Tools For Managing Burnout
Heat therapy is one of the best ways to lower stress and avoid burnout
I know I know, you’re probably wondering why you’re hearing from me AGAIN but I had to get this out there.
I recently read a Ketchum report on financial services professionals says 52% feel more burned out in their job now than at the beginning of the pandemic, citing top causes of burnout as financial obligations (38%), being isolated from others (34%) and their job (30%).
It may sound counterintuitive for leaders to look for ways to get their employees to stop working, but hear me out. Employee burnout—classified by the World Health Organization as feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion; increased mental distance from one’s job or feelings negative toward one’s career or reduced professional productivity—is real.
Burned out employees are not as productive as mentally healthy employees. According to Gallup, they are 63% more likely to use a sick day and 2.6 times likely to be looking for a different job. They cost firms and the economy overall billions annually, so it is imperative that in this moment when so many of our team members are feeling mentally exhausted by work, industry leaders actively encourage or insist that employees take their down time if they want to drive success in their firms.
I am not going to bore you with ways to overcome triggers, I am actually going to show you that you can be taking meaningful steps each day and accessing tools and therapies such as sauna and hot bath therapy to lower your stress on a daily basis to mitigate the pile on effects of stress.
Ok, let’s go.
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What is burnout?
The term “burnout” is a relatively new term, 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.”
When stress becomes overwhelming and persistent over time, it can have profoundly negative impacts on your health – and your endocrine system, particularly, takes a big hit.
Long-term exposure to stress has been shown to lead to various endocrine disorders, including hyperthyroidism, diabetes, gonadal dysfunction, psychosocial dwarfism (an extreme form of failure to thrive associated with dramatic behavioral abnormalities), and obesity—to name a few.
6 Warning Signs That You're Heading For Burnout
Having a negative and critical attitude at work.
Dreading going into work, and wanting to leave once you're there.
Having low energy, and little interest at work.
Having trouble sleeping.
Being absent from work a lot.
Having feelings of emptiness.
Your Brain on Burnout
Chronic stress has long been known to contribute to mental and physical diseases, and now researchers are able to capture what happens to the brain. When you get stressed, your body releases cortisol, aka the stress hormone.
In limited bursts, this isn’t a bad thing. Cortisol has the power to lower your blood pressure, manage your blood sugar, and reduce inflammation within the body.
But chronic stress — that is, repeated and prolonged exposure to something stressful, like the demanding job or gravely ill parent mentioned above — doesn’t offer the same perks.
Over long periods of time, elevated levels of cortisol can push you further down the road toward obesity, heart disease, depression, high blood pressure, and unhealthy lifestyle behaviors.
There’s proof it takes a toll on your gray matter as well.
One of the most striking effects of burnout is thinning of the gray matter. The area that begins to thin first is the prefrontal cortex. This area helps us to act appropriately. It gives us insight about ourselves and others. It gives us perspective. It allows us to do complex decision-making and to be able to have thoughtful, abstract reasoning rather than concrete or habitual responses.
By weakening that area, burnout can impact our ability to pay attention and retain memories, making it harder to learn new things and increasing the risk for mistakes.
That’s not all. Burnout can enlarge the amygdala, which is the part of the brain responsible for our “fight-or-flight” response when in danger.
It’s a double whammy. At the same time the prefrontal cortex is getting weaker and more primitive, the brain circuits that generate emotion like fear are getting stronger. You start seeing the world as harmful even when it’s not.
Tools to Manage Burnout
After all, you literally take money out of your pocket when you are burnt out and stressed so why not start adopting the tools
When you socialize and feel supported, your body produces more oxytocin. This “feel good” hormone reduces anxiety and generates a sense of calmness. It also has the power to reduce those pesky cortisol levels.
As you probably already know, prioritizing and getting deep, restful sleep is the single most crucial thing that you can do to recover from burnout and stress. When you get your 8 hours of sleep (or whatever that sweet spot is for you for a restful night of sleep) on a regular basis, you feel better during the day, get sick less often, have more energy, and spend your days generally in a better mood.
You can check out our various sleep articles and podcast episodes here:
One of the reasons exercise has such a powerful effect on stress is due to its effect on neurotransmitters, the signaling molecules that your body uses to talk to your brain, and vice versa. You have both “inhibitory” and “excitatory” neurotransmitters. The inhibitory neurotransmitters are serotonin and GABA, and these primarily make you feel happy and de-stressed, and can even help sleep when present in adequate amounts. However, if these hormones are depleted or low due to poor diet, lack of physical activity, or high stress, you can suffer from depression, insomnia, anger, and a vicious cycle of even more stress.
Meanwhile, you also have excitatory neurotransmitters, like glutamate, catecholamines, beta-phenylethylamine and dopamine. In balanced amounts, these excitatory neurotransmitters help to keep you alert, thinking sharply, focused and de-stressed. But in high amounts, they can cause more stress, panic, anxiety, and poor sleep.
On that note, I am off to do some nature walking. This always lowers my cortisol levels!
Until next time,
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