What it looks (and feels) like when you're burning out, and what you can do about it
Some of you may be surprised to hear it but, at the beginning of 2016 I was seriously burned out. Over the last year I'd created and collaborated on some pretty amazing new projects but was feeling completely worn out and exhausted as a result.
As a Nutritionist I'm lucky enough to know exactly what is needed and have a lot of great tricks and tools to hand which help with this. I ate a great diet, even going vegan for a while, supplemented myself with the right herbs and nutrients, slept in when possible and switched from all out high intensity exercise to restorative yoga.
It helped a lot and I was healing. However each stressful or overly long day, each complicated patient case which tugged at my heart strings and kept me awake at night, or each even small disagreement or mildly stressful situation in my personal life was crushingly overwhelming and could set me back a week or two.
It was a frustrating time but I was making it through. It's my job, both as a Nutritionist and as a Mentor to the Nutrition and Naturopathy students undergoing their training with me, to be super healthy and always energetically positive and motivating. So I just had to get through with a smile on my face - and that took it's toll.
I knew it was time to make a change when, despite loving my job, I started waking up wishing I didn't have to go in. Wishing the weeks away and wanting to sleep away the weekends.
What was wrong? I had simply over committed myself. Too excited to turn down any great opportunity I'd taken on them all. I'd become a "Yes Girl". Yet, despite all the fabulous things I had going on in my life I was too exhausted to appreciate them.
I looked tired, dark circles under my red bloodshot eyes and dry skin that also broke out easily. My belly bloated and I seemed to gain weight more easily. Small amounts of stress felt exhausting. It was all too much and I knew that it was time for a change.
So what did I do?
Firstly I stopped exercising so hard and started listening to my body. If I felt tired I'd go for a walk, do a yoga class or sometimes just stay home and rest. But first I dressed in gym gear, put on my favourite music and stretched. Often you feel tired and sluggish because of a lack of movement so getting the blood flowing will help you to assess if you really need to rest or if exercise will do you good. Also just getting dressed in gym gear and hearing your favourite music is often enough to get you excited about a workout.
Next I assessed my diet again. Now it was already pretty great but there's always more we can do. The truth is that while I no longer suffer digestive issues from dairy, it still left me feeling tired so I cut it out along with coffee and cut back a little more on sugar. Also, as stress is highly inflammatory and this inflammation is often the driver of burn out, I also upped all anti-inflammatory foods such as greens, extra virgin olive oil, green tea, olives, avocado, raw seeds, cauliflower, broccoli and grapefruit. I also took a daily herbal supplement to boost energy and reduce stress, a multivitamin, probiotic, digestive enzyme and sleep support. Many of these nutrients are severely depleted during stress and replenishing them helps you to recover more quickly and effectively.
Now it was time to assess my work life, there were definitely changes that needed to be made. I cut back on less important work and focused more on what is necessary and important. I also delegated work and got rid of some parts of my business which absorbed way too much time.
Next it was time to reevaluate my personal life. Just as with work there were things I was dedicating my time to which were of little value. As an example, I stopped checking Facebook. If I want to find out what's going on in a friends life I contact them and arrange a catch up - so much more fulfilling.
I also discussed how I was feeling with those closest to me who showed incredible support and helped to free up some rest time. They also checked in on me regularly and showed me love whenever I needed it most.
Finally, I booked a yoga retreat. It was time for a change, a clean break. Something to shock the system. I needed to be unreachable for a few days, surrounded by nature eating only organic foods.
Now this is where it really got interesting. In my first class I literally felt my muscles all through my body relax. I hadn't realised how tense I was but now I could feel the impact. I took a deep breath in and sighed out loudly. That was it, I was hooked, I had surrendered to the present moment and for the first time in a long time I had literally nothing else on my mind.
In just a couple of days I had turned my priorities on their head. I was now focused on rebuilding my own health and energy no matter what it took. I soaked up every aspect of the retreat. I read in silence, sat quietly in the sun, ate all of the delicious food and drank the herbal teas. I got up at 530 am and did my morning yoga before breakfast. I came back a new woman after only a two night stay.
From this moment I had the resolve to change my life. I stopped saying yes to everything and started saying "Let me think about it" - often to the surprise of my colleagues and friends. I continued eating my anti-inflammatory diet and supporting my body with good quality supplements. I continued regular yoga and slept late whenever possible if I need to. I get early nights, meditate and, importantly, take time to just sit and watch the world go by, enjoying the moment for what it is.
It's not always easy but they are rules my loved ones remind me of whenever I start working too hard again.
I also vowed to take this experience and bring it to my patients. I want everyone to experience the absolute peace and tranquility that I felt. I want everyone to enjoy a wonderful holiday filled with a perfect balance of rest, indulgence and health-boosting motivation and fun. From that moment I began planning my first retreat which will be running in January 2017 in Koh Samui, Thailand. Click here for more info.
I have also introduced some fabulous new programs with a particular focus on recover from stress, fatigue and digestive disturbances such as my "8 Weeks to Change Your Life" program and the "12 Week Recovery Program". These programs offer rehabilitation for the digestive system, energy pathways, adrenal glands and detox pathways for full recovery. I'm determined to help the people of Sydney to reprioritise their health and well-being and if you're currently struggling I want to hear from you.
So if you're currently feeling burned out, reevaluate. Take some time to yourself, relax, recharge, reevaluate. What valuable changes could you make? Could you improve your diet? Could you say yes a little less often? Could you rest a little more? Don't forget to ask for help if you need it too!
And don't forget, for the ultimate rest and recharge, a retreat really expresses your recovery. My January retreat is going to be filled with delicious wholefoods, fermenting workshops, detox guidelines, daily exercise such as yoga, skipping, hill walks etc, one on one consultations and meditation.
It's going to be fabulous. Time out to completely relax and be pampered while also detoxing your body with delicious wholefoods and natural medicines. We still have a few places available so if you're keen email retreats@Sydneycitynutritionist.com
For now, until next time, stay deliciously healthy.