How to Overcome Burnout with Ayurveda
In the wake of a year filled with overwhelming uncertainty, many of us are in search of a purpose, a way forward, or at the very least, some stress relief. It can feel challenging to juggle our day-to-day tasks while recovering from the turmoil that the pandemic caused.
How is anyone supposed to focus on work if they have been pushing aside their emotions and fears just to get through each day for the past year?
With that in mind, I want to prompt you to ask yourself: “Have I been feeling burnt out lately?” Many people associate burnout with a negative attitude or extreme exhaustion. Not many of us know just how serious the repercussions of burnout can become if it’s left unattended.
Instead of rationalizing your stress as “just a bad week” or “because of the pandemic,” I want to encourage you to take a moment and get to know how burnout can show up. If your experience matches the key signs, consider a more holistic approach to addressing the issue.
While it may feel easy to pop a Xanax or spend the evening on the Home Shopping Network, I invite you to double down on your Ayurvedic daily practices (and because you're here, I know you've got at least a few up your sleeve)!
What Is Burnout?
The World Health Organization (WHO) classifies burnout as an “occupation phenomenon... conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.”1
While conversations often focus on the workplace, burnout can happen in other areas of life too—parents, caregivers, and partners can also feel stressed, overwhelmed, and burnt out.2
Burnout occurs when our unacknowledged stress and anxiousness accumulate and create physical, mental, and emotional ailments. Our bodies tell a story, right? If you don’t get enough sleep, the next day you see bags under your eyes. This is our body’s way of letting us know that something isn’t working. Burnout is no different.
What Are the Signs of Burnout?
Burnout can manifest in a number of ways, including:3
- Adrenal fatigue
- Skin imbalances
- Imbalances in digestion and elimination
- Discomfort and excess heat after eating
From an emotional standpoint, burnout can be a bit more elusive as experiencing stress or anxiousness to some degree is normal. However, in excess, stress causes emotional and mental distress. These are some of the ways you may experience it in your life:
- Feelings of isolation
- Feelings of emptiness
- A generally pessimistic outlook on work and life
- Feeling sad or anxious
Ayurvedic Stress Management to Break Through Burnout
If you’re experiencing burnout, it can feel tempting to treat the issue with quick-fix solutions. In our culture of instant gratification, our first thought might be to go for a run or eat a decadent dessert to alleviate stress.
While these solutions address how you feel in the moment, the deeper issue requires slow and steady improvements made consistently to our daily routine. These Ayurvedic practices for stress management offer a few small adjustments that can make a big difference over time.
Prioritize a Consistent Sleep Routine
Sleep plays a critical role in our cognitive function, clarity, stability, and resistance to stress. To maintain optimal health, it is imperative to cultivate a sleep routine that aligns with nature’s cycles. Ayurveda recommends that your sleep patterns mirror the circadian rhythms of nature.
By following the sun, one has the power to change the quality of sleep. This means going to bed around 10 p.m. during the kapha time of day when you naturally feel lethargic and waking at about 6 a.m. during the vata time of day when you tend to feel energized and alert.
If you want to adjust your sleep routine, try the following steps to ease yourself into the process:
- Start getting ready for bed around 9 p.m.
- As you prepare for sleep, treat yourself to acts of self-care: listen to relaxing music that you love, or massage your feet with a warm herbal oil like Sleep Easy Oil.
- Go to bed by 10 p.m. If you’re used to a later bedtime, try going to bed earlier by 15–30 minute intervals each day until you naturally feel tired at this time.
Embrace a Nourishing Diet
When we are burnt out, our bodies experience a depletion of ojas, our reserve of vital life force that supports the health of the immune system. In order to rebuild ojas, we need to consume foods that nourish our bodies.
You can begin to adjust your diet by limiting or eliminating substances that deplete ojas, such as alcohol, drugs, cigarettes, excess caffeine (more than 1–2 cups each day), refined sugar, trans fats, and highly processed foods. You can then incorporate vata-pacifying foods into your diet with warm and cooked meals, high quality grains, fruits, vegetables, oils, and cultured dairy products.
Slow Down and Turn Inward
According to Ayurveda, our ability to adapt to stress relies on our mental and emotional health as much as our physical health. Whether it is a daily yoga practice, pranayama (breathwork), or spending time outside in nature, carving out the time to slow down and cultivate inner calm on a regular basis can play a huge role in preventing burnout.
Try to choose a practice that feels enjoyable to you so that you can easily stick to it and commit to a small amount of time each day that feels realistic and doable. If you feel drawn to yoga, choose a practice that is appropriate for your dosha, such as these dosha-balancing yoga routines.
If you choose to work with pranayama, a simple alternate nostril breathing practice like Nadi Shodhana is a powerful and effective way to calm the mind and cultivate internal balance.
Take Back the Reins of Your Well-Being
After enduring such a tumultuous time, I want to encourage you to take a moment and check in with your body.
Our schedules often fill up so quickly that we forget to stop, breathe, and simply pay attention to our bodies.
If you’re struggling with any of these signs of burnout, or you want to get ahead of burnout, I recommend working with an Ayurvedic health practitioner who can support you on your journey.
No matter where you’re starting from as you work toward balance and alignment, it’s never too late to prioritize your well-being!