By Dr. Shawna Darou, ND
I’m seeing people exhausted rather than refreshed after the December break. If you think about it, after almost 2 years of pandemic, we flew into 2022 at high speed and none of us started the year in great shape. Not surprisingly, I’m seeing so much fatigue, burnout and hormone imbalance especially. Simply put, people’s bodies are having a hard time healing.
Most of you have heard me say is that our bodies heal in a state of rest. If you haven’t been able to rest because of stress, a busy home life, high workload, anxiety, menopause, frequent illness, or anything else, fatigue builds and new health issues begin. The starting signals that your body is not coping well with stress and not healing fully are fatigue, achiness and low motivation. After a period of time, wherever your health weak spot is will flare-up – digestion, hormones, joints, mood, sleep, or other systems.
Rather than focus on the symptoms that are showing you the start of burnout, I want to share some simple tips and tools to bring you back to health and wellness in 2023. My suggestion is to choose one or two for now, and build on them later.
Steps to prevent burnout this year:
1) Build white space into your calendar
You can’t go a million miles an hour without a break. If your life is as busy as mine, you might need to actually schedule your downtime. Or if you are the parent of small children, have regularly scheduled time for yourself when your partner, family or caregiver is with the children. Even when life isn’t that busy, we can tend to putter around or procrastinate, and not really allow for downtime.
2) Practice napping
I’m a big fan of short afternoon naps. They are a fantastic way to recharge your energy and allow your nervous system to balance. If you really struggle to come down from stress, and are always buzzing, a nap or even resting with your eyes closed can be very refreshing. It’s best not to nap right after eating as this can impact blood sugar and insulin levels, and also not too late in the day as it will interfere with your sleep at night.
3) Learn about sleep hygiene
There are so many temptations that interfere with good sleep quality, especially electronic devices of all types. In essence, winding down before bedtime, reading or listening to a guided meditation before bed, keeping your bedroom cool, dark and quiet are key. Here is a more comprehensive list of sleep tips: https://drshawnadarou.com/2020/11/09/favourite-sleep-tips-heal-recover-repair/
4) Check for nutrient deficiencies
Obviously if you are deficient in a nutrient like iron, vitamin B12 or vitamin D it will impact your energy levels. So many women are running on empty, and when I test I almost always find deficiencies. If you have a heavy menstrual cycle, eat a plant-based diet, have lots of coffee, have gluten intolerance, celiac or chronic digestive issues, chances are you are deficient in iron and / or vitamin B12. Simple blood tests are highly recommended if you’re feeling run down.
5) Don’t overdo your exercise
Although exercise is very important for health, wellness and energy, it is also important to not overdo it when you’re feeling run down, or recovering from illness. Remember that an intense workout is also a stress on your body, and if your stress is high and you’re already at capacity, you may be doing more harm than good. Take an honest look at your workouts, your energy and your life – are you building energy or depleting it right now?
6) Stay social
If we’ve learned anything over the past few years, it’s the important of social connection. Being with friends and family is essential for mental health, and also for nervous system regulation. Choose the type of social interaction that feels best for you, and remember that too much time alone is a stress on your body.
7) Ask for help, especially if your mental health is struggling
Common symptoms of burnout are anxiety and depression, which become amplified by a lack of energy. It can be extremely helpful to get some help with your mental health with a trained therapist to work through the situations that are putting you are risk of burnout, and your coping tools too.
8) Consider adaptogen herbs and supplements
There are many herbal medicines and supplements that are helpful for hormones, mood, energy and stress resilience. This includes Ashwagandha, Siberian Ginseng, Astragalus, Rhodiola, Holy Basil, Phosphatidylserine, L-Theanine, Passionflower, and more. Some of these are more energizing, others are more calming, and some also support immune system function. Please ask before taking herbal combinations so we can accurately choose ones that will work well for you.
If this article rings true to you, and you’re starting 2023 with more fatigue than you expected, please take a look at the tips above, and also book in for an appointment to make sure we give extra support to any systems that need help right now. Remember that your body needs downtime and rest to be healthy, and when it’s been too long without a rest it can begin to erode your health. Once you identify the issues, prioritize downtime and rest, your vitality will return.