How to avoid burnout and improve your life
The feeling of being burnt out, which is commonly described with the word “burnout”, was first diagnosed in the ’70s in the USA among nurses working in general hospitals. Burnout feels like an overwhelming exhaustion, accompanied by emotions of various degrees of helplessness, indifference and emptiness.
For an untrained eye, burnout might appear like depression, sometimes causing confusion even among people suffering from it. Burnout, unlike depression, originates from periods of considerable exertion combined with the feeling of having achieved nothing or only very little, despite the major effort applied.
Such combination of an extremely high energetical input and a perceived insignificant output can arise in situations where either a very stressful task has to be carried out for a long or even unforeseeable period of time (exogenous trigger), or where our inner attitude pushes us to constantly work towards unreachable standards of perfection (endogenous trigger).
A long exposure to such triggers creates an imbalance in our nervous system, which ultimately becomes unable to switch to a relaxed state anymore.
Keeping the alert activity of our brain (sympathetic system) in a constant state of warning at all times is clearly unsustainable, which is the reason why the brain, in the preliminary stages of burnout, tends to shut down as soon as it feels like it is not needed anymore. We then move between states of hyper and under-tension.
How to prevent falling into burnout?
Depending on the type of personality and interests we have, the approach to relaxation can be different for every individual. The important thing is to find a way that truly relaxes our nervous system.
It is indeed very unlikely that a top triathlon athlete would enjoy - and even benefit from – a 1 hour-long yin yoga session (a type of yoga that holds stretching poses between 2 and 5 min.) right away. There is no one-size-fits-all prescription, but you can – either alone or together with a specialized coach – look for a solution that implies1) less physical exertion while 2) promoting a deeper level of relaxation and activation of your parasympathetic nervous system.
Yoga and its benefits for burnout prevention.
In this context, the beauty of yoga relies on its grand variety. Even if you are an athlete and like to sweat while being challenged, you will be able to find a type of yoga that is meant for you. Despite the different levels of physical activation within the world of yoga, the common denominator is a deep, calm and regular breathing, associated with full awareness on the present moment. These two factors, combined with a fluid physical sequence that works on your muscular and endocrine system, have a soothing impact on your brain. You literally start sending your brain multiple signals and requests to slow down.
A meditative or mindful practice that does not require the movement of the body might also be of significant importance for burnout prevention. This practice is often suggested to individuals that would like to reverse their status of under-tension or apathy, by gently moving the brain from a condition of shut-down to one of relaxation and awareness. Here, guided meditations, autogenic training or yoga nidra practices are very much recommended. Such practices help you become more connected to your body, enabling you to quickly identify potential signals of fatigue or exhaustion at an early stage, and to act accordingly.
As many of us have experienced before, yoga will teach you how to approach life differently. Humor, openness, awareness, and feeling sincerely ok for who you are today, are prime lessons that get incorporated into your personality overtime.
What to do now?
If you have been reading this article, there is a small chance that you either fear to be falling into burnout or you already experienced some symptoms. If that is the case, do not hesitate to ask for support and advice. Preventive actions are knowingly much more successful to bring you back to a full happy and energetic self than reacting at a later stage.
We are here to walk with you all the way back up to the best version of yourself.
Cocchiara, R.A., et all., (2019) The Use of Yoga to Manage Stress and Burnout in Healthcare Workers: A Systematic Review, Journal of Clinical Medicine, vol. 8, iss. 3.
Adhia, H., et all., (2010) Impact of Adoption of Yoga Way of Life on the Reduction of Job Burnout of Managers, Vikalpa, vol. 35, iss. 2.