Burnout. Remember that term? It was coined by a man named Herbert Freudenberger in 1975 and is defined by three components. First, emotional exhaustion. Second, depersonalization. This is when you feel a depletion of empathy and compassion and caring. Third, decreased sense of accomplishment. This is an “unconquerable sense of futility: feeling that nothing you do makes a difference.” Do you feel like you are in a state of burn out? I sure do. Good news is you aren’t alone and there is help!

I came upon this information as I was listening to Brene Brown’s podcast, Unlocking Us. Her guests were twin sisters, Emily and Amelia Nagoski, authors of the new book, “Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle.” It seems that many, many of us are in this state. Why not? 2020 has been one heck of a year and there is no end in sight to the stressors we are dealing with. Fortunately, even though we may not be able to change the stressors, think COVID, politics, racism, etc., we can do some things to lessen the effects of the stress upon us. The authors give concrete things we can do to help us complete the stress cycle so our systems calm down. I don’t know about you but my nervous system feels constantly jacked up. So, what can we do? First, one of the most effective things to do when feeling the effects of stressors upon us is to exercise. I know you’ve heard this before and I know not everyone can exercise but if you can it is the single most effective thing you can do to lower your body’s stress response. Getting your breathing up and your muscles moving is so very helpful in completing the stress cycle. Think of the stress cycle as “fight or flight.” When we cannot exert the effort, as we would in fighting or fleeing, we stay in the cycle of stress. Exercise helps to complete the cycle. Breathing is also a highly effective way to regulate the nervous system. Inhale slowly and deeply, hold your breath for a few seconds and exhale nice and slow and fully until there is no more air. Do this a few times until you feel more settled and calmer. Your brain may go all over the place but that’s ok. Affection also helps calm and complete the stress cycle. Think how nice long hugs feel. Lastly, wellness or the “freedom to move fluidly through the cycles of being human” can also help to complete and thus end the stress cycle. Wellness in this case is a state of action, not a state of being. Allowing ourselves to cry or laugh is imperative.

This is a very brief synopsis of the podcast. I urge any of you who are feeling burned out to consider tuning in or getting the book. What a relief to know there is something we can do in these very uncertain times to feel a bit better. Until next time, eat healthy, be happy, wear a mask and wash your hands!

Elder Lynn

Lynn O’Hara, MS, RD, LPC, Licensed Psychotherapist and Registered Dietitian