Burnout – Recognise It And Over Come It

Our busy lifestyles are relentlessly stressful leaving us feeling overwhelmed, emotionally drained, and unable to meet the constant demands that life throws at us. We are trying to remember one of the many tabs we have open in our brain hoping we don’t forget the kid’s fitness class or the birthday party on the weekend. We don’t have to have a stressful life event to happen for burn out to occur, the busyness of your lifestyle can leave you feeling burnt out.


What Is Burnout?

Burnout is an umbrella term for a group of symptoms that are caused by the adrenal glands not working at their optimum.  It can affect anyone and it is exhaustion which is emotional, physical and mental. The adrenal glands produce cortisol and it is your main stress hormone. Levels of cortisol naturally rise and fall throughout the day and healthy people can moderate their stress response which allows them to meet the challenges they face daily. However, if you are suffering from burn out the adrenal glands fail to produce sufficient amounts of hormones needed by the body.


What Are The Stages Of Burnout?

Stage 1 – Alarm Stage

The alarm stage is when the adrenal glands increase cortisol levels to adapt to the demands of stress or the busyness of your day. This is a healthy survival-based response which the body can adapt to for a short period of time. 

Stage 1 Symptoms:

  • Anxiety
  • Low immunity
  • Insomnia – struggle to fall asleep
  • Feel like you are running on adrenaline
  • Muscle cramping, eye twitching, and restless legs


Stage 2 – The Resistant Stage

This is when the body adapts to prolonged stress and you may start to feel wired but tired.

Stage 2 Symptoms:

  • Anxiety
  • Hormonal irregularities – PMS, menstrual irregularities, infertility, male menopause, and polycystic ovary syndrome
  • Moody and irritable
  • Lack of motivation
  • Sleep – struggle to fall asleep and/or wake up in the early morning and unable to get back to sleep
  • Difficulty concentrating and brain fog
  • Frequent energy crashes, especially in the afternoon between 2-4 pm
  • Blood sugar imbalances
  • Weight gain
  • Low libido
  • Food cravings – sugar, salt, and high carbohydrate foods
  • Digestive complaints


Stage 3 – Exhaustion

This is when the adrenals are so exhausted they are unable to adapt to stress and you just feel exhausted 

Stage 3 Symptoms:

  • Anxiety
  • Fatigue – you sleep for 10 hours and you still feel tired when you wake up and all through the day
  • Depression
  • Pain or severe inflammation
  • Hormonal imbalances
  • Low immunity
  • Any symptoms above can become chronic

Through the different stages, you may experience one or many of these symptoms. You may also sit in a stage for a short period or a long period of time. It will be different for every individual and sometimes you may not associate your symptoms with burn out. 

5 Top Tips

Reduce stress

I know this can be easier said than done! However, you need to assess to see if anything is causing you stress and also the busyness of your lifestyle. Are there any changes you can make? Do you say yes to that thing you don’t want to do anyway? It’s ok to say no especially if that thing is going to stress you out. Sometimes the smallest change can make a difference.


Avoid Energy Robbers

While caffeine, sugar, and alcohol can leave you feeling great for a short period you come crashing back down pretty quickly and it leaves you feeling even more exhausted. Reduce and avoid these to help keep your energy stable throughout the day. 


Eat A Fresh Whole Food Diet

We can sometimes over complicate our diet when we don’t have to. Go back to basics and eat a fresh whole food diet which includes good quality protein, healthy fats like avocado and olive oil, a variety of fruit and vegetables (eat the rainbow), nuts, seeds, and whole grains.


Get Adequate Sleep

The kids are finally in bed and I know it is so tempting to stay up and get things done or binge-watch a TV show however you want to aim to go to bed before 10 pm every night. Having regular sleep habits helps to keep your sleep-wake cycle in a good pattern and you aren’t all over the place with your sleep. Also, improve your sleep environment by making sure it’s a nice temperature, the room is dark enough and invest in comfortable bedding. 


Self Care

I know that as a parent you can sometimes feel guilty for taking time out for yourself. Time out doesn’t have to be all about luxurious indulgences. It simply can be taking a shower by yourself, reading a book for 30 minutes uninterrupted, going to that gym class, doing a puzzle or spending time with friends. Whatever activity it is, you must take the time to re-energize and recalibrate.

Burnout is on the rise because of our modern lifestyles. It’s important to recognize what stage of burn out you are at and make some changes to help you feel better. Don’t try and change everything at once as this just creates stress and overwhelm and that’s the last thing I want! 

Pick 3 things you would like to change, master them then move onto the next. Make small sustainable changes and you can beat burnout!

About the author

Pam Hird

Pam helps men and women with their health and wellbeing. As a naturopath, personal trainer, speaker, business owner, hockey player, creative cook and busy mother of two kids, she has her own personal journey through high-performance sporting and career roles where she shifted from burnout, depression and anxiety to balance and bouncing forward.

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  • 10 push ups
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  • 30s – 1min plank
  • 30s – 1min bridge