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As a mother, health practitioner, postgraduate student and business owner I’ve had my fair share of close calls with burnout. That’s why I have developed a clear strategy and treatment protocol to help women to prevent burnout. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has recently reclassified burnout to help legitimise the syndrome. The WHO defines burnout as: “feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion, increased mental distance from ones job or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to ones job; and reduced professional efficacy”.  Symptoms include depression, fatigue, feelings of helplessness and headaches. The cause – chronic workplace stress.

Women are more prone to burnout than Men

A recent study showed that women are much more likely to suffer burnout than men. This is not surprising – there is no doubt that there is an increasing pressure on women to “do it all”. We are doing more with less time and often we are feeling less supported by our communities and workplaces.

7 factors to help prevent burnout

In my clinical experience addressing these 7 factors can make the difference to whether a woman who is “doing it all” falls into burnout or not, independent of her work-related stress:

  1. Hidden nutritional deficiencies such a low iron and Vitamin B12 . The number of women who come into my consulting room with a ferritin (iron stores) at levels of 30 or under that has not been flagged up by their doctor is astonishing! Iron stores this low will cause significant fatigue, depression, shortness of breath and and headaches, making you more susceptible to stress and burnout. Within 2 weeks of getting iron stores up women report feeling energetic, motivated and able to cope better with workplace stress.
  2. Sub clinical low thyroid function. Do you feel like you are dragging your self out of bed? Suffering fromBrain fog, hair thinning, low motivation and feeling the cold? – It is most likely your thyroid. Your thyroid gland is highly susceptible to stress so you need to protect it! The biggest driver of low thyroid function is iodine deficiency – a mineral found in seaweed, eggs and fish. Luckily at Merge Health we can test for this common deficiency with our non-evasive mineral scan on the spot so you can easily support your thyroid back to great health.
  3. A pro-inflammatory diet. Chronic stress increases inflammation in the body making us more prone to  conditions such as cardiovascular disease,  diabetes, depression and arthritis. So its is crucial we do everything we can to mitigate the effects with a nutritious whole food diet. Read more about what a healthy diet is here.  I know what most of you will be thinking – but I’m too busy for food prep- yep I feel the same! What I do to make my life easier is I cut out the time shopping by ordering my organic vege & meat online  – there are so many awesome companies these days – I use ceres fair food but organic angles are also great for vege and hagens organics is my fav for organic meat.
  4. Being self-critical rather than self-compassionate. Are you stuck in comparison mode? Studies show practising self-compassion rather than being self-critical helps to prevent burnout, grow, stay motivated and try again. I highly recommend engaging with our Mindfulness-Self-Compassion teacher Jad to learn this important skill.
  5. Not prioritising self-care. There is always more stuff to do – another email to send, dirty dishes to clean, a phone call to make. None of it matters if you reach the point of burnout and are bed bound. So stop now! – Acknowledge that you are under stress and take time out to care for yourself –  allowing time for recovery is crucial.
  6. Poor Sleep quality. Woken up by kids multiple times in the night, having trouble getting to sleep or waking up frequently can be a sure way to burnout. Making sure you understand what is driving your poor sleep habits and address them. Using sleep hygiene techniques, natural sleeping aids, or having a couple of nights off per week from the kids is essential.
  7. Adrenal fatigue.  If all of the above are not addressed and you are still suffering from chronic stress there is no doubt you will fall into adrenal fatigue. To prevent burnout and more seriously adrenal exhaustion implementing supportive strategies such as slow-release vitamin C, high-quality electrolytes and adaptogen herbs that tone and nourish our adrenals and energy such as withania or rheumannia.

What I do as a busy mum to prevent burnout

Personally, as a woman with an extremely full life, I make sure I’m protecting myself from chronic stress and burnout by eating well, making time for meditation, getting a good nights sleep, taking supplements to support my individual body’s needs and saying no more often than I say yes. I don’t always get it right and sometimes overwhelm creeps in, but when it does I know I have got my burnout prevention tool kit ready to go. Remember you can start helping your body to feel better even if the workplace stress is not removed or your situation does not change.

For more help with preventing or treating burnout come visit us.

By Step Gadsden – Founder, Naturopath, Mindfulness Coach