Does this sound like you? Each day, you move from task to task like a robot. You’re numb. You’re disconnected. Your hair is getting thinner, your waist is getting thicker, you’re losing energy, and you’re just not yourself anymore. It’s almost like somebody else is running your body.
If you’re feeling like this, I can tell you this right now: You’re probably burned out—and if you don’t take action, you’re headed for a crash.
How we get burned out
Ironically, for many of us, burnout starts with success. We get promotions. Our bank account numbers go up. We get a big following on social media. This success can be tricky, because it causes us to do more and more to pursue greater success. In our attempt to constantly grow, we work harder.
For other people, burnout may stem from focusing solely on caring for family members—especially aging or ill parents—without caring for themselves.
As it turns out, the price for pushing yourself too hard—whether you’re trying to achieve wealth, a promotion, social status, a happier family, or even a better world—is disconnecting from yourself. As you get more and more disconnected, you become more robotic and less aware of the choices you’re making, and this accelerates your spiral into burnout.
How we can heal from burnout
To overcome burnout, you need to address all areas of your life: physical, mental, spiritual, and environmental. Here are the five strategies that helped me.
1. Develop a protective mindset.
The first step in recovering from burnout is to develop a mindset that helps you stay in control even when events seem uncontrollable. Think of this as your armor against burnout. This mental armor will empower you to stay connected and positive even when life is hectic, difficult, or painful.
One of the best ways to develop a protective mindset is to establish a morning ritual that will set the tone for your entire day. To do this, schedule five minutes every morning and do this:
- Spend the first three minutes mentally picturing the life you want to have. You must picture this life as if it already exists—like you’re living it right now. At the end of your three minutes, say, “This—or something even better—is my life.”
- For the next two minutes, deactivate your stress button by doing an activity that calms you. There are two energy exercises I love and do all the time. One is “shaking the tree”—a Qigong exercise in which you jump up and down as if you’re on a trampoline, while flicking your wrists. The other is tapping on the K27 point, which is the acupressure point in the hollow below the collarbone next to the breastbone.
When you start your day this way, you will fill yourself with positive energy—and that will translate into a better ability to shake off stress, traumas, and disappointments.
2. Surround yourself with well-intentioned people.
There is a saying that “you are the average of the five people closest to you.” This means that the people around you can either protect you from burnout or drive you straight into it.
If you allow toxic, depleting people into your life, they will drain your battery every day until you’re in an energy deficit. Well-intentioned people do just the opposite: They lift you up and re-energize you. This is why I say, “Have an inner doorman.” Be friendly with everyone, but be friends only with people who embrace who you are.
3. Go outside.
Our bodies need sunlight just as much as they need food and water. We now know that in addition to providing us with vitamin D, sunlight raises the body’s levels of nitric oxide—a vital molecule that increases blood flow, optimizes the immune system, and acts as a signaling molecule for the brain. This is why cheating your body of sunlight can leave you unhealthy and unhappy, contributing to burnout.
I know that you’ve been warned about the dangers of sun overexposure. But it only takes a few minutes in the sun, without sunscreen, to ramp up your levels of vitamin D and nitric oxide.
In addition to craving sunlight, our minds and bodies crave nature. That’s why more and more studies are showing that forest bathing—that is, simply being out in nature—can profoundly affect our mood. So treat your body to a little dose of nature every day, even if you do something as simple as creating a container garden on your balcony.
4. Satisfy your need for touch.
These days, many of us are “touch deprived.” This contributes to burnout, because stimulating our touch receptors calms us, lowers our blood pressure, and reduces our levels of the stress hormone cortisol. In addition, it raises our levels of oxytocin, a hormone that helps us to bond with other people.
So don’t be afraid to act like my Italian family and satisfy your need for touch with lots of hugs and kisses. Also, if you can’t get anyone to give you a little rubdown, invest in massages on a regular basis. And try dry brushing, which stimulates your touch receptors from head to toe.
5. Saturate your body with nutrients.
Even if you try to eat a good diet, a stressful life—too much work, too little sleep, too many worries—will deplete your body of essential nutrients. When you are nutrient-deprived, your immune system can’t work right, your brain can’t function optimally, your gut can’t metabolize food well, and your hormones get wonky. In addition, your extracellular matrix—that’s the fluid around your cells—goes from flowing like a river to sludgy like a swamp. All of this is a prescription for burnout.
When I hit burnout, the most important thing that put me on the road back to good health was the cleanse and reset I describe in my new book,Dr. Kellyann’s Cleanse and Reset. This cleanse was the ultimate tool I found to restore my body. It flooded me with foods that pushed nutrients in and toxins out. Within days, I started feeling like myself again—happier, healthier, and even younger.
One caution: When you’re burned out, this is not the time to opt for harsh cleanses or challenging workouts. Instead, you need a gentle cleanse and exercise routine that will pamper your body rather than punishing it. Also, choose a cleanse that’s rich in foods like collagen and bone broth that supply the amino acids your body needs to heal and detoxify itself.
If you aren’t quite ready to commit to a cleanse, then add anti-burnout foods to your regular diet every day. Let that be your fairy dust. Your best choices are clean proteins, non-starchy veggies, small amounts of fruit, and healthy fats such as olive oil, avocado oil, and avocados. Each high-nutrient food you add, and each toxic processed food you cut out, will tip the scales in your favor.
6. Finally, be kind to yourself.
Often, we push ourselves into burnout because of unresolved emotions—specifically, unresolved grief. When we fail to pay attention to our own feelings or needs, we end up looking for feel-good substitutes like alcohol or junk food that deplete our minds and bodies.
What I’ve learned in my journey through the tunnel is that so much of this is about self-love. It’s about taking care of ourselves because we deserve it. You know what? I’ve realized that I’m pretty freaking amazing—and I bet you are, too. So from now on, let’s be kind to our amazing selves.