I am sure you have all had times when life becomes overwhelming with the stress of the family and relationships challenges, financial pressures, and day to day issues such as the car breaking down, family schedules, work stress, the list goes on. Not only is the stress overwhelming, but because we usually end up not taking care of ourselves physically, our diet and sleep suffer as well. It’s as if we are burning the candle at both ends.
When this happens we usually experience what is known as burnout or fatigue. We feel tired, sometimes even downright exhausted, and lack the energy to perform all of the tasks we need to get done in a day. It’s at times like this that your body and mind need to rest and recharge. It’s also a good idea to have some tips on how to combat burnout and fatigue before it starts. Before we explore those tips, however, let’s talk about how burnout and fatigue actually affects our mind and body.
When we are feeling fatigued, it will impact our mood, as this means we are usually feeling down or have a lack of motivation. In extreme and prolonged cases this may cause depression. Fatigue can also negatively affect our memory and attention as well as our focus and concentration. Our stress levels likely increase due to our inability to handle stress effectively.
Not only does fatigue negatively impact our mind and emotions, but it also takes a toll on our physical body. It may cause inflammation in the body, weight gain, pain in our joints, digestive issues, headaches, and low serotonin levels in the brain, which has been linked to depression, anxiety and insomnia.
Now that you know the basics and where burnout and fatigue can potentially lead, what can you do to reduce these stresses in your life?
- Moderate exercise. When you exercise regularly, it can boost energy levels and improve emotions. Please refer to my editorial, “Why Exercise Makes You Happy” for more information
- Sleep is essential. Each of us has different needs and face different challenges but if you set a goal of 7-9 hours of sleep each evening, that is a good target
- Reducing stress through yoga, meditation or other stress-reducing activities, like simple breathing exercises can also be beneficial. For detailed techniques on the breathing exercises, check out my post on “How To Reduce Stress During The Holidays”
- Involve others to help resolve stressful issues you are facing. Once you have a solution you are working toward, you will begin to feel more positive and energized
Nutrition is an extremely important area to pay attention to as well. Unhealthy eating habits will directly impact your energy levels and the ability for your body to repair and recover. It is very important to keep your blood sugar levels balanced throughout the day. To achieve this it is necessary to eat small healthy meals and snacks regularly throughout the day. (Every three hours is a good goal).
Many people drink soda and other sugar drinks such as fruit juices. These can be a tremendous energy drain. The average can of soda has 10 teaspoons of sugar. Simple refined sugar found in soda and other unhealthy foods take your energy on a rollercoaster ride. The surge of sugar gives you a short artificial boost of energy and quickly after, your body crashes and you are left with little to no energy. Water is the best option when selecting a drink. Additionally, avoiding alcohol and nicotine will also help as these items suppress the nervous system and hinder your ability to deal with stress.
Fast release foods and drinks such as soda, white bread, pastries, candy, white rice, most cereals, and white potatoes all cause a sharp and rapid rise in your blood sugar level. These refined sugars deplete your body of the essential minerals and B vitamins it needs to assist with digestion and energy levels. These fast release foods may also cause fatigue, increased body weight, and an increased risk of Type II Diabetes.
The good news is you can make a difference in your energy levels and prevent fatigue and burnout with healthy slow release foods that contain complex carbohydrates. These foods allow the body to breakdown the natural sugars at a slower rate which keeps your blood sugar levels balanced throughout the day, hence keeping your energy levels stable between meals. These foods also contain enough B complex vitamins, calcium and magnesium to assist your body with digestion and regulating your energy levels. These items include all non-starch vegetables such as asparagus, spinach, kale, tomatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, and cucumbers. And fruit choices like berries, melon, cherries, apples, plums, pears, oranges, and bananas. Other great complex carb foods are walnuts, lentils, sweet potatoes, steamed brown rice, whole wheat pasta, and kashi.
By paying attention to what you drink and eat as well as controlling your stress, setting boundaries on your daily schedule, and including daily activity, you can prevent burnout and fatigue.