Tips for Avoiding Fatigue and Burnout
By Iwa Brown, Naturopath, BHSc (Nat)
Burnt out women, particularly mums is something that is becoming so prevalent in our society nowadays, that we must ask ourselves – how did it come to this? We are so busy working, running households, and providing to our families in so many different ways, putting everyone else’s needs ahead of our own, that we end up leaving our own cup empty. Here are my tips for avoiding fatigue and burnout, from a naturopath’s point of view!
We know that when we start putting ourselves higher on our priority list, that we start to feel better. We can then do a better job at looking after everyone else than we can when we are tired and burnt out. Even though prioritizing ourselves tends to come with some level of guilt, we instinctively know that we must take steps, no matter how small, to regain ourselves back.
The fast pace of modern day life means that most of us spend much of our time in sympathetic nervous system (fight and flight) activation, with constantly elevated cortisol and adrenaline (stress hormone) levels. Eventually our adrenal glands have had enough, and we burn out. Operating at this level for any length of time is not sustainable, and your body will tell you loud and clear when it has had enough!
When we decide we want to start prioritizing ourselves, it’s easier to just start with one thing at a time to work on and focus on that, before we move onto the next thing. So what are some steps we can take in order to start working through and avoiding further fatigue and burnout? Read on!
Spend time in nature and breathe
There is nothing quite like spending some time in nature, breathing in the fresh air deeply, and enjoying the sounds of nature. Most cities have a range of walking tracks within relatively short driving distance, to suit a range of fitness levels. A quick internet search yields some great information to help you plan your next bush walk! Otherwise, a walk along a river or creek, or along the beach is another great option.
Gentle exercise such as walking is excellent for activating the parasympathetic nervous system, which reduces our cortisol levels. In addition, time in nature helps to produce higher levels of neurotransmitters that make us feel good.
One thing to note is that if you are the type of person who prefers intensive exercise, this type of exercise can drive cortisol up further. Listen to your body to make sure you don’t overdo it.
Relax before meals
People can often really underestimate how much of an impact stress can have on digestion. When we are stressed, meaning our cortisol is elevated, and we are in sympathetic nervous system (fight and flight) activation, our digestion shuts down and digestive secretions are not produced. This is because we need to relax and activate our parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest) in order to allow our body to digest the food we eat.
When we relax, take a few deep breaths and ensure we are not feeling stressed when we sit down for a meal, our digestive system starts to prepare for digestion by producing stomach acid, bile, and digestive enzymes. Without these, we feel full very quickly, we may become bloated, get reflux, or other digestive symptoms, and we are not giving our body the chance to digest the food we eat. In the long term, chronic stress can therefore lead to nutrient deficiencies. We also need adequate stomach acid to break down proteins to liberate amino acids, which are required for our mental health and other functions in our body, as well as other nutrients and minerals our body needs for optimal health.
In addition to the above, fluids should never be consumed in large amounts with meals. A few sips of water are fine with a meal, but drinking larger amounts of fluids will impede digestion by further diluting the stomach acid required to adequately digest our food. Aim to not drink too many fluids around 20-30 minutes either side of a meal and ensure you are staying adequately hydrated away from meals.
The importance of sleep
We must remember that we need cortisol for survival – it is not our enemy. Our cortisol should be at its highest levels in the morning when we wake up – this is what gets us out of bed in the morning, and gives us energy to get through the day. Conversely, our melatonin (sleep hormone) levels should be lowest in the morning when the cortisol is high, and then cortisol should drop through the day as melatonin rises later in the day to prepare us for sleep. Our body is this incredible and fined tuned system that keeps all of this under control, but problems arise when this cycle is dysregulated (hypothalamic pituitary adrenal or HPA axis dysregulation), and this can happen for many reasons, but stress is always a big factor here.
When our HPA axis is in balance, we sleep soundly and for adequate periods without waking in the night, we feel refreshed when we wake up in the morning and we have consistently good energy levels through the day and then falling asleep easily at the end of the day.
Sleep hygiene is super important here – aim to not have any screen time an hour before bedtime. Have a cup of chamomile or lavender tea, diffuse some calming essential oils if you wish, dim the lights and make a conscious effort to relax as you prepare yourself for sleep.
Book in with a naturopath
If you’re feeling like you’ve made a whole lot of changes but need some extra help, naturopathy is an excellent modality to assist you with making that extra progress to get you to where you want to be. Combining individualized prescriptions that include a combination of herbal medicine, nutritional supplements, in addition to dietary and lifestyle changes, works incredibly well to help people to get their energy and life back.
One step at a time
I hope these tips for avoiding fatigue and burnout have been helpful! Remember – don’t become overwhelmed by all the things you want to do to start feeling better. Progress is what we are aiming for, not perfection. Lots of small steps over time add up to incredible progress.
You are worth it!
Iwa Brown is a naturopath and herbalist, who founded Magnolia Naturopathy to make naturopathic care more accessible to people all over Australia. Iwa (pron. Eva) assists her clients with a variety of health complaints, including children’s health, women’s health, nervous system support, immune support and of course digestive health. Naturopathic treatment addresses health from a holistic perspective, by treating the whole person.
As a special offer for readers of Natural New Age Mum, Iwa is offering 20% off your initial consultation until the end of June 2021, when you book online using the code: NNAM20 !!
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