Burnout. A trendy buzzword and, more importantly, a serious problem affecting an increasingly significant number of people, particularly ambitious, career-focused individuals.
To connect everything together, we’re going to look at the following:
- How burnout happens
- What burnout ‘feels’ and ‘looks’ like
- Three easy, accessible, and free ways to banish burnout
How Burnout Happens
Are you juggling a demanding career while climbing the corporate ladder? Add on personal ambitions - maybe you volunteer, have a side hustle, or have another passion. Have you for years kept a full plate, working long hours, socializing, doing intense workouts every day, either skimping on sleep or not getting quality sleep? You also squeeze in socializing and spending time with family and friends. Your diet fluctuates. Or maybe you eat super clean (one consistent going for you!)
But as time passes, this constant state stresses the body. Add on additional pressures that are inevitable in life. Maybe it's a sick parent or child. A micromanaging boss. Work that is no longer enjoyable. Everyone is impatient, needed something from you yesterday, and expects you to drop everything for them. You get laid off.
Maybe it’s a romantic relationship that has run its course, and it’s time to move on, but you’re not sure how.
Maybe it’s a friendship that’s turned toxic. Someone you used to be close with who no longer respects you and criticizes everything you say or do.
Modern-day living. Social media. Society's expectations and pressures of living a certain lifestyle, looking a certain way, having certain things, and going to ‘the’ places.
Your physical environment.
Your own health and how you’re wired. For example, Type A and/or empathetic personas (especially when combined) tend to be more susceptible to burnout.
The economy in the US.
The scenarios and examples are endless. Chances are, ‘life’ as we have come to know it in 2023 can be A LOT in general. And when you compound multiple ‘stressors’ alongside your internal wiring and health, chances are that your nervous system is going to get out of whack from always being ‘on’, going, pushing, and doing all the things.
In addition, if you’re already navigating any health issues, whether diagnosed or secretly brewing, the body has a hard time bouncing back.
Even if you are doing some of the ‘right’ things for your health - whether it be eating a balanced, clean, and overall healthy diet or working out, there can come the point when the nervous system is so out of whack that you still end up in burn out. This is due to the sympathetic nervous system constantly being activated by stressors. You live in a state of ‘alert’ aka in fight or flight mode, ready for something - an email, a call, a challenging conversation, anticipating the worst, the mind fixated on the never-ending to-do list. The body gets stuck always being ‘on’. This always being ‘on’ leads to the body needing to work extra hard at everything. It also brings on inflammation, and the body does not get a chance to repair itself.
Do You Recognize Burnout?
Some tell-tale signs of burnout include feeling:
- Intense Exhaustion - mentally, physically and/or emotionally. Often a combination
- Always ‘on’
- Trapped/stuck - in a job or situation (relationship, life, etc.)
- Can’t ‘see’ beyond where you are
- Frequently emotional
- Anxious & overwhelmed more often than not
- No energy
- Lack of interest in what typically always interested you
- Knots in your stomach or a burning sensation
- Lack of appetite
- Lack of motivation, particularly when you’re one to be ambitious at work and in play
- Odd sensations throughout your body
- Racing heart or that it's about to beat out of your chest
- Heavy, irritable, and on high alert, usually from the moment you wake up
Here are some responses or actions as well:
- You can’t function without a hit of caffeine
- You can’t sleep without the help of a pill or glass of wine
- You can’t focus and produce great work without a ton of extra effort
- Your stomach is frequently upset, bloated, and you’ve got pooping problems
- Your brain is always on and cycling through non-stop thinking
- Your emotions and mood swings are all over the place
There are definitely more signs and symptoms; this is just a snapshot of some common ones. Worth pointing out these ‘signs’, ‘symptoms’, and scenarios show up in other conditions as well, namely anxiety and depression. Because…they’re all interrelated. What is important is to understand what is underneath and causes the symptoms and responses to be sure that any serious health conditions are addressed.
Therefore, it is strongly encouraged to seek out medical care, recommended through a holistic/functional medicine physician and/or coach, to identify any serious underlying medical conditions, get clear on the cause(s) and figure out what support you need. Holistic or functional medicine practitioners are recommended as they will do a very comprehensive, full-body deep dive, and efforts are to connect all the pieces together versus looking at areas in isolation.
There is a chance your overall health is OK! However, these ‘symptoms’ should be taken seriously as consistent burnout can lead to bigger health issues, including heart complications, diabetes, and autoimmune conditions. Besides, who doesn’t want to feel great?
No matter what, take a big deep breath, INHALE & Slowly EXHALE. Good!
The thing is - you and your body likely don’t know any better. When you are frequently experiencing stress and these symptoms, while unpleasant, your body becomes used to these feelings and sensations. Your nervous system gets ‘stuck’ and tricked into thinking it’s supposed to feel like this and essentially ‘forgets’ what it is like to feel good.
All this stress is taxing and toxic to the body.
The idea I encourage is to not get attached to a label - rather, recognize that things are out of balance in the body.
Your body is telling you that ‘something’ needs to change.
The body is designed to let us know when something is not right. Unfortunately, for many, we have years of conditioning & abandonment that confuse or disregard the signaling.
But! This can change! Yes - it is possible to learn to listen to what your body tells you at any age. The good news is that the cycles can be broken - you don’t have to stay stuck in burnout, and these ‘feels’ forever.
I know from personal experience. Admittedly, I couldn’t ‘see’ or know there was another side for a long time. But, through mindfulness practices, learning how to regulate and support my nervous system, and lifestyle changes, I’ve been able to flip the script and kick burnout to the curb.
I’ve also guided clients through their personal journeys, supporting them as they incorporate mindfulness and nervous system regulation tools that work for them. For example, I have a client who leans into her journaling practice and loves to dance to get the energy moving.
Now for the part you all have been waiting for…
What if I told you that you have access to (at least) 3 FREE tools that will empower you to break the burnout cycles and banish burnout for good, prevent burnout as well AND easily and quickly calm and regulate the nervous system?
Also, they are simple, accessible, and personalized. Because when you’re in need of a reset amid your full day, quick tools are where it’s at. Oh - and less is more; we’re not adding a lot on to already busy schedules.
I use these tools personally (which empowered me to break the burnout cycles and now are a regular part of every day) AND I use them with clients:
3 Free Go To Tools Are
- Sensory Engagement
This likely isn’t your first time hearing how mindfulness and breathing are superpowers when it comes to our health. What about sensory engagement? It is my absolute favorite for many reasons. Particularly when combined with mindfulness and breathing, you support your health AND experiences in life become more magical.
Below are examples and ways that you can incorporate each into your day.
- Anything that brings you to the present moment. This can be as simple as noticing how the water in the shower feels on your skin.
- Meditation - even sitting for 5 minutes supports you throughout your day.
- Limiting multitasking and giving your full attention to whatever you’re doing.
- Being aware of sensations in the body, how does your body truly feel, emotions, thoughts, etc. And not getting attached. Experience and let it go.
- Slowing down.
- Noticing where your mind goes throughout the day. While with others. When anything uncomfortable happens.
- Super basic - are you actually inhaling & exhaling? Is your breath shallow? Audible - can you hear your breath?
- ‘Simple’ breathwork techniques. A few favorites that can instantly calm the nervous system, mind & body (and also positively impact you later) include:
BOX BREATH: Breathing in and out of the nose. A pattern of 4 with 4 breaths. Repeat for several minutes (or as long as you have time to)
- Inhale for 4 counts
- Hold for 4 counts
- Exhale for 4 counts
- Hold for 4 counts
COHERENT BREATH: Done in and out of the nose. A pattern of inhaling for a count and doubling the exhale. Without pausing, continuing fluidly, inhaling, and exhaling. Allowing the breath to flow through the body.
- A great go-to is to inhale for 4 counts, exhale for 8 counts.
Tapping into and engaging the 5 senses - smell, touch, taste, sound, and sight. Oftentimes one at a time is a terrific way to also add in mindfulness. It also works to engage several senses for a complete experience. Here are some ideas and reflections that lend to mindfulness and the overall experience:
- Slowly savoring your morning cup of coffee (or favorite beverage) vs. gulping it down. Do you pick up on the various flavors? Is it bold? Smooth?
- Eating without multitasking (A few times a week to start if you don’t already. Then try for once a day).
- Smelling your favorite candle or perfume (ideally natural and clean versions!), picking up on the various notes. Do the scents bring up any memories?
- Feeling the fabric of your clothes on your body. Is the material soft? Rough? Cozy? How does what you are wearing make you feel?
- Listening to your favorite music without multitasking. Noticing the beats and lyrics, perhaps more clearly than you ever have before. How does the music make you feel?
- Watching a sunset. In silence (perhaps!) Noticing all the colors as the sky transforms.
The sensory engagement exercises bring you into a state of mindfulness. Add in some conscious breathing while you’re at it, perhaps while listening to music or watching a sunset, and you’ve got a full-on calming, grounding experience! Also, being in nature (sneaking in a 4th tool;) also supports your nervous system. So if you can combine sensory engagement with nature, there is a super-powered tool to navigate burnout.
Another benefit of sensory engagement is that you can have an instant energy shift while calming your nervous system. Curious? I developed a FREE Guide - Instant Energy Shift that you can get here.
There are more ways to calm your nervous system and ultimately banish or stop burnout from becoming a serious problem. If you’re interested in learning more, including other suggestions that specifically fit within your unique life and interests, I offer free Exploratory calls. While there are commonalities, everyone’s situation is unique. I see each client for where they are in their health journey and life and support them from a place that aligns with their dreams, visions, and goals.
In conclusion, burnout cycles can be broken or avoided using simple, accessible, and free tools that everyone has access to anytime and anywhere.
Please note this is not medical advice or meant to replace medical care. If you’re experiencing persistent ‘symptoms’, particularly as it relates to the heart and lungs/breathing, PLEASE seek medical attention immediately. All content is the author’s (Megan Joy Doyle) knowledge, experience, and opinion.
About The Author
Megan Doyle is a Well Me Right Wellness Expert and a Holistic Health Practitioner who empowers ambitious, career-focused women who are battling burnout and autoimmune conditions to make sustainable lifestyle changes to transform their health naturally. She specializes in supporting women with rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and sjogrens. However, she works with women with all autoimmune conditions. She ‘retired’ from her 21-year-long career in the corporate world in June of 2022 to focus on building her holistic health practice and indulge in her love of learning through additional training and certifications that enable her to support clients from a holistic framework with modalities that are natural, accessible and oftentimes affordable. She currently holds the following certifications: Certified Holistic Health Coach - Functional Medicine Coaching Academy (FMCA) (an Institute of Functional Medicine (IFM) certified program), Reiki Level 1 Practitioner, RYT 200 hour yoga teacher certification, Breathwork/Meditation Facilitation Practitioner - Academy of Breath (AOB).
Book Wellness Expert sessions offered by Megan on Well Me Right.