Have Burnout? Here’s What You Should Know and Do About It
Dr. Ben Connolly
Burnout is the most common undiagnosed medical condition almost all people are suffering from without even knowing it. Many of us feel that we barely survive throughout the day, we wake up in the morning and our first thought is “I can’t wait to go to bed tonight”. Then we drag ourselves throughout the day surviving on coffee and sweet and salty carbs and needing a pick-me-up between 2 and 3 in the afternoon. Finally, after what seems like forever, we make it home exhausted, have supper and then finally feel awake in the evening instead of feeling tired and wanting to go to bed. Then we stay up a bit later and get to bed later than usual only to wake up the next day and repeat. yes, this is burnout, this should not be normal, yet feeling this way has become common to the point that the midafternoon crash has become normal and something people accept as regular and nothing to worry about. Here is what you need to know and what you can do about it.
What you need to know:
Burnout is one hundred percent treatable and reversible. We often do this to ourselves because society has normalized running at 110% every single day and burning the candle at both ends. We actually glorify it. However, when we are burnout out we need to educate ourselves and start to make informed and educated decisions.
Often people think burnout is the fatigue and lack of energy, however, you need to know that burnout can present with the following symptoms:
⦁ low energy
⦁ midsection weight gain (that muffin top and spare tire)
⦁ low motivation to do things you used to enjoy (such as working out or going out with friends)
⦁ short-term memory deficits (can’t remember what you wore 2 days ago)
⦁ difficulty learning something new
⦁ needing to re-read things over and over again
⦁ difficulty staying focused on any one task (you know who you are, you have 20 tabs open on your browser right now!)
⦁ craving salt and sugar
What you can do:
Completely irradicating burnout will take time and some lifestyle changes, however, here are the top 3 things you can do right now to begin to address your burnout:
1. Get to bed on time, ideally between 10-11 PM. If you’re not tired, make yourself tired by using natural sleep aids such as GABA, melatonin, 5-HTP, passion flower, valerian or lemon balm. It is incredibly important to get to bed before midnight if you are suffering from burnout. The reason is that if you are not sleeping the burnout will only get worse and worse. When you are sleeping your brain will naturally release melatonin, melatonin is the opposite hormone to cortisol, which is your stress hormone. Chronic high levels of cortisol are what cause the large majority of all the symptoms listed above. Thus, if you are not sleeping then your cortisol continues to be irregular which will cause the burnout to persist. Melatonin is released in the brain generally between midnight and 2 AM, which is why getting to bed on time and falling asleep is critical to treating burnout.
2. stop eating carbs for breakfast! Too many of us start our day off completely wrong, we wake up late which leaves us without enough time to make a proper breakfast so we do what marketing tells us to do and that is to have a high carbohydrate sugary cereal, or if you’re like most people you don’t even do that but instead grab a slice of toast. Instead, what we should be doing is having a low carb, high, and high-fat breakfast. This will keep your blood sugar balanced throughout the day, eliminate the need or want for a sugary snack at 10:30 AM and eventually can eliminate your mid-afternoon crash when combined with a lower carb lunch. Once you have changed your breakfast and lunch around move your carbs to supper time. Carbs at supper can help to decrease your cortisol which will help you fall asleep easier.
3. Ditch your afternoon coffee to tea or water. We all love our caffeine, however, caffeine can play havoc on our bodies and brains when suffering from burnout. Caffeine is a stimulate and can get our brains going, however, not all of us can break down or metabolize caffeine efficiently which means coffee in the middle of the afternoon could be making your sleep worse and preventing you from reaching that critical deep sleep your body and brain are in need of. Ideally, if you have burnout you should be limiting your caffeine to 2 cups/day and ideally have no coffee after 12 PM. Instead, opt for water or herbal tea.