Burnout: How your diet can help
Fuelling yourself with the right foods can revive, rejuvenate and renew your tired body and exhausted mind. When you’re feeling sluggish, lethargic and fatigued, it can be tempting to eat your bodyweight in comfort foods – and cooking healthy meals? Well, that’s just another chore to think about. But using food to beat burnout needn’t be complicated. And taking the time to think about your nutrition will support your long-term health and happiness.
Choose complex carbs
To function optimally, the body needs fuel. Its favourite energy source? Glucose. Complex carbohydrates – brown rice, oats, quinoa, buckwheat, pearl barley and whole-wheat pasta and bread – provide a slow-release of glucose, helping to balance blood sugar and avoid energy crashes, which can pronounce stress and fatigue. To keep those mood-affecting dips at bay, limit your intake of refined carbohydrates (common culprits include all-things beige: white bread, white pasta, and white rice).
Think about your gut
More than 2,000 years ago, Hippocrates said ‘all diseases begin in the gut’ – and his theory may just stand up. There’s a direct communication line between your gut and brain, also known as the gut-brain axis. These two vital organs are connected through the production of chemicals called neurotransmitters, which control emotions. Indeed, the gut manufactures a large proportion of serotonin, responsible for feelings of happiness.(18) In short: a happy gut means a happy brain.
Grow your gut garden
Try to eat 30 grams of dietary fibre daily: (whole grains, fruit, vegetables, legumes, nuts, and seeds) to feed your gut bugs
Diversify your food! Aim to eat 30 different plant foods every week to diversify your gut microbiome
Eat fermented foods regularly (the 3 K’s: kefir, kombucha, and kimchi)
Consider a soluble fibre supplement: Soluble fibre derived from chicory root contains a unique carbohydrate called fructooligosaccharides (FOS) that helps to maintain normal intestinal health
Avoid mood-affecting foods
Food affects your mood – for better, or for worse. Unfortunately, the likes of sugar, caffeine and ultra-processed foods may exacerbate symptoms of burnout. These foods are known to aggravate an already-spent nervous system. Drinking copious amounts of coffee, for instance, will only make you feel more on edge and jittery. For the time being, at least, try to reduce your intake of these foods.
Go for wholefoods
Make colourful wholefoods (minimally-processed foods in their ‘whole’ form) the focal point of your diet. Aim for three square meals each day – and try not to skip any to support your energy levels. Eating an abundance of fruits, veggies, legumes, whole grains, nuts, seeds and a smaller amount of dairy, oily fish and meat, will help regain your strength.
Even mild dehydration can lead to fatigue and mood changes (certainly not what you want at the moment). Aim for at least six to eight glasses (around 1.5 litres) of water every day. And if straight-up water isn’t your thing, add mint, sliced cucumber, or chopped lemon. Always have a bottle close by to remind you to drink periodically throughout the day.
So, what exactly do adaptogens do? Well, the clue is in the name. These compounds help the body adjust and adapt to different physical and emotional surroundings. This family of herbs are believed to increase what is low – such as energy – and lower what is high – such as tension. And there are plenty of adaptogens to support your health at this time.
Natural remedies to your nutrition
Siberian Ginseng is arguably the best-kept secret of the nutritional world. This herb helps to maintain that ‘get up and go’ feeling, but, crucially, doesn’t contain caffeine.
Korean Ginseng is another well-known adaptogen. Experts believe the popularity of this herb is thanks to its mild stimulatory properties.
Ashwagandha is a revered herb of the Indian Ayurvedic system of medicine. This herb is often referred to as ‘Indian Ginseng’ since it possesses similar adaptogenic properties.
The herb rhodiola rosea has been used for centuries. It’s the perfect partner to Siberian Ginseng and magnesium. Why not jump online to learn more about this special herb?
Magnesium plays a role in over 300 biochemical processes in the body and is integral to health. Amongst its responsibilities, this mineral contributes to energy release and a reduction in tiredness and fatigue. Find it in: Kale.
Often dubbed the ‘energy vitamins’, many of the B vitamins – namely vitamin B2, vitamin B3, pantothenic acid and folic acid – contribute to a reduction of tiredness and fatigue, giving your body a helping hand at this time. Find them in: Brown rice.
Iron is fundamental to all life processes; without it, the body cannot transport oxygen. Crucially, iron contributes to a reduction of tiredness and fatigue, which may prove especially useful. Find it in: Lentils.
Although vitamin D is a vitamin, it operates more like a hormone in the body. Indeed, low levels may affect mood and energy levels.(19) Find it in: Egg yolks.
Turmeric is having its moment in the wellness sphere – and for good reason. To learn more about how this herb may support you at this time, take a look online.
Be careful of unhealthy coping strategies
We all have unique ways of managing stress. Some are healthy – taking yourself for a walk, calling a loved one, or curling up on the sofa – others, however, aren’t. If you notice yourself relying more on alcohol or caffeine to get you through the day, it could be an early sign that you’re heading for burnout. And if you’ve already hit burnout, turning to these things may only add fuel to the fire.
Scrolling through social media, getting lost down a YouTube wormhole and watching endless cat videos may provide short-term relief from stress, but the noise of technology can also amplify symptoms of burnout. Make a conscious effort to unplug from technology. Turn off notifications, take work emails off your phone and give yourself a tech-free hour before bed and as soon as you wake up in the morning.
Take it easy on caffeine
For many of us, getting through a long working day means knocking back several cups of joe. But if you’re tired, exhausted and burnt out, chances are, your coffee consumption is contributing. Caffeine triggers the fight-or-flight response. In other words, it causes a stress reaction. And if your body is already chronically stressed, imagine what five cups of coffee could do? Hint: it doesn’t bode well for burnout.
If you’re a serial coffee-guzzler, cutting back on the java can feel like a Herculean task, but it’s
Decrease your caffeine intake gradually to reduce withdrawal symptoms
Try swapping caffeinated coffee with decaffeinated
Consider drinking a blend of barley and chicory – a delicious caffeine-free coffee alternative that’s widely available in most health food shops
Caffeine also disrupts sleep (and sleep, of course, is vital for your recovery at the moment). Avoid drinking caffeine after midday to support your quest for rest.
If you think you’re burning out or are already in the throes of burnout, we strongly encourage you to seek support. You don’t need to handle this by yourself. We aren’t islands; we all need the support of our community, friends, family and loved ones. Although our culture doesn’t make it easy to address burnout, help is available, especially since the conversation on this phenomenon is evolving.