You may have heard it before, but is always worth hearing again: “if you’re feeling tired, fatigued or burnt out, you need to slow down, simplify, and take on less”. Easier said than done, right? Well, don’t be so fast to resist the possibility. There are many people out there, just like you, who once upon a time lived under the same constraints and stresses as you; fathers, mothers, workers, all those barely able to make ends meet, running rampant with little to no time to slow down and breathe. The difference between you and those who no longer succumb to the hardships of burnout is that these people made a conscious choice to change, and did so with welcomed ease. So how to I propose you can do the same? Here’s why you are burnt out, and here are the simplest and most effective ways to fix it.


First, let’s talk burnout 


Burnout is defined as a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. Say no more, right? If you’ve been there, or are still there now, you don’t need a definition to know what it is, how it feels and what its consequences are. Today I’m not going to get into the physiological processes involved in burnout, so I’m simply going to say this: if you’re experiencing burnout (aka adrenal exhaustion or severe fatigue), your HPA axis (hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis) is overworked, malfunctioning, and affecting the proper activity of a well functioning state (not to mention many other systems in your body, including immune, digestive, thyroid, hormonal…take your pick!). 


Here’s why you’re burnt out 


It doesn’t matter who you are or what you do, burnout can loom and strike you at any time. Whether you’re a parent trying to keep up with the endless demands of family scheduling, a single professional working your way up the executive ladder, or anyone in between, the most common denominators underlying the potential for burnout simply rests on two factors; lack of control and lack of satisfaction. Since burnout can occur from emotional, physical, mental or spiritual inconsistencies, any aspect of who you are can ultimately drive you into such a state and close to the edge. Regardless of what’s perpetuating your current burnout picture, the resiliency of a maladapted physiological state is a going to continually fail. So unless you’re ready to give your system a break, continued fatigue, tiredness, lack of motivation and the array of other physical and mental dis-eases you are currently dealing with, will never change. Thankfully, it’s in your control to make an immediate difference.  


Here’s how to fix it 


Because I’ve personally found what works for me, doesn’t necessarily guarantee it’ll work for you. That being said, addressing the two underlying reasons why burnout occurs (as discussed above), you can easily adapt a simple approach to your specific life.


1. Give it up


It may seem impossible or inconceivable to ever think about giving up your schedule, work demands, current life pace, or even financial reliances right now, but by slowing the demands placed on yourself, you’ll immediately experience how wonderful it feels to be healthy and live daily with the zest you never thought you’d have. So start easy but think about what it is that will work for you (giving up your child’s organized sport, saying no to more responsibility at work, or dividing up the daily duties rather than doing them all yourself). Ultimately, if you don’t tighten the reigns and make some choices, the burnout you’re currently experiencing will ultimately make the choice for you (trust me, I’ve seen it hundreds of times, and still see it daily in my practice). 


2. Say no


Similar to giving it up, part of reclaiming your energy and self, is your ability to say no. I mean, think about it, the longer you live, the more you tend to take on. It’s actually mind boggling if you think about it: how have you continually done more but still able to function? It all comes down to the fact that you have been unconsciously saying no all along. As life evolves, you end up giving one thing up for something else. For example, remember when you were younger and used to clean your car every single weekend to keep it sparkling clean inside and out? With two kids and a family to support, cleaning your car once every 6 months now sounds way more reasonable. Although you may not have liked giving up a clean car for one that is now covered in candy wrappers, cereal and dirty handprints, you had no choice but do accommodate for what you need now. Same thing applies in approaching your turnaround from burnout, but the difference is now you need to consciously and purposefully say no, take control of this choice, and not take any more on before it becomes another long term stress.


3. Slow down 


Here’s the one that sounds the easiest yet can often be the most difficult to achieve. Give yourself the authority to stop. You know the saying ‘calm amongst the storm’, well you know what, it’s true. Yes, you have a thousand things to do, but if you don’t centre your energy (or lack thereof), slow down and stop, you’ll be just another wind blown victim in the storm. Those who have easily mastered the method of slowing down, do it without a second thought and find it’s one of the simplest things you can do to unwind burnout. Are you experiencing a hectic day or week? It really doesn’t matter what latitude of busyness you’re experiencing, you owe it you your self (and those around you) to slow down, stop, and take a few deep centred breaths. 


There’s a lot more to recognizing, dealing and recovering from burnout than seemingly just ‘giving it all up’, however if you’re striving to make your physiology and biology work for you rather than against you, you need to take a step in the right direction and finally take a stand for your health.


Dr Jeremy Hayman, ND helps patients at Cornerstone Naturopathic Inc. feel better, live better, and achieve optimal wellness and health. Years of patient care coupled with dedication to personal life balance has helped Dr Jeremy employ the adage that “your approach to health should be simple”.