With life moving at an ever-increasing pace, there is constant pressure in the workplace to take on bigger workloads, improve performance and find faster solutions. We may feel inadequate if we can’t keep up and tell ourselves we are able to cope even when we start noticing obvious signs that point to the opposite: constant worrying, inability to concentrate, lack of motivation, hopelessness, numbing out, irritability and exhaustion – all indicators that we are experiencing burnout, a protective measure taken by the mind and body when no other options are available.
While previously falling into a somewhat grey area of mental health disorders, the World Health Organisation has now officially classified burnout as “a syndrome … resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed” and identifies three main symptoms: Feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion; increased mental distance from one’s job or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job; and reduced professional efficacy.
Millennials have been identified as particularly susceptible to this “occupational phenomenon” – developing heightened career anxiety where there is a real possibility of job loss at any moment, under pressure to work long hours or overtime and expected to be available and able to respond 24/7. It has become harder than ever to leave work at the office. Being under constant low-level stress causes strain on all of the body’s systems and can change neural pathways and hormone levels, affecting the body’s ability to balance mood and energy functions. In a UK survey of more than 2,000 workers between the ages of 23 and 38, 96% indicated that burnout affected their everyday lives.
It is all too easy to turn to quick fixes and distractions to get through the next hour, day, week. But if we are to authentically address our mental and physical health, we must begin an inner enquiry, we must begin to examine the small choices we make every day, find a space to connect with our inner wisdom and lean in to hear it. Perhaps we need to remember how important it is to set boundaries between our work life and our personal life. Perhaps there are aspects of our daily lives that require more attention and others on which we can soften our tight focus. Perhaps when we gently guide ourselves into a space of mindfulness, we might find that there is an opening that allows us to breathe, to move through the day with more ease and to honour the intentions that we have set for ourselves.
These intentions may include making better lifestyle choices:
A helpful way to uncover, unravel and become more aware of the unconscious patterns and beliefs that can control our behaviour and responses to stressors, is through journaling and meditation. Here we can also begin to reconnect and re-evaluate. Carving out regular time to spend on activities that are enjoyable, particularly with loved ones, is also a vital aspect of recovery from burnout.
Choosing foods that are supportive of our nervous systems, and provide us with sustained energy throughout the day. Cutting out extraneous sources of overstimulation, especially screen-time. Becoming more aware of our mind-body-spirit connection. This is where yoga truly comes to assist us.
The most common misconception about yoga is that it is just asana (physical exercise) practice. While the postures certainly work to stimulate the body from the inside out, aiding in the release of frozen energy, easing muscular tension and activating each system in order to work more efficiently, it is the holistic approach of yoga that subtly works to bring us into a calmer, more mindful state of being, slowly returning us to a space where we can drop into ourselves and pay close attention to how we feel. It is here, through practice, that we find a place of balance and connection. Yoga practice works towards activating the parasympathetic nervous system, lowering cortisol levels and improving adrenal function.
For the body to enter a state of healing, it is essential that we slow down our systems and move from the “fight, flight or freeze” mode into the “rest and digest” or processing mode, as this is when the cellular function is optimal. Asanas should be moved through slowly and deliberately and with close attention to the breath, resisting the urge to tighten and allowing a gentle exploration of movement.
Relief can be found in the easiest poses, such as Mountain Pose, which allows time to find our centre and ground our energy; Child’s Pose, a deeply restorative pose that also releases tension in the shoulders and upper back; and Legs Up the Wall pose, which calms the nervous system, slows the heart rate and is great for headaches. Relaxation is a very important part of the practice for sufferers of burnout, so allow yourself plenty of time in Corpse Pose to allow the integration of the subtle changes in physiology that have taken place throughout your yoga session.
Do yoga to heal you. We offer a number of Outdoor Yoga Classes that you could join. Rather want a yogi to help get you started with Private Yoga Classes? Contact us and we’ll send a qualified instructor plus the yoga mats 🙂