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7 Proven Ways to Keep Burnout Syndrome from Ruining Your Life

By Dennis Buckley

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When it's late at night and I'm tired of playing Netflix roulette, I'll often throw on a good nature documentary.

You've seen'em.

  • They can be immaculately produced and beautifully shot.
  • They're usually narrated by David Attenborough.
  • Likely on the BBC Network.
And they almost ALWAYS  have a gripping chase sequence.

Like this one I watched a few weeks ago.

This harmless little antelope was being chased by a blood-thirsty cheetah with a belly to fill.

The antelope was able to keep the pace for a while, but eventually it just wore down.

It reached a point of complete exhaustion, leaving the antelope with no choice, but to submit and become...

... cheetah food.

Now, you might have 99 problems, but trying to outrun a hungry cheetah is probably not one of them.

But there is something we all have to stay ahead of on a daily basis: stress.

You can't outrun or outwork stress, try as you might, and if you're not careful, it might just consume you.

In this article, we'll cover the 7-step system that's guaranteed to help you overcome, prevent, or recover from the end game of unmitigated stress: burnout syndrome. 

What are the Symptoms of Burnout Syndrome?

Burnout syndrome isn’t officially a medical diagnosis. It's actually a broad set of symptoms associated with overwhelming and unrelenting stress.
 
The best known test for assessing burnout is the Maslach Burnout Inventory (MBI) [1]. It's a symptoms test that describes burnout as a three-dimensional syndrome consisting of:
 
  • Emotional exhaustion
  • Depersonalization and
  • Reduced personal accomplishment [1, 2].
 
Here’s what happens in a nutshell:
 
When you're mentally and physically overworked for too long, your life will grow increasingly imbalanced. 
 
The most common sources of severe stress come from:
  • Pressure at work
  • Working too much
  • Not getting enough exercise
  • Not sleeping enough
  • Financial burdens
  • Unhelpful criticisms from others
  • Relationship strain
When unmanaged, an imbalance in any one of these areas can easily imbalance another, casting you deeper into the downward spiral of burnout.

And just like the antelope that reaches the point of exhaustion, this is how you reach the point of burnout.

BONUS: Low serotonin is linked with many symptoms of burnout. Take this free quiz to find out if you're at risk.

 
Common signs of burnout include: 
  • Chronic fatigue 
  • Insomnia 
  • Constant illness
  • Weight gain or loss of appetite
  • Anxiety 
  • Depression
  • Anger issues
  • Negative thoughts and emotions
  • Detachment
  • Decreased productivity 
  • Forgetfulness 
  • Inability to concentrate and pay attention
 

How Prolonged Stress Affects Your Body

Sitting in traffic. Waiting in lines. Sitting in traffic just to go wait in line somewhere.

It stresses me out just thinking about stress.

Situations like these activate your body's stress response axis (the HPA axis) so your body will start pumping out two key stress hormones: adrenalin and cortisol. Together, these hormones prepare your body for the fight-or-flight stress response.
  
When stressful events are short-lived? Fine, no big deal, your hormone levels will slowly come back to their normal -- when the terrified antelope is given a brief rest, for instance.
 
But when we never experience relief from that stress?  Cortisol levels are constantly elevated and begin to interfere with normal body functions like sleep, digestion and immune function.
 
If this state of chronic stress goes on long enough, your body can fail to produce enough cortisol to keep up, which leads to a state known as adrenal fatigue.

And adrenal fatigue leads to burnout.
 

How Burnout Influences Your Mind and Memory

According to Dr. Shimi Kang, a Vancouver-based psychiatrist and frequent speaker on the subject of workplace and mental health:
 
“Severe chronic stress has been shown to cause the shrinkage or enlargement, thinning and premature aging in the:
 
  • Amygdala
  • Anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) and
  • Medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC)
– areas of the brain which modulate our stress response. ”
 
“There is also a strong correlation between long-term stress and significant loss of grey matter, making our brains more vulnerable to neurotoxins.” – continues Dr. Kang.
 

How to Recover From Burnout Syndrome

Since burnout isn’t a medically valid diagnosis yet, there’s no unique burnout treatment or recovery recommendation.
 
However, we know enough about stress -- and how to better cope with it -- to share some effective recovery techniques.
 

Recover from Burnout Syndrome Using These 7 Proven Steps:

1) Find a hobby - Stimulate your brain in new ways that are very different from your job and daily tasks. Learning to plan an instrument, doing something physical like rock climbing or a recreational sport, cooking, and so on will do. The more playful, the better. Find your own thing and stick to it.

2) Spend time with people you love every day - No-brainer. Right? Spending quality time with your friends and family, in a pleasant and familiar setting can work wonders for your wellbeing. Having fun and laughing with them will boost your endorphins and serotonin levels (“the happiness hormone”). This will reduce stress hormone levels. Go for positive, meaningful social connections! 

3) Devote at least 15 minutes to yourself every day - Our brain needs to unwind and recharge on a daily basis, so it’s important to give yourself some “you time” each day. That can mean anything you want. Staring at the celling, having a relaxing bath, or spending time in nature will do. The trick is to find something that relaxes you.

Which leads us to...

4) Meditate - Meditation also boosts “the happiness hormones”, positively balancing brain hormones and neurotransmitters. As little as 10 to 15 minutes of meditation each day will do wonders for your brain health and wellbeing.

5) Work smarter not harder - Track how much time you spend on your phone, on social media, or coffee breaks at work. There’re lots of productivity apps that can help you cut the time wasters. Avoid time tracking apps though as they can make you even more anxious. 

Bonus: Implement these 7 "smart cuts" into your routine today.

6) Take supplements- Several studies have found that taking supplements containing Rhodiola rosea root extract can help alleviate stress-related symptoms, like fatigue or sensation of weakness [3, 4]. Try finding supplements containing about 400 mg of Rhodiola rosea root extract as they’re most effective. But remember to read clinical studies with a grain of salt as we discussed in this article.

7) Unplug and unwind - Many of us need to feel busy and productive 24/7, so it’s no wonder why burnout is so common. Taking the time to detach can give you relief from the stress, whether that's taking 15 minutes to yourself during a busy work day, or heck, maybe you just need a proper vacation to really reset.

The stress of daily life will never disappear, but you now have the proven tools to help ensure that stress is managed, so you'll never run the risk of burnout.
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How do you manage stress and overcome burnout syndrome? Let us know in the comments below!

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