If you’ve been feeling a little tired and are not sure why or what it could be from then Mindfulness author and Spokesperson for Panadol Rethink Care, Michael Bunting has one idea what your unexpected fatigue is from and even has a few tricks to see the signs and what you can do to help your tired self.
You’ve heard the term “burnout”, but what does it actually mean and how can you recognise the first signs of it?
The Panadol Rethink Care study found that even though we know the value of self-care, we’re prioritising our work over our health. 58% of Australians feel too guilty to take sick or personal leave and three in five Australian workers have made the decision to work while unwell, making symptoms worse.
If you look at Webster’s dictionary, one of the key definitions of burnout is “exhaustion of physical or emotional strength or motivation usually as a result of prolonged stress or frustration.”
So what are the three big warning signs you are heading towards burnout?
1. Every bump in the road feels like a crisis
When we are well, we have a certain resilience, like an inner resource of clarity and perspective. Our prefrontal cortex. i.e. the wise CEO part of our brain is ruling our world, we have perspective, we can see the longer term, and we can put bumps on the road into perspective and accept them and work with them. Unfortunately, when we have been under too much pressure for too long and we are not getting the recovery we need, we begin to operate more and more from the “fight and flight” part of the brain i.e. the amygdala. This is when small things start to feel life-threatening as your brain tricks you into believing they are in far more serious than simple challenges.
2. A perpetual feeling of being unwell and demotivated
When we are not getting the recovery we need, we slowly but surely erode our wellness. We wake up in the mornings feeling tired, dreading another day because in truth we really are not ready for another day of pressure, deadlines, and expectations. This is a sign it’s time to stop the pattern and find a way to get the rest and recovery you need. If you ignore these signs of constant exhaustion you will pay the price later anyway.
3. Your feelings are starting to get weird
When we endure prolonged stress, we are perpetually in some form of physical or emotional pain. The medical term is “allostatic load”. Very few of us know how to handle this pain constructively so we tend to try and numb it to make it go away, but that can very easily slide into depression and anxiety. We dull ourselves into mindless numbness (endless hours of TV, social media, etc.) or we constantly keep ourselves busy even though we need rest. This is a sign you are in pain, and you are trying to cope with pain by numbing it…which makes you feel more and more disconnected from yourself and life. You might feel weird because you don’t really feel much at all, but you do know you don’t feel well, connected and alive. This is a sure sign you need a change.
So what can you do?
1. Make time for recovery
Elite athletes know recovery is essential for sustained high performance and reduced injury risk and fatigue. If only we could allow ourselves more recovery time too. A good start is getting your nightly recovery sorted and developing a sleep ritual. That means your brain needs to learn that your bed is for resting and sleeping, not for emails and social media.
2. Develop a habit of mindfulness
Interestingly most of our stress is caused by our own mind (thoughts, expectations, judgments, etc). If you are ready to dramatically reduce your stress then it’s time to learn mindfulness. It’s an invaluable life skill.
3. Listen to your body, the body never lies
Without awareness of our bodies, we’re never really sure what we feel. And since our feelings are designed to tell us what is most important to us, what is good for us and what is not—when we disconnect from our bodies and our feelings, we lose our inner compass.
4. Find time to connect with loved ones
Loneliness is deadlier than obesity. 1 Researchers discovered that lonely people have a 50 percent increased risk of early death, compared to those with good social connections. So make time to connect and nourish the relationships in your life. It makes all the difference.
5. Nutrition and exercise
I know it’s obvious… but nutrition and exercise usually drop right off the radar when you are heading towards burnout. Try small wins, small changes… it’s when we go for the big changes quickly that we injure ourselves and ultimately just give up. Be kind to yourself.