Burnout is now officially recognised by the World Health Organisation. Burnout can happen when we are under work related stress for a prolonged time. It is a state of physical and mental exhaustion that is often associated with depression and physical aches, pains and digestive problems.

The term “burnout” was first used by NASA to describe a rocket out of fuel but still moving. People with burnout may look to be functioning normally, but they lack energy, often feel lost and feel helpless. Whereas stress is a high energy state, burnout is a state of low energy that can result from stress over time. People with burnout are often demotivated and feel that their work is meaningless.

Research has also shown that burnout is highly correlated and associated with a number of health concerns; these include:

– Hypercholesterolemia

– Type 2 diabetes

– Heart disease

– Musculoskeletal pain

– Prolonged fatigue

– Headaches

– Insomnia

– Mortality under the age of 45

Some evidence suggests that entrepreneurs are more likely to become burnout because they can be highly passionate about their work and are often more socially isolated.

A survey carried out by the Harvard Business Review found that entrepreneurs who reported high scores of “obsessive passion” were more likely to experience burnout than those who reported high scores of “harmonious passion”.

One, particularly concerning symptom of burnout is “depersonalisation”, which is a state created by cynicism and a lack of empathy. This can cause problems for business owners with employees, particularly those who work in healthcare industries.

What Can Be Done to Prevent & Treat Burnout?

The first thing to do – is to see and get tested by a doctor, who can then monitor your recovery.

It is thought that prolonged, high levels of stress hormones, including cortisol, lead to burnout. Cortisol is an important and usually helpful hormone. For example, cortisol levels are high first thing in the morning, which helps us get out of bed and ready for the day. Cortisol and other stress hormones such as adrenaline are also released when we perceive a threat, such as an aggressive wild animal or some other type of danger. The problem with burnout, however, is that cortisol levels remain high, and we still perceive threats and stressors, even if they are not physically present or causing issues imminently. This elevated level of stress can lead to a rebound effect, whereby we’ve burnt out our cortisol, which leads to a lack of motivation and a range of other problems, including chronic inflammation. Inflammation is directly correlated with depression, heart disease and cancer.

If you think you are suffering from burnout – please be sure to seek professional help and treatment.

Rest

Once you have sought professional help with burnout, it is possible that one of the recommendations will be to rest. While some people may benefit from a week at home, with their feet up, for others, it might be more therapeutic to spend time hiking with friends or taking time out with the family.

Rest doesn’t have to be done over a set time, such as a week off work. You could schedule a weekly massage or catch up with a friend. Rest is essential, sometimes as a reset every few months. Rest or recreation should also be prioritised on a regular basis so that stress hormones don’t creep up for prolonged periods.

Sleep is an essential form of rest. If you struggle to get to sleep, having a nighttime routine, including a regular time for going to bed (and waking up), can help significantly. Eliminating caffeine in the afternoons can also help you get to sleep. Baths are great, too; this is because as soon as you get out of a hot bath, your body begins to get rid of any excess heat, which in turn helps you to sleep. A scientific paper published in Sleep Medicine Reviews concluded that taking a bath 90 minutes before bedtime is best. There are also supplements that can help you sleep, including magnesium, hops, valerian and passionflower but always discuss any supplements with a doctor. A final tip for getting a good night’s sleep is to turn down the lights and turn off your phone and computer at least an hour before bed, as blue light exposure has been shown to impact an individual’s ability to get to sleep negatively.

Nutrition & Adaptogens

Hippocrates once said, “let food be thy medicine, and medicine be thy food”. In the modern-day, it’s also good to get advice from a doctor regarding medication and other holistic forms of treatment. Still, as with many ailments and illnesses, nutrition can make all the difference when it comes to burnout.

Your doctor or a nutritionist must oversee any changes in your diet.

Some general guidelines, however, include:

– Eating whole foods

– Eliminating processed foods

– Eat less sugar

– Drink lots of water

Adaptogens are herbs and plants that have been scientifically proven to help regulate stress hormones and stress responses in the body. Popular adaptogenic herbs include Rhodiola Rosea, ashwagandha and ginseng.

Rhodiola Rosea, for example, has been shown in studies to help reduce fatigue, improve cognitive performance, improve wellbeing and a decrease in c-reactive protein – which causes inflammation. You can see a table that summarises all of the research on examine.com.

Taking care of your gut health is also essential for general wellbeing. This may involve consuming foods such as collagen, which help maintain the gut lining and reduce gut inflammation. Fermented foods such as kefir and sauerkraut have also been shown to produce a favourable microbiome.

Talking Therapy

One of the treatments that a doctor may suggest is talking therapy or Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). If you don’t want to wait or you don’t want to pay to see a therapist, several books can guide you through CBT so that you can treat yourself.

Outsourcing

If you own a business, then time or lack of time can cause a great deal of stress. One way to free up more time is to take advantage of outsourcing. You could, for example, sign up for a virtual receptionist service provider such as Moneypenny. You can opt for a 24/7 service so that you can relax at the weekends and in the evenings, without having to listen out for your phone constantly. In addition, you can focus on the work at hand without having to worry about interruptions from annoying spam or sales calls.

virtual assistant can also be hired for a relatively cheap hourly fee, especially if you look overseas for someone to hire. A virtual assistant can respond to specific emails, helping with bookkeeping, administrative tasks and even digital marketing.

Green Exercise

We all know by now that exercise is excellent for mental health. What is less well known is that you can increase the benefits of exercise by engaging in physical activity outdoors.

One study on the benefits of green exercise concluded:

“… outdoor natural environments may provide some of the best all-around health benefits by increasing physical activity levels with lower levels of perceived exertion, altering physiological functioning including stress reduction, restoring mental fatigue, and improving mood and self-esteem and perceived health.”

Socialising 

Social connections and relationships are crucial for mental health. A lack of social connections has been shown to increase stress hormones and weaken the immune system. Lonely people tend to exercise less, get tired quickly and consume more alcohol. While social media can help us stay in touch, face to face interactions fortify the “tend and befriend” mechanism and stimulate the vagus nerve.

The vagus nerve controls and influences a vast array of bodily functions, including digestion, the immune response and mood. If you are unable to get out and socialise for any reason, there are several exercises that you can do to help stimulate the nervous system, which in turn can promote wellbeing by reducing inflammation and stimulating digestion.