Are You Burnt Out? Here's How To Deal With It!
Find out how you can arm yourself against the constant, toxic cycle of stress and burnout. It's possible!
Living in a day and age where hyper-connectivity and being permanently busy is the norm, many of us tend to forget that disconnecting and slowing down is as important as surging ahead. While productivity and efficiency is of much value in our lives, there's nothing quite crucial as making sure we are well in all aspects—physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.
There's not a day that goes by where we don't hear people complaining about constant stress in their lives, whether it be about rising gas prices, spending too much time on work, exhaustion from home-schooling, or being tired of the negativity in the news and social media. A lot of the time, we may not even know it, but we're already experiencing burnout. "Unfortunately, many people don’t have the tools, techniques, resources, or the self-awareness to mitigate stressful situations and thus, remain unresolved for long periods of time", shares Elizabeth Abela, the biohacking pioneer in the country and expert we consulted for this topic. Certainly, leaving ourselves vulnerable to the negative effects of burnout leads us to long-term damage—and that is something we would all like to avoid as early as we can.
In order to really find out how to tell if you are experiencing burnout in its many forms and how you can arm yourself against it, we asked Elizabeth to share some of her insights with us. We hope this helps enlighten you to get started on your own healing journey.
Metro.Style: How would you characterize burnout? How can one tell if he/she is experiencing it?
Elizabeth Abela: When we talk about burnout, we often circle back to the word “stress.” Indeed, the term “stress” has become one of the most used words in modern times. People often describe themselves as ‘stressed’ when stuck in a traffic jam or when they are experiencing a major breakup, or getting ready for a major examination, dealing with a loved one’s serious illness or having constant arguments with a work colleague or family member.
What is the common thread among these different scenarios? They all present stimuli that trigger the state of heightened emotional intensity, and which are identified through different labels: anxiety, irritation, frustration, helplessness, fear, anger, resentment, worry, disappointment, insecurity, discontentment or panic.
Unfortunately, many people don’t have the tools, techniques, resources, or the self-awareness to mitigate stressful situations and thus, remain unresolved for long periods of time. Due to the excessive energy demand required of a person to deal with these “daily disruptors,” they reach a state of exhaustion and quite literally, “run on empty.” When their body, mind, and spirit reach this state of overwhelm, the system slows down or stops working effectively and this is what we might refer to as “burnout.”
Burnout is the stage when long-term stress occurs and your physical, emotional, and mental resources drastically deplete. You feel physically and emotionally fatigued and mentally unmotivated to work or play. Your stress tolerance also decreases so you feel anxious and uneasy, easily triggered, always angry or agitated or not in the mood to talk to anyone or do anything. Your negative self-talk and cynicism go into high gear. On a physical level, your body can develop a weakened immune system. You might experience fat accumulation in the waist and hip area, hair loss, reduced muscle mass, increased blood sugar, signs of accelerated aging, loss in bone density, impaired memory and absentmindedness. Over time, this can lead to stress-related diseases like cancer, heart disease, obesity, depression, mental health issues, dementia, stroke and even death.
MS: We live in a day and age where burnout is so common. What factors contribute to this?
EA: The problem is, every single day we experience “daily disruptors” that push us off our ‘equanimity’ or our state of balance. From small things such as noise and air pollution, traffic jams, environmental toxins to emotional arousal stemming from relationship issues at work, home, or school, which can ultimately lead to issues of self-esteem. These disruptors challenge our mental, physical and emotional capacity every single day.
Perhaps it has to do with the “go-getter’ mentality ingrained in us to constantly make more money or the pressure to put food on the table and take care of loved ones. We seem to always be pressing on the gas pedal but never think about pressing on the brakes without really calculating if we will have enough gas to fuel our long-term energy demands.
People have learned to ‘work like a dog” to increase their income but they never place value on being able to replenish their energy reserves so they can face the day with a fresh mind and a strong, able body. Instead, they burn the proverbial candle from both ends and quite literally, burn themselves out.
I really love this saying from an obviously wise person: “You should sit in meditation for twenty minutes every day–unless you're too busy; then you should sit for an hour.
“You should sit in meditation for twenty minutes every day - unless you're too busy; then you should sit for an hour.
MS: A lot of people all over the world have adapted the work-from-home style of working. How does this contribute to burnout?
EA: Working from home seems like a great idea because this eradicates the necessity to dress up and prepare for the commute to work. However, studies have shown that people who work-from-home end up working longer hours than on-site office work. Perhaps because the cognitive demarcation between work and home has been eliminated, then even break times and lunch time also become non-existent. Additionally, you’re already at home so the time you would spend going home you might as well spend working, with or without your knowledge.
Then there’s the issue of being exposed to home matters that you can’t put aside; well, because you’re home, there are errands, repairs, missing groceries, child duties, dry cleaning, laundry. The home can actually be noisier compared to the office with background noises on the horizon: beeping cars, neighbors’ kids, barking dogs, crowing roosters, construction noises, overhead airplanes, ambulances. This situation is simply not conducive to holding Zoom meetings or providing a quiet environment needed to focus on important tasks.
We also have to contend with the issue of not being in physical contact with work colleagues and friends. Human evolution programmed our nervous systems to co-regulate with our “tribe” and without that actual social engagement, we might start to feel isolated, dysregulated, or out of place. Office teams usually thrive on “eustress” or the kind of positive stress that motivates people to think better by challenging each other. Without this kind of connection and support system, which is more strongly experienced in person, teams are unable to find the proper motivation to work on shared goals together.
Let’s face it—we have substandard internet quality in the country. This has been such a sore spot among Filipinos for many years. Anyone who has worked from home with a highly erratic internet connection will feel huge amounts of stress that will certainly accumulate over time and contribute to their feelings of frustration, irritation, anger, and exhaustion. Sometimes it is enough to make them ask the boss if they could go back to working on site since the office connection is usually more stable. The inadvertent longer hours, the terrible internet, and the loss of physical human connection with their work tribe can contribute to a person’s overall stress profile in a big way.
MS: In a post-pandemic world, people still experience bouts of anxiety and stress from the past two years. How can one cope?
EA: In biohacking, we like to harness the body’s innate ways to self-organize, self-balance, and self-regenerate. Despite the two years of this largely fear-programmed pandemic, we should understand that the body is equipped with the power to resist any threats to our health.
Nothing could be more dire than what happened during the pandemic with the threats to our livelihood, our health, our whole way of being. The thing we should do now is to prepare ourselves with the tools and resources to strengthen Mind+Heart+Body+Spirit. With the proper pro-active mindset, a diligent consistent self-balancing practice, the mindfulness to imbibe only clean energy sources and using advanced biohacking technology, we can be stronger than stress and never experience burnout.
We have gone through the worst and survived. This is called Resilience. Harnessing this superpower means, we will survive again, but this time, we will be more prepared so that we won’t cower in fear, but rather, face it confidently head-on.
The key to being resilient is first and foremost, changing your MINDSET. You must fully believe that you are equipped with a body that wants to be stronger and better for you. What follows mindset is ACTION. You must take the necessary steps to fuel those beliefs and allow them to materialize. This is called AFFIRMACTION. The combination of Mindset+Action holds the key to shifting the trajectory towards a positive change.
For anxiety and stress, we can enroll in workshops or online courses or even free YouTube videos that teach us how to self-regulate and balance our emotions. Instead of getting a massage or manicure, we can invest in centers that have the advanced technology to initiate cellular repair, cellular detoxification, and brain balancing. We can schedule a few pockets of 10-minute brain/body resets throughout the day where we take a walk outside or meditate in a corner or sing a song or fill out a gratitude journal. We must be pro-active in achieving resilience if we want to be stronger than stress and prevent burnout forever.
MS: What are practical ways to deal with burnout these days?
- Get QUALITY sleep to help your body and mind. You may need to hire a sleep coach or take a sleep course or a series of sleep workshops and really make the effort to upgrade your sleep hygiene. “The shorter your sleep, the shorter your lives” is a quote from my favorite Sleep Guru, Matthew Walker, author of the Book “Why We Sleep.” Sleep is the most intelligent investment you’ll ever make. It is our free doctor and was put there by Mother Nature for one thing only: to resurrect us as a new person every single morning. Without good quality sleep, we will always be burning out and running on empty.
- Learn to let go and accept that things won’t always go your way. Reframing situations is the most powerful way to become pro-active instead of reactive. In this light, I like to revert to Stoicism and Logotherapy pr. These two philosophies will enable you to change your perception of a stressful situation and help you choose your actions from an objective standpoint. Please read The Daily Stoic by Ryan Holiday and Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl. I have found that reframing the whole word “stress” is also very helpful and the book Upside of Stress by Kelly McGonigal.
- Welcome humor and laughter! Laughter is the best medicine because it brings out all the replenishing “feel good” hormones, endorphins. It also helps us become more socially engaged and strengthens the bond with others while reinforcing the feeling of safety and comfort.
- Be aware of your triggers and stressors! Becoming self-aware and pro-active of what causes you to be pushed off-balance gives you an advantage over your impulsive reactions to stimuli. When you are more aware of triggers, you can devise a plan to avoid them or find a workaround to neutralize the triggers. Taking courses or workshops in self-regulation modalities like EFT Emotional Freedom Technique, HeartMath Techniques, Sounder Sleep System, Jin Shin Jyutsu PSYCH K, or Havening will serve as powerful tools to help you take control of situations so they don’t control you.
- Take a breather. After pressing the gas pedal too much at work, press on the brake, refill your energy gas tank: take a walk outside and let the sun recharge your cells….get a cup of coffee and sip it slowly and mindfully, read a book or simply do nothing but breathe and be aware of your breath. You might even consider doing the Pomodoro method where you deliberately take 5 minute breaks every 25 minutes in order to reset the brain and body, throughout the entire office day. There is also the 20-20-20 method for eye health–every 20 minutes, look 20 feet away for 20 seconds. There’s even an app that beeps off reminders and does the counting for you.
- Talk to someone when you feel stress and anxiety creeping in. We are social beings and finding social support is one of the ways our nervous system finds balance. This concept is called co-regulation. When someone’s energy field is able to hold space for our dissonant energy to settle, we feel safer and more comfortable in our bodies.
MS: If there are three things to avoid on a daily basis, what are they?
EA: Avoid blue light exposure (gadgets, TV, computer) after 7pm to optimize sleep. Avoid taking too much stimulants like energy drinks and coffee as these can get in the way of your body’s ability to transition to a calm state when needed. Avoid the news and social media for a few days at a time in order to get a mental reset.
Our bodies evolved billions of years for one thing only: to make us stronger for the next storm. We are literally a survival and recovery machine as the body constantly assesses our needs and calibrates our energy profile to help us cope with presenting challenges. We must find ways to harness this self-strengthening mechanism instead of wear it down. The power to maintain a long and fruitful health span, not just life span, lies within our DNA. We must learn to never fear the body, but rather, understand it and work with it so we actualize our unlimited potential to become better humans.
Elizabeth Abela is is the Biohacking Pioneer of the Philippines, a Vitality and Anti-aging expert, a Certified Deep Sleep Teacher, Certified German New Medicine practitioner and Human Potential Coach mentored by Dave Asprey, combining conventional lifestyle coaching with non-conventional holistic methods such as “energy medicine” and neurosomatic techniques, as well as Bulletproof's signature term, "biohacking," which involves harnessing the body's myriad pathways of self-regeneration and self-restoration. Book a consultation with Elizabeth here. Follow her on Instagram @unltd.ph
Banner photo by Tangerine Newt on Unsplash