I know all too well the misery and frustration involved when you experience a debilitating burnout. Seven years ago I was a severely stressed out Doctor working in Emergency, doing long shifts with no breaks and spending whatever free time I had drinking wine with friends instead of going to the gym.
My life looked fine on the outside – I was successful and had everything a person was meant to have to be happy, but I was almost always worried and stressed about the future – exams, interviews, studies, research, or worse, the past – am I sure that patient I sent home with heartburn last week hasn’t died of a heart attack?
Eventually the intense mental and emotional stress coupled with a lack of self-care, rest and good nutrition meant I collapsed in a heap with a virus that left me bed-bound for two months and severely depleted for a number of years after that.
At the time I had no idea I was suffering from burnout. That was something I pieced together in retrospect. I thought I was fine and that I was life’s victim – 'woe is me!' I would think.
Now I look back and am so grateful life had rugby-tackled me like that. Why? Because I was forced to learn a new way of living. One which has allowed me to create the life I have today, filled with greater joy, peace and meaning than I had ever known before. The process of recovering from burnout isn’t a one size fits all. We are all unique – but there are some questions we can all ask ourselves as a starting point in order to learn self-care practices for a healthy mind, body and soul.
How to avoid burnout and manage stress
Do you get enough sleep for you? I discovered that I need 9-10 hours of sleep to perform at my optimum level during the day. Try to go to bed by 10pm if you can, although I know this can be tough with adrenal fatigue, try and develop a routine where your body will naturally get tired if you repeat the same bed time rituals every day – do not underestimate managing insomnia when dealing with burnout!
Do you eat regularly, not too much and have good fats and proteins with each meal or snack? Do you eat too much sugar and simple carbohydrates? Do you drink tap water instead of filtering it? Do you choose organic produce? Do you enjoy lots of vegetables each day? Making sure you are aware of what you eat is very integral in living the healthiest version of yourself physically, mentally and emotionally.
How are your Vitamin D levels? Are you iron deficient? Do you care for your microbiome by including probiotics and fermented food? Make sure you aren't ignoring the right supplements you need to live at your optimum level.
4. Exercise and breathing
Do you move your body every day? Do you make sure to stretch, strengthen and relax? Do you take regular deep breathing breaks? Being mindful of your breathing – it's one of the most important factors in dealing with burnout.
What cosmetics and cleaning products do you use? Chances are that your are part of the majority of people ingesting thousands of chemicals into your body every single day. Do you consume excessive toxins in the form of alcohol, drugs and food preservatives? It may be worth looking after your liver and going easy on your body.
If we are to thrive in this crazy, chaotic world, we must have some method to release negative, fearful thinking. Meditation is one of the best ways I know to do this and it can make a big difference practicing only 15 minutes a day.
Another great tool when dealing with burnout and to stop vicious, repetitive thoughts exploding all over your consciousness and making you miserable is to journal. Whatever is troubling you, write it down – it is so helpful and there is a lot of research to back this up.
If you are overwhelmed by stress in a long-term way, feel you have no choice but to continue overworking, then it is really important to examine why you treat yourself this way. Yes, society encourages dysfunctional working habits, but not everyone accepts these unspoken rules about working yourself to the bone.
Do you feel you need to overwork to be successful? Is it true that you need to torture yourself to achieve your goals and be worthy of love? The truth is that many people become very successful, living balanced lives, not trying to prove anything to anyone. They love their work and know when to stop. And you can too.
How to nurture self-love
Are your emotions a sign of weakness in your opinion? Have you been raised (or taught yourself) to man up and get on with it?
Stuffing and neglecting your emotions is very harmful to the body, mind and soul. The more you suppress your so-called negative feelings like anger, sadness or jealousy, the more you suppress your positive emotions like joy and love.
So do the right thing and ask yourself these important questions that will help you live the best version of yourself physically, emotionally and mentally, so that you don't deal with burnout and the catastrophic effects it can have on your self-love. Take care of your body vessel – it's the only one you have.