The demands placed on us from our jobs, relationships, and societal expectations can make modern living incredibly stressful. Unfortunately, living with this constant stress can lead to serious physical and mental health issues.
One way in which chronic stress may disrupt wellness is by encouraging burnout. Although burnout and chronic stress are not the same condition, they are closely related.
Preventing burnout and its harmful effects requires that you know what it is, understand its relation to stress, and employ healthy stress-reducing strategies.
The Basics of Burnout
The term burnout is most often used in reference to individuals suffering from a syndrome triggered by chronic workplace stress. Although burnout is a problem that has been impacting individuals for many years, it was not until May 2019 that the World Health Organization (WHO) officially defined burnout as an “occupational phenomenon.” This announcement is due in part to a recent growing interest regarding the identification and prevention of burnout.
Burnout is exceptionally common with a Gallup study composed of nearly 7,500 full time workers showing that 23% maintained a regular state of burnout. Additionally, approximately 44% reported that they occasionally felt burnt out.
Although it is most prominent among working professionals, burnout can develop in anyone who has chronic stress. Furthermore, even if burnout is not chronic, it can still have a very prominent impact on wellness.
Are You Suffering from Burnout?
Similar to other chronic mood disorders, such as depression, the signs of burnout tend to develop over a long period of time. For this reason, many individuals overlook symptoms and do not recognize they are burning out until major warning signs have developed. Some of the defining characteristics of burnout include a loss of meaning in work or home life, mental, emotional, or physical exhaustion, and loss of motivation. These issues can significantly reduce your sense of well-being and may even threaten your employment.
If you are experiencing some or all of the following symptoms you may be in or heading towards burnout:
- Changes in sleep quality and appetite
- Constant fatigue or lack of energy
- Headache, muscle, and joint pain
- Increased frequency of illness
- Poor immune function
- Cynicism and negativity
- Feeling worthless
- Lack of motivation
- Loneliness or feeling separated from others
- Loss of satisfaction
- Low self-esteem and self-worth
- Avoiding or skipping work, showing up late to work, or leaving early
- Avoiding others or isolating yourself
- Coping through food, drugs, or alcohol use
- Displacing frustration onto others
- Dropping responsibilities
How the Adrenals are Related to Burnout
The adrenals are two small glands that play an essential role in stress management. Because burnout is closely related to stress the adrenals have notable influence over its development.
The adrenals regulate the body’s stress response through numerous hormones. This includes cortisol which is considered to be the most important stress hormones. Cortisol regulates various processes such as energy level, alertness, and immune activity. As stress levels increase, the adrenals release cortisol, which triggers a stress response. This enhances bodily function allowing us to more effectively manage tasks or deal with physical threats. However, constant stress and sustained release of cortisol can result in adrenal fatigue.
When the adrenals are fatigued, multiple systems throughout the body may become dysfunctional. Additionally, adrenal fatigue makes it difficult to handle everyday stressors and may even prolong chronic stress. These factors can contribute greatly to the development and continuation of burnout. To effectively combat adrenal fatigue and by extension burnout, you must properly support adrenal function to reinstate a healthy stress response.
What You Can do to Support the Adrenals and Prevent Burnout
Once fatigued, it can be incredibly difficult to restore adrenal function. However, it is not impossible. Below are several methods of reducing stress and supporting adrenal function that can help alleviate adrenal fatigue and burnout.
Change Your Diet
Eating the wrong types of foods can tax the adrenals and contribute to chronic stress. Limit consumption of processed items, sugary foods, caffeine and alcohol, and any foods that trigger an inflammatory response. Instead, eat more whole foods, nutrient-dense foods, and foods containing healthy fats like omega-3s.
Make Sleep a Priority
Sleep is an essential regulator of stress. Interrupted, inconsistent, or low-quality sleep can contribute significantly to adrenal malfunction and burnout. Pursue good quality sleep by planning to get eight hours every night, limiting exposure to electronic devices before bed, and optimizing your sleep environment.
It is important to note that adrenal dysfunction can actually cause insomnia or the feeling of being “wired and tired” at night, making it difficult to fall and stay asleep. For this reason, we recommend HoltraCeuticals’ Sleep Tight to help you get the rest you need.
Supplement with Adaptogens
Adaptogens are herbs that naturally balance many hormones throughout the body. Supplementing with the proper products can significantly improve adrenal hormone values, thereby improving the body’s stress response. Learn about the top 6 adaptogens to support your adrenals here.
Talk with Someone
Perhaps the best way to beat back the sensations of burnout is by engaging with caring people. Studies suggest that simply sharing your troubles with another person face to face can improve mood and mental state. Furthermore, engaging in group activities helps alleviate sensations of loneliness and may also reduce stress.
If you feel that you aren’t getting the support you need from family and friends, it may be worthwhile to seek out a professional. Here at Holtorf Medical Group, we understand the powerful impact of psychology on overall wellness and bodily function. As such, we are dedicated to providing the greatest care possible in support of better psychological health. One of the ways we do this is by offering psychotherapeutic services.
Final Thoughts on Burnout
If you are burnt out, be sure you do not try to just push through it. Doing so will only exhaust the body further and contribute to greater damage and dysfunction. The first step to recovering from a burnout is recognizing that there is an issue. Next, is to assess the situation and identify contributing factors. Finally, focus on restoring your physical and emotional health by making healthy lifestyle changes that support essential stress-related systems like the adrenals. By making your mental and physical well-being a priority and enacting positive lifestyle changes, you can support your adrenals and defeat burnout.
At Holtorf Medical Group, our team of experts can help address your concerns with the aid of highly-trained physicians that understand the adrenals and how to support them; our health and nutrition coach who can help create an adrenal-supporting meal plan that works for you; our caring psychotherapist who can provide you with the support you need to identify your stressors and help you overcome burnout. If you are experiencing symptoms of burnout, give us a call at 877-508-1177 to see how we can help you!
Resources1. Gallup. “Employee Burnout, Part 1: The 5 Main Causes.” Gallup.
2. Lastovkova, Andrea et al. “Burnout syndrome as an occupational disease in the European Union: an exploratory study.” Industrial health vol. 56,2 (2018): 160-165.
3. NIH. “5 Things You Should Know About Stress.” National Institute of Mental Health.
4. Mayo Clinic Staff “Chronic stress puts your health at risk.” Mayo Clinic.
5. APA Staff. “Stress effects on the body.” American Psychological Association.
How HMG Has Helped Others: Patient Testimonial
I’ve been a patient of Dr. Lisa Hunt for several years when her office was located in Modesto. I ended up moving to the Mt. Shasta area and she and her husband to Los Angeles, joining Holtorf Medical Group. I was thrilled we could continue our relationship long-distance as she has helped me resolve several issues which were dismissed by other physicians previously. I was in a high-stress job, unable to lose weight, menopausal, had hot flashes at night which disturbed my sleep, fatigued, experiencing blood sugar fluctuations (diabetes runs in my family so I already eat carefully), and I could go on. Tweaking my supplement profile, adding compounded versions of thyroid, and putting me back on hormone replacement therapy and DIM helped me feel like my old self again. Thanks Dr. Lisa! – Lorinda F.