Burnout – More than just exhaustion

Australian workers are experiencing a higher level of burnout at 62% compared to the global average of 48%.

The symptoms of burnout include:

  • Exhaustion
  • Anxiety
  • Indifference
  • Depression
  • Irritability and anger
  • Sleep disturbance
  • Lack of motivation or passion
  • Cognitive problems
  • Impaired performance
  • Becoming asocial
  • Emotional lability

In addition to these symptoms, the negative effects of burnout can have significant impacts on relationships, work/home life and self-care.

Distinguishing burnout from other conditions such as clinical depression can be challenging, as many symptoms overlap.

Burnout is often attributed to spreading oneself too thin, but how does this excessive and/or prolonged stress result in the development of burnout?

The biology of burnout

In the face of acute stress, the body responds via the autonomic nervous system (ANS) and the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis activating the ‘flight or fight’ response. The ANS reacts within seconds, increasing heart rate, blood pressure and the release of adrenalin and noradrenalin. Simultaneously, but at a slower rate, the limbic system signals the HPA axis to release a cascade of hormones including glucocorticoids, influencing blood sugar, energy and the immune system.

This chain of events is fundamental for survival and thus beneficial in small amounts. However, excessive and/or prolonged stress is suggested to inhibit the return of these systems to homeostasis resulting in a constant ‘flight or fight’ state which has been linked to burnout.

Additionally, other factors predispose one to ‘burning out’ such as age, relationship status and gender, with higher rates of burnout reported in women compared with men.

Personality traits can also put one at risk, where individuals with dominant attributes of perfectionism, diligence, an inability to say no and a work-focused persona are much more likely to develop burnout.


Reigniting the burnt out flame

Whether you are already burnt out or on the road to burnout, both are recoverable. Ensuring you are receiving core nutritional support is vital in helping you rebuild whilst optimising the stress response to promote resilience. Essential nutrient vitamin C, when dosed at 500 mg twice daily for four weeks contributed to improved cognition along with increased work/study motivation and focus, factors that are diminished in burnout. Further, vitamin C and B vitamins can be depleted during chronic stress, thereby hampering homeostatic regulation of both the ANS and HPA axis. 

Magnesium status is impacted by prolonged stress and supplementation has been shown to alleviate the impact of stress. Magnesium provides foundational nutrition support for feelings of exhaustion. When magnesium was combined with vitamin B6, stress was diminished in severely stressed adults by more than 40%.

If you are feeling exhausted and depleted but wired i.e. ”wired but tired” we can consider herbs such as Rehmannia glutinosa and Panax ginseng which assist to re-establish healthy HPA axis function, offer neuroprotection and support energy levels at times of prolonged stress. 

If you feel you have lost your joie de vivre, adaptogenic/adrenal herbs such as Withania somnifera, Eleuthrococcus senticosus and Rhodiola rosea have shown to improve cognitive performance and reduce the impact of mental and physical stress.

The road from burnout back to wellness can be challenging, as it involves addressing contributing factors such as the cause of the stress, perfectionism tendencies and poor lifestyle choices. I can support you during this journey with streamlined foundational nutrition and targeted herbal support.

Contact me now to experience abundant energy and yet feel calm at the same time!