Burnout: The Quiet Epidemic of our Times

One of the most common phrases I hear in my practice is “I feel burned out”.  “Fatigue”, or “Low Energy” are at the top of almost all my patient’s health priorities when they find me.  

My client base is exclusively urban professionals, entrepreneurs and new parents, and the pattern is clear: Burnout is an epidemic.  In our workplaces, burnout has long been experienced, if not recognized - but recently, even the World Health Organization (WHO) has identified Burnout as a phenomenon that is limiting our productivity and performance.  Athletes train in regimens that prevent Burnout, or as it’s referred to in athletic circles; overtraining.

The pace of our world has dramatically increased in the past two decades: Technology, and social media govern our lives more than ever.  With this increase speed of life has come an increased perception of workload, and an increased level of expected productivity: The rate of acceleration of change has put us in a precarious situation - We’re not built for the world we live in.

Burnout is real. 

And it’s time we started talking about it.

The WHO defines Burnout as a syndrome, resulting from poorly managed chronic workplace stress.  When we fail to cope or adapt to the pace of the world around us, we may experience:

  • A sense of energy deplete or exhaustion, often with soreness that doesn’t dissipate;

  • Negative feelings about our work or lives, or an increased distancing from it; and,

  • Lowered productivity, focus, memory and concentration, with increased irritability.

While the underlying causes of Burnout are unique to the individual and complex, putting our bodies in a positive to thrive and to be resilient to our stressful world begins with the following considerations:

Find more routine, rest and recovery.

Train your body to know what to expect throughout your day, and week, so it’s not surprised by what you’re asking of it, and it’s not confused as to what you’re trying to accomplish. As much as possible and within reason, try to wake-up, eat, exercise and go to sleep at approximately the same times of day. Find opportunities each week to honour your body through imagery practices, meditation, mindfulness or through bodywork treatments such as massage therapy or acupuncture.

Get enough sleep.

Most adults do best with a minimum of about 7 quality hours of uninterrupted sleep each night.

Eat nutrient dense & optimize digestion.

Stress, like exercise, increases our needs for both macro- and micronutrients; especially B-Vitamins, and essential fatty acids. We must replete and provide for this by consuming foods that provide us with high quantities of our much needed vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients. Consider functional foods like greens powders to maximize your intake and optimize digestion.

Get enough protein.

Stress increases our protein requirements, and as we have begun to culturally shift our diets toward a more plant-based diet, many of us are not acquiring enough protein on a daily basis to rebuild tissues, produce neurotransmitters or balance blood sugar. Most active adults need about 1 gram of protein each day for each kilogram of body weight. Adding protein powders to a daily shake or smoothie of your favourite fruits and vegetables is an easy way to ensure daily adequacy.

Hydrate.

Did you know that you require water to create energy at the cellular, and chemical level (ATP)? Most adults require at a bare minimum, 2L of pure water each day, ideally consumed away from food, to optimize digestion of foods. Try placing a full glass of water at your bedside each night, and drinking the entire glass immediately upon waking. Bonus if you infuse it with a few slices of fresh lemon.

Move, but don’t over-exercise.

One of the biggest factors in Burnout is that people like to exercise their stress away. While intense exercise promotes the production of endorphins and dopamine which make us feel better, exercise is still a form of stress, and needs to be done responsibility and in moderation, particularly when recovering from, or preventing, Burnout.

Consider herbal and nutraceutical supplements.

Under the guidance of a trained, experienced and licensed healthcare practitioner. Supervision is essential, as herbal and nutraceutical supplements are not always safe, and are only cost-effective when chosen appropriately for your unique body and life’s context. When used appropriately, supplements may increase your resilience to stress, your energy, focus, memory and concentration, but are only tools on the road to recovery or resilience that should be combined with the diet and lifestyle changes.

Resilience is becoming a highly sought-after trait that is becoming evaluated in the workplace.  Training resilience leads to increased productivity and performance, better interpersonal communication amongst colleagues, an increased positive outlook of confidence and self-efficacy, and fewer person-days lost in the workplace.


What steps are you ready to take to build your resilience edge?


Dr. Jason Marr is a Naturopathic Doctor, Performance & Productivity Coach, Expert Health & Wellness Speaker, and Director of Evoke Integrative Medicine Ltd. in downtown Vancouver, BC.  He arms urban professionals with the pragmatic tools to maximize performance, productivity and resilience. Using an evidence-informed, holistic and integrative approach, Dr.Marr is a productivity and performance coach for anyone who is striving to be awesome.