I recently was part of a panel for WIDAC (Women In Design and Construction) event to discuss how to ‘Avoid the burnout’. Other members on the panel included a naturopath, physical trainer, osteopath and meditation expert. It was an eye opening experience being a part of these discussions, and hearing the perspectives of other health professionals and women in the audience. As a dietitian, I see a number of clients whose physical health has been impacted by a burnout.
Before I go into the strategies for avoiding a burnout, I would first like to explain what exactly we mean by the term ‘burnout’.
What is a ‘burnout’
‘Burnout’ literally means burnt out!
The term was coined in 1974, and is defined as a ‘lack of energy and emotions for work, especially among professionals who work in a direct relationship with the beneficiaries of their service’. It is defined as having major psychological impacts. Another more detailed definition of ‘burnout’ was coined in 2002 which was a multidimensional definition. It has three components:
- Emotional exhaustion which involves feeling exhausted to an extent that it can make you anxious.
- Depersonalisation refers to feeling detached from one’s efforts towards their work.
- Reduced personal accomplishment refers to not feeling satisfied with the work that is completed.
Causes for burnouts
- Job strain which can be caused by lack of control, along with very high job demands
- Inadequate support at work from colleagues and people one has to report to at work
- Rewards don’t match the efforts
- Job insecurity
Impacts on health
- Increased risk of mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety
- Lack of sleep
- Decreased motivation to eat healthy or exercise which can lead to obesity and other chronic health conditions
- Can impact gut health with issues like irritable bowel syndrome as the mind and gut have a strong connection
Strategies to overcome burnout
- Avoid short term fixes:
Often when we start to feel burnt out, we begin over-consuming alcohol and comfort foods as a way to escape the feelings of stress, helplessness, exhaustion etc. However, bear in mind that while this may help in the short term, this increases risk of chronic health issues (such as obesity, heart disease and liver cirrhosis) in the long term. Another thing to remember is that a burnout is preventable. When stress is beginning to take over, take a break or even change jobs in order to clear your head. Because, once your health has been altered significantly from excessive and prolonged stress, it is not as easy to reverse.
- Controlling the mind and establishing mind-body ramifications:
As established previously, having a burnout has psychological ramifications. Useful techniques include ‘manta’ meditation; a meditation that brings awareness to thoughts and useful breathing techniques. These techniques help you respond to stressful situations rather than react to them and allow them to overwhelm you.
- Eat regular meals:
The first thing that happens when you start feeling burnt out is that you start skipping meals, and instead, constantly snack. This not only reduces the quality of your diet but also makes you fatigued which worsens the ‘burnout’ feeling. So, think of food as necessary, quality fuel that you require to be able to think carefully and problem-solve. Creating a good relationship and perception of food will help you in sticking to your 3 quality meals a day.
So, instead of waiting to get to a stage where you’re already burnt out before taking action, start taking preventative measures now. Make your health your priority and try to establish a good work-life balance.
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This article was written by our dietitian and nutritionist Juhi Bhambhaney If you have any questions regarding health and nutrition, make an appointment with one of our dietitians. We‘ll provide you with a simple and effective routine targeted to your concerns. Contact us today.