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Battling Year-End Burnout: Nutrition’s Crucial Role in Re-Energising Your Body

Average read time: 5 minutes

We’re all trying our best to take care of ourselves, but with busy schedules, endless responsibilities, and lurking deadlines, we often forget to take a breath and, sadly, let stress consume us.

Battling Year-End Burnout: Nutrition’s Crucial Role in Re-Energising Your Body

Not paying attention to your stress levels and overall mental health can lead to burnout. In essence, burnout is complete mental, physical, and emotional exhaustion. It happens when your body has been stressed for too long and cannot cope anymore. Those who experience burnout will find it difficult to engage in everyday activities and may no longer care about the things that used to be important to them.

With the end of 2023 in sight, many of us are battling what feels like year-end burnout. Fortunately, it is possible to prevent and recover from burnout by making lifestyle and dietary changes to help your body heal.

The most common causes of burnout

Burnout is not only caused by work-related stress. You can get work burnout, but it can happen to any person who finds themselves in stressful situations or environments for a prolonged period of time.

Determining the root cause(s) of one’s burnout can be difficult. Let’s examine some of the most common causes. We’ll divide them into work- and lifestyle related triggers.

Work-related triggers

  • Having little or no control over your work
  • Lack of recognition
  • Demanding job expectations
  • Monotonous or unchallenging work
  • High-pressure work environments

Lifestyle triggers

  • Working too much and no socialising or relaxing
  • Lack of close, supportive relationships
  • Too many responsibilities and not enough help
  • Lack of sleep

Some people are more prone to burnout than others due to certain characteristics. Personality traits that can contribute to your stress levels include:

  • Perfectionistic tendencies
  • Pessimistic self-image
  • Controlling nature
  • High achiever by nature

Signs and symptoms of burnout

It’s important to pay attention to your body when you are experiencing more stress than usual. Recognising burnout symptoms could help you prevent burnout from getting worse to avoid complete exhaustion.

There are many symptoms, and although these manifest differently in all individuals, most people will experience physical and emotional symptoms. Sometimes people will experience behavioural tendencies at some point too. Here are some of the symptoms to look out for:

Physical symptoms

  • Headaches
  • Stomach pain/intestinal issues
  • Fatigue
  • Frequent illnesses
  • Changes in appetite/sleep

Emotional symptoms

  • Helplessness
  • Cynicism
  • Sense of failure or self-doubt
  • Decreased satisfaction
  • Feeling detached or lonely
  • Loss of motivation

Behavioural tendencies

  • Reduced performance
  • Withdrawal or isolation
  • Procrastination
  • Change in mood/outbursts
  • Using substances to cope

Nutrition plays a crucial role in overcoming burnout

When suffering from burnout, it’s important to recover balance in your life as soon as possible!

Finding ways to regain a sense of well-being may include anything from physical and relaxing activities to mindfulness and breathing exercises, but one very important factor that can also help you to cope with and heal from burnout is the right nutrition.

When recovering from burnout, you should include nutrient-dense foods in your diet. These foods give your body most of what it needs to heal, such as vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and other essential nutrients. Even if you have limited time, you can make sure you eat right by prepping your meals in advance.

Patricia Bannan, Dietitian, and Nutritionist, has broken burnout’s core problem areas into four groups: mood, immunity, focus, and sleep. According to her, there are different foods that our bodies need to deal with and recover from each of these problem areas.

Mood

To stabilise your mood, Bannan recommends ‘feel-good foods’. These foods counteract the negative effects of stress hormones, make your brain happy, manage your blood sugar levels, and feed your microbiome. Some of the best mood-boosting foods include:

Immunity

Dealing with stress requires immense energy from the body. In trying to compensate for energy spent elsewhere, your body might stop performing regular immune tasks like defending itself against germs and illnesses. Other symptoms include enhanced inflammation, an increased heart rate, higher blood pressure, and an upset digestive tract as stress also impacts your microbiome’s immune functions.

Bannan has identified the below foods to help strengthen your immunity:

Focus

Burnout impacts our cognitive function and can lead to a range of symptoms such as a loss of focus or attention lapses, having issues with your memory, struggling with creativity, and not being able to solve problems.

To combat these symptoms, Bannan suggests including the below foods in your diet:

Sleep

Unfortunately, individuals experiencing high levels of stress and burnout often struggle with sleep. A lack of sleep impacts the body negatively, creating a downward spiral.

To help you sleep better, so your body can heal itself, Bannan recommends eating more:

  • Tart cherries and juice – Adding cherries or cherry juice to your diet can enhance your sleep, so why not? Try something creative like these Super Healthy Smoothie Pops.
  • Peanut butter – Peanut butter can be added to many things like smoothies, shakes, and even stir fries, like this Honey Satay Chicken Stir Fry.
  • Kiwi – You’ll find kiwis in store from September to October. Load up on them to improve your sleep.

Besides better nutrition, having a look at your lifestyle will also help you cope. To find and maintain your sense of well-being again, turn to your loved ones for support, make sure you incorporate physical activities into your schedule, re-evaluate your priorities, take a break from work if possible, and nourish your creativity by finding joy in something you used to love doing.

FAQ

What is burnout?

Burnout is complete mental, physical, and emotional exhaustion. It happens when your body has been stressed for too long and cannot cope anymore.

What are the symptoms of burnout?

There are many symptoms, and although these manifest differently in all individuals, most people will experience physical and emotional symptoms. Sometimes people will experience behavioural tendencies at some point too.

What are the main causes of burnout?

Burnout is not only caused by work-related stress. It can happen to any person who finds themselves in stressful situations or environments for a prolonged period of time.

How do I heal from burnout?

Besides better nutrition, lifestyle changes will help you heal from burnout. Turn to your loved ones for support, make sure you incorporate physical activities into your schedule, re-evaluate your priorities, take a break from work if possible, and nourish your creativity by finding joy in something you used to love doing.

Can nutrition help me overcome burnout?

Sufficient nutrition will help you cope with and heal from burnout. You should include nutrient-dense foods in your diet as often as possible. These foods give your body most of what it needs to heal, such as vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and other essential nutrients.

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