Barbara Roberts, Homeopath

Therapeutics of Burnout

I see you, all those busy people who have taken on more and more, until one day you crash, hit the wall, flame out. Or it could be more of a slow decline in energy, still doing everything but it feels harder and harder, like walking through water, then walking through mud. Sometimes it’s an illness that takes you down, the cold that one of your kids had for 2-3 days that you’re still trying to kick 2 weeks later.

Lucille Ball, an American Actress said “If you want something done, ask a busy person to do it. The more you do, the more you can do.” In the 1960s I’m sure that was fine, and while it is true today, we don’t get the chance to switch off, to unplug, and step away from all of these things that we can do. Cell phones and internet and the global village means that you can be contactable 24 hours a day. Working remotely is a blessing, but it can be both isolating and when other commitments happen during the “work day” you can be catching up in your down time. Online study makes tertiary education more accessible, but also steals your time to rest and recharge.

I am certainly not immune to this, and first overloaded myself to the point I could not cope when I was 19 – but it is something that I am aware of, and try to manage my commitments and over the last 20 years I have gotten much better at saying no and putting boundaries in place, even with myself.

It is often a slippery slope from chronic stress into burnout; stress is physical exhaustion, anxiety, hyperactivity and trying to do all the things, whereas burnout is when you start to feel more overwhelmed, disengaged, emotionally exhausted and hopeless.

Homeopathic remedies can help support you with chronic stress and through burn out- however if you do not change the demands you are under any remedy is only palliative. The right remedy can support you to make those changes, and if none of these below help you, then make an appointment to find something for you.

Before we talk remedies, let’s look at some other things that are useful for burn out. Many of these you will already know, but when stuck in the downward spiral trying to do all of these things seems impossible. I hear you. Start with one thing, make that your goal and once you have incorporated that then consider the next step. When your climbing a ladder out of the burnout crevasse, take one step at a time, and be kind to yourself, especially when you have those days when it feels like you have slid right back down to the bottom.

*Support. Whether it is family, work, study or other things causing you stress, contact with people makes a lot of difference. Social time, positive time with friends and family, and talking with people who you trust all help reduce the burden.

*Boundaries. Whether there are negative people making things more difficult, or just overwhelming demands from work or study, set some boundaries about when you are available.

*Switch off. Technology can connect us to family and friends but it also means we are connected to demands of work, or other commitments. This is another area to set boundaries- choose to switch off technology – so you have some time without those demands.

*Relaxation. Our bodies and brains need rest to recharge, but when under chronic stress we stop doing the things that relax us. Whether this is yoga, meditation, or deep breathing, these will reduce stress and give the body and brain time to relax.

*Sleep. Prioritise sleep, as being tired makes everything seem more difficult.

*Creativity. Hobbies and creative interests that are separate to causes of stress help relieve and reduce stress and feelings of burnout. Creativity is a powerful force that is not about perfection (which can cause stress), but more flexibility, originality and personal achievement.

*Exercise. 30 minutes of exercise a day not only increases neurotransmitters that make you feel good like Serotonin and Dopamine, but also enhances cognition and brain activity. If 30 minutes sounds overwhelming and difficult to fit in, start with 10 minutes, and if you can, use this as a meditative time focusing on your body, and your breathing instead of all the things on your to-do list.

*Whole foods and a healthy diet. When under stress we crave sugar and carbs for that quick boost of energy, and when feeling time poor the temptation to grab something fast, which is usually processed, and devoid of nutrition is easy to give into. That doesn’t support our brain function or make us feel better, instead too much sugar and processed food will sap your energy further and reduce your immunity. Whole foods, fruit, vegetables, healthy fats and protein not only have the micronutrients you need, but also allow your body to build muscle, support immunity and brain function.

Now let’s look at some homeopathic remedies.

Phosphorus is a classic remedy for burnout. When we’ll they are bright, sociable, the life of the party, and can be quite dramatic. They are caring and empathetic, and will feed off the energy around them – but can take on negative energies as well. However too much can lead them to burn out, exhaustion, apathy, mentally foggy and anxious. Physical illnesses include recurrent respiratory infections, diarrhoea, and nose bleeds or discharges with blood in them. Phosphorus want ice cream and cold foods, and chocolate, although they can be averse to sweet foods.

Phosphoric Acid is a step further on than Phosphorus- they have the pervasive weakness and exhaustion of the acids, as well as the burn out of Phosphorus. Often a Phosphoric Acid state comes on after a period of high emotional stress, or from grief, illness or fluid loss. They will be apathetic, depressed – “dead inside” – and can be forgetful and slow to answer. They really crave refreshing or juicy fruits, and can have profuse diarrhoea.

Pulsatilla will show their burnout in their changeable nature. They will be on the edge of tears, and easily tipped over into weeping (even for good things!), but also can be irritable and change moods quickly. They can feel abandoned by the ones they love, and really need the company and consolation of friends and family. Hormonal problems, varicose veins, and indigestion from rich foods all can indicate Pulsatilla. They are worse for pork and fatty foods but will crave butter, cream, ice cream and peanut butter. Pulsatilla is also worse for being inside where it is stuffy, and much better outside or for fresh air.

Bambusa is a remedy for ailments from stress at work, emotional stress or a loss of financial support or help. There is a feeling like they are trapped by circumstances, like a caged tiger, and they feel over worked, overloaded and exhausted. They are particularly stressed out by their own children and feel like life is getting on top of them. Physically, Bambusa has back pain and stiffness in the nape of the neck. Pains, nausea or vertigo comes in waves, and they can be sleepless from anxiety and worry. They may desire alcohol but it can cause heartburn, and they dislike beer. They are sensitive to cold, and yet want to have fresh air.

Nux Vomica is the quintessential workaholic, they are competitive and ambitious, and will burn the candle at both ends. To keep themselves going they will crave stimulants, drink loads of caffeine and then over-indulge in alcohol. They may be high functioning alcoholics, whose major focus in life is work. All of this though can lead to collapse, whether it is the over-demands of work (there is no balance in their lifestyle), or a result of the overindulgence in food, drugs or alcohol. They are irritable, with a short fuse and can break things in their anger. They will be chilly, have stomach pains and may be nauseous with an inability to vomit, and constipated with ineffectual urging for a stool, or feeling unfinished after a bowel motion. They crave spicy or fatty foods, alcohol and coffee, but these may cause cramping pains.

Calcarea Carbonicum people are the salt of the earth, hard working, responsible, and the kind of person who will muck in and be there to support anyone who needs it. This can lead to over work, and because they are the type to do their duty and help out everywhere they can, they will take on more and more responsibility until they are overwhelmed. They are anxious about their health and security and have a strong fear that they will never get better. They’re also very conscious of their mental state, especially when feeling tired and confused and worry that others will notice and judge them. Physically Calc Carb are sluggish, can be overweight and put on weight easily. They are cold, but sweat easily, especially around the head. Calc Carb crave eggs and sweets.

There are many other remedies that are indicated for burnout, so if none of these resonate, or you try and they don’t help then see a Homeopath. Be kind to yourself, we are our own greatest critics, and often have a self dialogue that we would never ever say to someone else in the same position. Compassion for yourself, giving yourself permission to take things slowly and easily, and one step at a time is important.

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