How to Prevent Burnout in 5 Easy Steps

Have you ever felt like a candle burning at both ends? Work and everyday life are increasingly demanding and with today’s 24/7 technology, the boundary between work and our personal lives is getting blurrier and blurrier. Compound that with a myriad of obligations and little or no time to relax and chill out, and it’s no wonder we feel overwhelmed.

What is burnout?

Burnout is a state in which you are emotionally, mentally, and often physically exhausted as a result of prolonged or repetitive stress. Though it’s often a result of work, it can also occur as a result of parenthood or caregiving.

Besides hectic work or taking on many responsibilities, other factors may lead to burnout. These include how you ‘live’ life, and how you ‘view’ life.

Classic signs of burnout include:

  • Feeling exhausted most of the time
  • Feeling like a failure
  • Getting sick a lot
  • Turning to unhealthy living, junk food, drugs, or alcohol to deal with life

Unfortunately, burnout doesn’t disappear by itself and if left untreated can result in chronic ailments like depression, diabetes and heart disease.

High functioning anxiety and burnout

About one in five people suffer from some form of anxiety condition. So, chances are that you know one of them; perhaps that person is you. Many people with anxiety suffer from what is termed “high functioning anxiety.”

Someone with high functioning anxiety can handle career and relationship obligations. However, their anxiety causes them a lot of emotional pain. So, they likely don’t require hospitalization for their anxiety, but it is distressing enough for them to be able to benefit from some sort of ongoing outpatient therapy.

People with high functioning anxiety have a myriad of symptoms that can lead to burnout. These include a need to constantly be busy, perfectionist tendencies, and not being able to say no to others. So, by treating the anxiety through modalities such as individual/group therapy, and medication, this not only helps manage the anxiety, but may also prevent burnout.

So, now that you know what burnout is and how detrimental it can be, how can you prevent it? Here are my 5 easy-to-implement ways to prevent burnout:

Deal with your emotions

Life is packed with emotional challenges. These include trying to keep up with the neighbours, the pressure to be successful in life and work, and the innate desire to have good personal relationships and a satisfying work life. It’s no wonder that we’re a ball of emotions.

However, from a young age, we’re taught to stuff and avoid our emotions rather than work with our emotions.  This leads to the all too common “coping” mechanisms such as alcohol, prescription/recreational drug use, and being glued to our screens all in an effort to repress our emotions.

But, repressing our emotions isn’t good for us; in fact, symptoms such an anxiety and depression may be the result of repressing of our emotions. This is because when we try to repress our emotions, it causes emotional and physical stress. This leads to not only emotional problems but physical problems such as cardiovascular disease, intestinal disorders, headaches, and autoimmune disease.

We can learn to deal with our emotions by practicing mindfulness-based meditation. The practice of mindful framing teaches how create a mental framework to acknowledge and sit with our emotions, to feel them deeply, and to let them pass on their own, as all emotions do eventually do.

Embrace life-long learning

When we’re in a job that feels monotonous, we have little control over, or doesn’t align with our life purpose or in which we don’t receive recognition, it can lead to burnout. But you can take control of your career by finding opportunities to learn and prepare for a brighter future.

By embracing life-long learning you’re more in control of your career. This is because as you learn new skills, you can progress in your career or even switch careers if need be. Learning also helps you become more adaptable to change, which is a source of stress for many people.

It will help you be resilient when a project doesn’t go away, when your organization shifts gears, or if your job changes. Having a learning mindset will help you weather the storms of change, which is a constant in today’s work environment.

Pursue a hobby

One of the best ways to prevent burnout is to pursue a hobby. This allows you to discover your creative side. When you focus on a hobby you are truly passionate about, you give your mind a break from your day-to-day stressors.

Ideally, you want to pursue some form of hobby that has nothing to do with work, or your stressor. You also want your hobby to be free of deadlines or rules in order to allow your mind to recharge.

What hobby you pursue depends on your interests. If you like writing, perhaps you can write a short story or even a memoir. If you like to work with your hands, gardening may be a good fit.

Pursuing a hobby is also a great way to amplify your life-learning goals. By engaging in something meaningful to you, and progressively learning, you further develop a sense of self-worth and competence, which may be lacking in other areas of your life.

Eat a balanced diet

When we’re under a lot of stress, good eating habits are often the first thing to go out the window; however, eating a balanced diet is even more important when we’re under stress. That’s because what you eat can significantly affect your mood and energy over the course of a day.

For instance, when you are under stress, you may turn to comfort foods such as French fries, pastries, or potato chips. Carbohydrates give us a sugar high, followed inevitably by a sugar crash in which our mood and energy crashes. Instead of food high in refined carbs, you want to focus on low-glycemic foods, which are foods that give you a constant stream of energy. These include foods high in fiber such as fruits, vegetables, and legumes.

You also want to increase your intake of foods that contain omega-3s. Omega-3s are fats which help boost your mind. These include foods such as fatty fish (tuna, salmon, sardines), flaxseed, and walnuts. Try and spread these foods over the course of your day. For instance, have some oatmeal sprinkled with ground flaxseed for breakfast, then for lunch, have a salad with walnuts, and for dinner have some salmon and vegetables. Or try intermittent fasting!

Get enough sleep

Not getting enough zzz’s is one of the risk factors that predicts burnout. So, it behooves you to get enough sleep. How much one needs varies from person to person, but in general you should be getting 7 to 9 hours of sleep a day. You want to get enough sleep where you feel rested when you get up, and alert for most of the day. By getting enough sleep, your mood will also improve, further reducing symptoms associated with burnout.

To get a good night’s sleep it’s important to minimize distractions that prevent you from going to, and staying asleep. These include limiting your blue light exposure from devices such as televisions, laptops, tablets, and cell phones. That’s because blue light decreases the production of melatonin, our sleep hormone.

You also want to make sure you sleep on a comfortable mattress, so you’re not tossing and turning during the night. Comfortable sleep wear is also beneficial as being either too hot or too cold at night can disrupt your sleep. By getting enough sleep you’ll be better able to handle the stresses of the day.

 

Life can get pretty stressful, and when that happens, you are more prone to burnout. Burnout has serious ramifications that impact your emotional and physical health. By learning how to prevent burnout from happening in the first place, you are creating a rock-solid platform to live your best life.

5 Infallible Ways to Improve Sleep Quality and Tackle your Disrupted Life

With so much going on in our hectic lives, is it wise to ‘waste’ time every day… sleeping? With so much anxiety, fear, loneliness and everything going on inside and around us, it can be hard to focus on a bedtime routine and improving our sleep. Let’s discover why quality is just as important as quantity for a sound and restorative sleep.

What is Sleep Quality?

Quite simply, sleep quality is a measure of how well you sleep. Here are some key indicators of sleep quality:

  • You spend a minimum of 85% of your bedtime asleep
  • It takes you 30 minutes or less to fall asleep
  • You don’t wake up more than once a night
  • You don’t stay awake longer than 20 minutes when you do wake up in the middle of the night
  • You feel rested when you wake up

Importance of Sleep Quality

Sleep can impact all areas of your life. For instance, after a poor night’s sleep, you may find yourself in a mental fog. This can lead to poor decision making, memory problems, and slower reaction times. This in turn makes you more prone to injuries and accidents, not to mention, poor performance for any task.

You’ll also find it harder to regulate negative emotions and stay calm under pressure.

Poor sleep quality also increases your risk for heart disease, depression, various cancers, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, ulcers, and obesity.

Sleep Quality and Immunity

Do you want to boost your immunity? Improving your sleep quality is the right prescription!

Good sleep quality improves how well your T cells fight off infections. T cells are immune cells that fight pathogens in your body such as virus-infected cells and tumor cells. In order for your T cells to fight these pathogens and abnormal cells, they need to be in direct contact with them. Sticky molecules called integrins promote this contact; think of them as the glue that your T cells need to stick to pathogens and cells.

Cortisol, a key stress hormone, decreases the stickiness of these integrins. When you sleep well, your stress hormones fall, making the integrins stickier and T cells more effective, increasing your immunity.

There are 5 natural ways to improve sleep quality:

Exercise During the Day

Aerobic and cardio exercise are important for many aspects of health, including sleep quality. A study found that in patients with chronic insomnia, engaging in moderate aerobic exercise reduced the time it took to fall asleep by 55% and the total amount of nighttime wakefulness by 30%.

And you don’t need much aerobic exercise to sleep well. In fact, just 10 minutes of cardio exercise can dramatically improve your sleep quality. So, go for a walk or whatever gets your heart pumping.

Avoid Caffeine in the Evening

In order to sleep better, you want to watch your caffeinated beverage consumption. That’s because caffeine blocks the sleep-activating chemicals in your brain. This makes it harder for you to both fall and stay asleep. Furthermore, caffeine decreases your REM sleep, the part of your sleep cycle where you have the most restorative sleep.

And it takes time for caffeine to clear from your system. That’s because its half-life is 6 hours. So, it takes a full 24 hours to clear from your system completely. Ideally, you want to have your last cup of coffee or other caffeinated beverage at least 6 hours before going to bed as studies show that consuming caffeine up to 6 hours before bed decreases sleep quality.

Avoid Blue Light at Night

Blue light has a big impact on your sleep quality. That is because blue light decreases the production of melatonin, your sleep hormone, making it harder for you to fall asleep.

Unfortunately, a lot of our modern devices emit blue light. These include television, laptops, tablets, and cell phones. Using these devices 2 hours before going to bed affects your sleep quality in several ways. It makes it harder to fall asleep and reduces the rejuvenating REM sleep phase, making you feeling less rested even after sufficient hours of sleep.

How can you limit your blue light exposure in the evening? I you can’t avoid watching your favorite show, sit as far away as possible from the TV and don’t try to sleep right away after turning it off, do some chores, read a book, take a walk or meditate…as possible to avoid the blue light emissions.

Create a Comfortable Sleep Environment

Your sleep environment plays a big role in how well you sleep. Too hot or too cold a sleep environment can affect your sleep quality. Ideally, you want your room to be at a temperature between 65 to 70°F. Find the right pajamas to find the right body temperature while sleeping. If your feet get cold, wear some socks.

Make sure that you have a comfortable mattress and pillow so that you’re not tossing and turning in the middle of the night. Additionally, you want your room to be quiet. If you live in an area where you have night-time traffic or loud neighbours, this can be easier said than done. In that case, you may want to invest in a good pair of ear plugs or use a white noise machine, even a fan can do the job.

Watch out for the humidity of your bedroom, particularly if you live in an arid environment. Dryness can cause headaches and sinus congestion, which may interfere with your sleep quality.

Follow a Bedtime Routine

While participating in high-energy activities just before bedtime decreases sleep quality, the opposite is true. Having a daily relaxing bedtime routine increases your sleep quality by signalling to your body that it’s time to sleep.

One of the best things you can do as part of your bedtime routine is meditate. In a 6-week study in which insomnia participants practiced mindfulness-based meditation, such as mindful framing, participants halved the amount of time it took them to fall asleep. In addition, at the end of the study, 60% of the participants no longer had insomnia.

You can also relax by having a warm bath, deep breathing, listening to some relaxing music, or a combination thereof. I avoid stressful activities such as watching news or engaging in difficult conversations. For my body, I don’t take any food or alcohol several hours before going to bed and have an Ayurvedic self-massage mixing myself body butter and ashwagandha fluid.

Once I’m in bed, I start clearing my mind, focusing on my 5 senses: how my skin touches the cotton of the sheets and my pyjamas, the sounds of white noise, the residual smell and taste and I watch the lights and forms appearing when I close my eyelids.

 

Let’s learn how to leverage our sleep as a powerful way to decompress and reduce our anxiety every night. By improving the quality of your sleep, you’ll be better equipped to handle life’s stressors with a source of unlimited energy and resilience.

4 Natural Boosters of Serotonin, our Emotional Fluid

 

Can you imagine your life without emotional peaks and valleys? Sounds impossible, right? What’s possible is to increase your emotional control through enduring changes in lifestyle.

When you wake up relaxed and energized from a good night’s sleep, ready to take on the day – that’s serotonin kicking in.

When you feel depressed, overwhelmed by your daily responsibilities and challenges, you may have a deficit of serotonin.

What is serotonin?

Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that carries messages between neurons. It plays an important role in regulating your mood, controlling your appetite, helping your blood clot, helping you concentrate, regulating your body temperature, and ensuring a good night’s sleep. As a result, when we have normal levels of serotonin, we feel emotionally balanced and alert.

On the other hand, if we have low levels of serotonin, we may have trouble remembering things, feel depressed, crave sweet or starchy foods, feel anxious or irritable, have trouble sleeping or have feelings of low self-worth.

 

What is the link between serotonin and depression?

Researchers have linked low levels of serotonin in the brain with depression. Back in the 1960s, researchers hypothesized that low levels of serotonin in the brain led to depression. However, this hypothesis has now been debunked.

Instead, it appears that several other factors are also involved in depression. These include:

  • Having a family history of depression
  • Having a hectic lifestyle and having a high level of stress in your life
  • Your relationships at home and in the workplace

Nevertheless, if you have low levels of serotonin, you may be at increased risk of depression. This is where SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) may be helpful. SSRIs are medications which increase the uptake of serotonin in your brain.

Too much of a good thing is bad for us though. Serotonin syndrome is a potentially life-threatening condition that can occur if you take too much of an SSRI or if you take many SSRIs at the same time.

If you are looking to recharge your batteries, and need a little extra boost, here are 4 simple ways to naturally boost your serotonin levels:

Bask in bright light

When you go outside for a stretch or even just to gaze at nature, you may have noticed that you tend to come back recharged and better able to concentrate. This is because our brains produce more serotonin when we spend time in bright sunlight.

Is it cloudy outside? Still head outdoors! Even on a cloudy day, the light intensity is still typically brighter than your typical indoor lighting. Alternatively, invest in a high-intensity luxe lamp that simulates bright sunlight.

Eat a healthy diet

Adding more fruits, vegetables and legumes can contribute to a healthy gut. But did you know that having a healthy gut can also boost your serotonin levels?

More than 90% of our serotonin is produced in our digestive tract. Thus, by eating fiber-rich foods which promote gut health such as fruits, vegetables, and legumes we are naturally boosting our serotonin levels.

Foods that are high in tryptophan can also boost your serotonin levels. This is because tryptophan is converted to serotonin in your brain. What foods tend to be high in tryptophan? Protein containing foods such as nuts, lentils, tofu, chicken, fish and eggs.

However, boosting your serotonin levels is not as simple as incorporating protein-rich foods. This is because tryptophan has to compete with other amino acids, in particular the branched chain amino acids for access to our blood-brain barrier, before it can be converted to serotonin in our brain.

How can one overcome this obstacle? Eat more plant-based proteins such as seeds and nuts. Plant-based proteins contain less branched chain amino acids, hence they are better absorbed through the blood brain barrier.

 

Engage in regular exercise

It can be hard to get into exercise mode, particularly if you are down in the dumps. Everything seems like a struggle, particularly working up the motivation to break a sweat. When we exercise, both aerobic and strength, the activity of serotonin in the brain is revved up and the levels of tryptophan in our brain rise.

If fitting exercise into your daily routine seems too difficult, begin with baby steps. Commit to just 5 minutes of a vibrant walk a day for one week. Then the next week, increase it to 10 minutes. Before you know it, you will have built up to 30 minutes of aerobic exercise a day, and reap not only increased serotonin levels but numerous health benefits as well.

 

Be mindful of your thoughts

Just like the saying goes “You are what you eat”, you also become what you think! In a study conducted on healthy participants, those who were told to recall happy memories showed increased serotonin production in their brains. On the other hand, those who were told to recall sad memories showed decreased serotonin production in their brains.

It can be very tempting to ruminate on sad events when we are suffering from depression. But by finding happy things to focus on, we may be able to achieve a happier state of mind.

To think happy thoughts, begin a gratitude journal, practice mindfulness, focus on your strengths rather than your perceived weaknesses, and reminisce about the good times in your life.

 

Life has its ups and downs. By naturally boosting your serotonin levels, you will be able to experience more  “highs” than “lows”. Start right now on the path to feeling happier, more alert, and refreshed every day.

4 Natural Boosters of Dopamine, the Elixir of our Life

 

 

We may not even realize it, but dopamine rules the roost when it comes to our sense of wellbeing. How is one neurotransmitter so crucial to the feeling of joy?

When you first wake up in the morning, and you smell that fresh pot of coffee brewing, you probably feel excitement. This anticipation is dopamine.

If you receive a raise at work, your sense of accomplishment will most likely be accompanied by a set of pleasant psychological and physical sensations – that’s dopamine.

When you enjoy your favorite music, laughing with friends, or experience an immense rush of adrenaline while playing a sport, dopamine is kicking in.

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that sends signals between neurons and is a precursor of adrenaline. It plays an important role in a range of brain and body functions that are critical for your success, including motivation, memory, attention, focus, learning, creativity, and mood. When we experience the positive effects of dopamine, we feel well, excited and energized.

However, if we experience low levels of dopamine, we can become fatigued, apathetic and can suffer from addiction. poor memory, disrupted sleep, and even Parkinson’s disease.

 

What is the link between dopamine and addiction?

In the 1950s, scientists designed an experiment where they placed electrodes along the dopamine pathway in the brain of rats. When the rats entered into a particular corner of their cages, they received an electric shock. The discomfort of the shock therapy led scientists to believe that the rats would avoid entering the area where the shock occurred – but just the opposite happened.

Rather than avoiding the shock, the rats craved the dopamine so severely that they continued going back to experience the shock up to 700 times in one hour.

This compulsive behavior can be seen in people, too. Take substance abuse or gambling for example. Doing anything in excess may not feel good after the fact, but the dopamine rush can be so intense that a person will crave for more.

Quick dopamine fixes are tempting and appear everywhere in our modern world. Some examples for sources of a dopamine rush include caffeine, alcohol, video games, social media addiction, impulsive eating, mindless working or compulsive shopping.

To achieve mental, emotional and physical wellbeing, we should boost our dopamine in healthy and balanced ways that nourish our sense of self-worth and reinforce our connections with others.

 

Genuine Gratitude

Have you ever felt that warm tingling sensation of love and compassion take over when you feel gratitude for someone or something happening in your life?

Being grateful for all of the blessings you have in your life is a simple, inexpensive and practical way to enhance your dopamine levels. It also works to keep your life in perspective when times get tough.

One way to easily maintain a momentum of appreciation is to keep a daily gratitude journal. Remember, when difficult storms arrive, and you have troubles finding things to appreciate, it’s okay to be grateful for simple pleasures like a snuggle with a pet or a smile from a stranger.

 

Everyday Mindfulness

Focusing on the present moment and practicing self-reflection offer us enormous amounts of benefits. When we pay attention to the environment, calm our thoughts and center ourselves, we experience a relaxed state-of-mind, so that we can fully relax and recharge.

Not only does the practice of mindful framing and mindfulness help us to let go of stress, but studies have shown the potential to increase the release of dopamine.

It can be tempting to reach for a junkie TV show to distract yourself from daily problems instead of retreating into pondering and reflecting about our ideas and experiences. In the long run, embracing a ritual of self-reflection will increase your dopamine levels in a positive, more profound way.

 

Regular Exercise

There’s no need to sign yourself up for a spin class that you are going to dread if spinning isn’t your thing. But finding an outlet to exercise that you genuinely enjoy can increase your dopamine and boost your physical wellbeing.

Whether you take up martial arts, dance or play fetch with your dog, your mind and body will thank you. Dopamine is released when you get your heart pumping.

For an extra rush of healthy dopamine, combine your activity with reaching a goal (such as increasing steadily you daily steps).

Exercise brings many other fantastic side effects into your life. Perhaps you lose a couple of pounds, look healthier and meet new like-minded friends during your activity.

 

Healthy Eating

White sugar and fast food can be highly tempting if you desire a surge in energy. But the mood-elevating spike caused by these foods is short-lived and often comes with an energy crash.

Our earth is abundant with fresh fruits, veggies and fiber for us to indulge in daily. And did you know that a healthy gut seems to be directly related to balanced dopamine levels?

Some foods that can support your dopamine levels are apples, bananas, beets, chicken, eggs and cheese. So start your day with a delicious cheesy omelet or fresh fruit salad to elevate your mood early on.

 

Life is dynamic, a steady source of experiences and ideas, and dopamine mobilizes your brain and body to be motivated, creative and achieve peak performance. Don’t waste this precious elixir by disrupting the fine-tuned alchemy of neurotransmitters and hormones. Be gentle with yourself and let the natural processes in your organism take over without ‘artificial sweeteners.’

 

5 Steps to Become a Life-Long Learner

 

 

Have you realized that you are not the same person you were five years ago? Some aspects of your character and values may have been impacted by unforeseen learning experiences!

Life offers us a continual stream of new possibilities for growth and expansion. There is a good chance that your work, social and personal life requires you to adapt to our ever-changing world.

Ideally you want to acquire relevant knowledge while avoiding all the noise that generates our environment. You can be up-to-date without over-stretching your mind or causing unnecessary anxiety following 5 easy steps.

 

Embrace the trial-and-error process

When you take on a new challenge, it can be exciting at first, but as you dig in, you might find your self drowning in uncharted waters.

Let’s imagine that you are building a personal or professional website. You might spend a lot of time on figuring out how to create different features, and you will certainly make mistakes. It’s okay to get a little lost in the process and let yourself run into problems and errors. Trial and error is a great way to construct a new, valuable skill set for future use.

The next time you try to build a website, you will know not just what to do, but also what not to do. You have learned from your mistakes, the most fundamental way of learning. Every misstep is an opportunity to learn a lesson, improve, and move forward.

 

Find the right environment

Take a moment and consider where you focus best and get your job done with ease and pleasure. For some, a coffee house with background music and chatter is ideal, others prefer a quiet place while some people need the pressure of the office environment.

Irrespective of working for yourself or a company, don’t hesitate to personalize your workspace to suit your needs. The days of one-size-fits-all learning (or work) environment are fast fading.

Instead, we now seem to understand that to achieve impactful wisdom, we should value the unique environmental needs and learning styles of each individual.

 

Read constantly

Reading should become a pleasurable activity. You must acquire the discipline of reading, in print or digitally, while reducing audio or video content. Reading does a few things to help you enhance learning.

First of all, your brain is focused on the information at hand. You let go of superfluous or unhelpful thoughts in order to concentrate. While reading you can either stop and reflect or accelerate and skim through words and sentences. You are actively controlling the information flow, while audio and video learning is a more passive approach.

Secondly, delving into a good book automatically brings fresh vocabulary, ideas and perspectives into the forefront of your consciousness. And more importantly, it helps hone your visualization skills and imagination capabilities.

When you acquire data through the written word, you improve your writing and oral communication skills. Your daily life and conversations can bring out opportunities to express and connect your new perspectives to the world around you.

 

Take breaks

As you sit down to complete a task, it can be tempting to enforce high expectations to master a new skill in one go. Yes, it’s commendable to have goals, but respect for your mental and physical boundaries should be front and center.

If you push yourself too hard, adverse outcomes can occur, such as:

  • Fatigue
  • Inability to make decisions
  • Lack of focus

However, if you incorporate breaks into your learning process, you give your mind (and emotions) the much-needed space to refocus and refresh.

Being mindful of our concentration patterns allows us to optimize our learning style in a significant way. A leader cannot expect his team to perform and be balanced without letting their minds and bodies recharge and relax. The introduction of a mindfulness practice is a way to increase learning readiness in high-performing organizations.

 

Sleep well

A night of restorative sleep can offer clarity and bring cohesiveness to the learning elements you have acquired throughout the day.

As you problem-solve or attempt to master a new skill, sleep may seem like the last thing you should do. Often, we can feel a strong desire to power through until we figure everything out.

But in reality, ‘sleeping on it’ can bring a valuable boost to our learning curve.  A recent study has confirmed that a good night’s rest can protect already stored memories while improving the access and organization of knowledge in the brain.

 

In essence, becoming a life-long learner requires daily habits that replace intensive data, information and knowledge gathering with a focus on acquiring wisdom with the right coordinates of time and space.