlight within the first 20 minutes of waking up. If that’s not possible, you can use a SAD light. It’s not as good as the sun, but it is a good backup plan so that there’s at least something in place that will help to increase your natural cortisol in the morning, and it will also help with the evening melatonin production. 

So, consider everything you can do to optimize sleep.

Tip #4 – Supplementation

With this, the biggest take-home that I want to give you here is within each stage of stress, there are many different options. This will depend on your medical history, the stage of stress you’re in, and the types of things you are sensitive to—have you tried herbs, botanicals, or adaptogens? Have you had an issue with them in the past? There are so many variables. The first step is nutraceuticals, i.e., getting the nutrients that you are not getting through food.

Beyond that, you can get more specific in looking at different adaptogens that might be appropriate for your level of stress. For example, Ashwagandha is appropriate for all three levels of stress. That may not necessarily be the right thing for you, however. You do want to check with your doctor, functional medicine provider, or dietitian to ensure it is. 

There are so many things you can do to begin to pave the way for a more resilient nervous system, a healthy body, and a healthy mind.

If you found this information helpful, please like, share, and subscribe to our YouTube channel, The Movement Paradigm®, for weekly tips on mindset, nutrition, and movement. If you want to join our app and join our community, please make sure to check out the Movement Paradigm app on Google or Apple.

To learn more about how we can assist you on your journey, please don’t hesitate to reach out for a discovery session. We look forward to helping you on your path to wellness.

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Is your anxiety or depression coming from your gut?

Is your anxiety and/or depression coming from your gut? So many people are suffering from anxiety and/or depression, so it’s important to look at the connections between the gut and the brain, and the gut’s influence on mood and behavior. This is an important aspect of looking at mental health and addressing some underlying physical causes. 

The gut-brain connection is fascinating, and it is essentially our bidirectional communication between our gut and brain. It has multiple pathways, including the hormonal, immune system, and nervous systems. For the purpose of today, let’s focus on two aspects: the hormonal and nervous systems.

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The hormonal connection is based on neurotransmitters which are essentially chemical messengers; we also refer to them as hormones. They are signaling from the gut to the brain and the brain to the gut. We have 90% of our serotonin, which is our hormone that provides feelings of happiness, located in our gut. 50% is the dopamine in our gut, which is our feel-good hormone. We also have GABA, gamma amino butyric acid, which decreases feelings of stress and anxiety. All of these are located in our gut! Therefore, gut issues, infections, inflammatory diets can influence our mood and behavior. 

Our gut bacteria form these neurotransmitters, so different strains of bacteria will influence these different neurotransmitters. For example, Streptococcus and Enterococcus produce serotonin. Escherichia produces norepinephrine, dopamine, and serotonin. Bacillus species also produce norepinephrine and dopamine. Bifidobacterium produces GABA. Lactobacillus species influence our acetylcholine, which is important for relaxation response, and GABA. 

The nervous system pathways of the gut-brain connection, on the other hand,  primarily exist through the vagus nerve. The vagus nerve originates from the brainstem; it’s the 10th cranial nerve, and it’s actually a pair of nerves. It innervates muscles of the face, throat, heart, respiration, digestion, and our entire elimination track. It is one of the most important nerves of our digestive system. Therefore, we are influencing this gut-to-brain connection when we are either stimulating the gut from a viscera and/or probiotics or vagus nerve stimulation exercises such as breathing. 

It is imperative that we begin to look more closely at these powerful connections and that we look beyond the genetic and environmental components to see why someone may be experiencing anxiety and depression or other mental health issues. Things such as leaky gut, SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth), systemic inflammation, inflammatory foods, and the standard American diet will undoubtedly influence these neurotransmitters and the vagus nerve. This attributes to changes in our serotonin, dopamine, and GABA levels, thereby impacting our mood and behavior. 

What can you do about it? Find a functional medicine provider to help you navigate the physical causes of anxiety and depression. You could also start with testing: leaky gut, SIBO, stool testing to look at your microbiome. 

You can also start by making small changes. Focus on eating an anti-inflammatory diet, optimizing your sleep, and working on stress reduction connections.

Reach out for a 15-minute FREE discovery session to see how we can help you on your journey.

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