AS THE END OF THE YEAR APPROACHES, IT’S HARD NOT TO GET BURNT OUT. NATUROPATH ANTHIA KOULLOUROS OFFERS ADVICE FOR RECLAIMING YOUR HEALTH (AND SANITY) THIS SPRING.
It’s hard to admit that you’re burning out. It’s even harder when you’re a spokesperson for health, wellbeing and balance. Yet here I am, a should-know-better naturopath struggling with my own version of burnout. I’m overworked, tired, full of self-doubt. I’ve bitten offff more than I can chew and put the needs of others before my own. I’ve lost connection to that wise voice deep inside that keeps me in check. Why am I telling you this? Not to appeal for sympathy, but to offffer solidarity. If you’re feeling stressed, frazzled, on the brink of burnout and wondering how you’ll make it to the end of the year, rest assured you’re not alone. Even health professionals aren’t immune to falling out of kilter. The worst part is, after 25 years of clinical practice, I’m all too familiar with the consequences of long-term stress. I’ve seen it undermine brilliant people, those who are determined to push past their limits and run on adrenaline. Recently, one of my clients passed away. After two weeks of headaches she was hospitalised and died of a brain tumour. She’d been incredibly stressed about her business leading up to that point, and while cancer is unpredictable and indiscriminate, her stress levels most certainly reduced her resilience and ability to recover from surgery. Sadly, her story brings our culture of frenetic productivity and success-at-all-costs into harsh perspective.
What can you do to address burnout today?
The good news is that spring represents the perfect time to nip burnout in the bud, a chance to reset, reimagine the everyday and bloom. Make a plan for better health before the year is out, seeking wisdom in nature, realigning with the seasons and harnessing the power of herbal medicine and quality nutrition.
Is burnout just a feeling or a real condition?
Conditions with a strong psychological component, that is ‘feeling’ overwhelmed, anxious or not-quite-right, tend to take a backseat to more visible ones. We believe something is wrong when we see it — a rash, wound or measurable dysfunction — but easily dismiss those linked to emotions. However, stress and burnout are real illnesses with serious implications for human health. Burnout is sometimes called ‘adrenal fatigue’. The scientifific term is ‘HPA axis dysregulation’ (that stands for the hypothalamus, pituitary and adrenal glands) and is essentially the failure of a delicate hormonal feedback loop that can be thrown out by sleep disruption, chronic stress, poor lifestyle choices and sub-par nutrition. These are chemical happenings in the body, not imaginary complaints.
Could you be at risk of burnout? Know these signs.
Many patients I see on the brink of burnout say they feel drained and empty, emotionally exhausted and unable to cope. They feel tired, flflat and have a short fuse. Getting out of bed is a struggle and they dream of swaddling themselves in blankets and sleeping for a week. But they might fifind it hard to fall or stay asleep. Exercise becomes a herculean effffort for people suffffering from burnout, leaving their body sore for days. Their libido is in hiding, they can’t think straight, immune function is low and they catch everything ‘going around’. (Note: The symptoms of burnout and depression are similar. Be mindful not to self-diagnose, seek professional support to ensure you receive the right treatment.)
How to restore balance, energy and health naturally.
If you’re nodding and biting your nails over the above signs and symptoms, take comfort in the fact that there are surprisingly simple ways to de-stress and sync with the seasons, helping you take nature’s lead and bloom. This spring, choose self-care over stress and herbal teas over take-away. Reset by returning to the basics; a simple daily rhythm and cues from nature. >
RECIPE FOR RECOVERY
Daily self-care isn’t indulgent, it’s imperative. This daily routine aims to ground you, building a foundation for excellent health. It may seem simple, but the best things always are. Nourish yourself by replacing processed, packaged, nutrient-devoid foods with fresh, organic, seasonal foods. Don’t go too long between meals and eat in a relaxed state. Hydrate with healthy flfluids in the form of non-caffffeinated herbal teas and clean water. Minimise coffffee and alcohol. Sleep early and wake early. Aim for 10pm to 6am to reset your circadian rhythms (your body’s physical, mental and behavioural processes, which roughly follow a 24-hour cycle). Move your body gently with daily walks and yoga or adopt meditation — it’s powerful! Start small and work up to 20 minutes, twice a day. There’s a quote I like by American author, therapist and yoga expert, Anodea Judith, that says: “Without grounding, we are unstable, we lose our centre, flfly offff the handle, get swept offff our feet, or daydream in a fantasy world. We lose our ability to contain, to have or to hold. Natural excitement, or charge, becomes dissipated, diluted and ineffffectual. When we lose our ground, our attention wanders from the present moment, and we appear to be ‘not all here’. However, when we are grounded, we are humble… We can embrace stillness, solidity, and clarity, ‘grounding out’ the stresses of everyday life, and increasing the vitality of our basic life force.” Bathe in natural sunlight for a boost of energising and immune-balancing vitamin D. Learn to resolve emotional conflflict and deal with fear. Develop awareness, insight and skills allowing you to weather life’s challenges. Seek support from a qualifified psychotherapist, counsellor or psychologist. Harness nature’s pharmacy. Herbs possess an array of anti-inflflammatory, calming, de-stressing, antioxidant and pain-relieving properties — and taste delicious. Even the ritual of making tea, with a whistling kettle, favourite teapot and loose-leaf herb, demands mindfulness and a moment of repose. Don’t underestimate the humble cup of tea.
ANTHIA’S FAVOURITE HERBAL TEAS
Dose: one teaspoon of herb per cup of boiled water, three times a day. Steep light herbs such as leaves and flflowers for 1–3 minutes. Robust and hardy herbs such as roots and seeds may be steeped for 3–5 minutes. Choose one or more herbs per day, blended together or enjoyed as single teas. Lemon myrtle leaf ( Backhousia citriodora). With antifungal and antimicrobial properties, this herb may alleviate upper respiratory infections — for those times you’re plagued by ongoing, stress-related illness. Rooibos leaf ( Aspalathus linearis). Either the red or green rooibos may be used for its antioxidant properties and to reduce nervous tension and allergies. Zizyphus jujuba ( Zizyphus spinosa). This fruit has traditionally been used to relieve anxiety, nervous exhaustion and irritability. It helps with insomnia caused by stress. Licorice root ( Glycyrrhiza glabra). Licorice may help the mind and body better adapt to physical and emotional stress. It also has anti-inflflammatory and soothing properties for irritated respiratory and digestive systems. Ashwagandha root ( Withania somnifera). Traditionally used to improve mental and physical energy. Holy basil leaf ( Ocimum sanctum). This leaf is considered helpful for alleviating the symptoms of depression and stress. Peppermint leaf ( Mentha piperita). For those who need assistance with digestion, to ease Ibs-type symptoms, cool the constitution and gently promote liver cleansing. Chamomile flower ( Chamomilla recutita). This flower is often used to help reduce inflflammation and itches, and to calm an overactive nervous system. Lavender ( Lavandula angustifolia). A traditional herbal medicine that’s used to alleviate anxiety and headaches. Lemon balm ( Melissa officinalis). A delicious herb used to relieve muscle pain, headaches, Ibs-type symptoms as well as the symptoms of melancholia and anxiety. Uncertain which herbs are best for you? Seek expert advice from a qualifified naturopath or herbalist. They will also ensure your medication, supplements or disease state does not negatively interact with your herbs of choice. For more information or to contact Anthia, visit ovvioorganics.com.au