How to prevent overwhelm and burnout as a carer
As a former buyer for one of the UK’s largest retailers, our partner, Ify, Founder of The Modern Glow, knows the pressures of balancing business and modern life. As a qualified nutritional therapist and yoga teacher, she supports people with stress everyday and has kindly shared her top tips on the ways that we can prevent overwhelm and burnout.
The importance of self-care for caregivers
What’s the first thing that falls by the wayside when life gets busy? For me, self-care was always the first to go. I have many vivid memories of sitting at my desk late into the evening trying to get through emails and finish my workload! Then it was food – hello convenience meals, eating on the go and quick sugar fixes! After that, it was cancelling meets-ups with friends.
Working too hard and not focusing on self-care is a recipe for stress, overwhelm and burnout. Therefore it’s important that we take a shift in our mindset and explore solutions that fit our busy lifestyles.
What happens to our bodies when we’re stressed?
When I work with busy individuals, I often ask about their energy levels. The answer is generally always the same: “pretty good, I do this and that …” Then I ask what happens when they slow down, when they sit and relax, or first thing in the morning when the alarm goes off… then we get to the real truth about energy levels!
When you are busy and stressed, your body goes into fight and flight mode. Cortisol is a stress hormone produced by the adrenal glands, which switches on the sympathetic nervous system. Through a number of glands and organs it causes your heart to beat faster, blood to pump more vigorously, and breathing to speed up. Energy is diverted from digestion and sent to muscles and the brain to prepare to meet the perceived threat. These changes help to survive short periods of stress but become harmful when they continue.
Persistently elevated levels of cortisol can negatively affect brain function. When energy is diverted away from digestion and food sits in the gut for longer than it should, it can create digestive issues, like bloating, indigestion, reflux, and dysbiosis. Persistently elevated blood sugars and blood pressure can also contribute to high blood pressure, insulin resistance, and so on. Appetite can increase to meet the demands made on the body. Thyroid function can slow down, which impacts metabolism and causes weight gain. Although stress alone won’t cause a thyroid disorder, it can make it worse. Elevated stress hormones can affect sleep and poor sleep can increase stress levels, leading to a vicious circle.
How stress impacts our overall health and wellbeing
Every organ in the body is affected by stress hormones as they wreak havoc on your overall health and wellbeing. When I work with clients, I often liken mental and physical wellbeing to a bank account. When you eat well and practise self-care, you’re paying in a deposit. But when you get stressed or don’t exercise, you’re making a withdrawal.
We want to keep our well-being bank account in credit. Take too much out and we go into debt. The bank will start sending letters demanding the account be brought back to balance. These letters are like symptoms – your body’s way of telling you it’s under pressure, such as bloating, lower back pain, achy joints, headaches, and so on. You can ignore the letters but they’ll keep coming. You could tape over the letterbox to stop the letters from landing on your doormat – i.e., pain killers to stop backache or headache or an anti-acid medication. However, this only addresses the symptom, not the cause. The letters are still being sent because the root cause hasn’t been resolved. Eventually, the bank may send a court summons or bailiffs to the door – in health terms, this might be burnout or illness.
Top tips to help prevent burnout and overwhelm
So, with the above in mind, here are some of the ways that we can stop the feeling of overwhelm and becoming burnout:
- Prioritise self-care – Show yourself kindness and add non-negotiable pockets of self-care into your calendar. Aim to get to bed at a reasonable hour, sleep deprivation will break even the strongest willpower around food choices and exercise.
- Move more – Find ways to incorporate movement into your day. Go for a walk at lunchtime. Take the stairs instead of the lift. Chase the kids around the garden. It’s better to do 5-10 minutes of stretching by your bed every morning than attend the occasional yoga class!
- Nourish your body – Supplementation can provide numerous benefits for mental health and wellbeing, and nutritional deficiencies can exacerbate mental health concerns such as stress, anxiety, and low mood. Vitamin D is hugely important for mental well-being and I often see clients struggle to get enough, especially in the winter. Vitamin C boosts immunity and supports the body during stressful periods. Vitamins help to increase energy, balance neurotransmitter levels, improve cognitive performance and regulate your mood. *It’s always best to speak to a qualified nutritional therapist before supplementing.
- Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate – It’s so important, I wrote it three times! If you take one message away today, let it be this one. It’s free and easy to incorporate into your day. It helps with inflammation in the body, cushions joints, supports weight loss, and even the brain works better when well hydrated. Find water boring? Try adding rosemary, lemon, or lime slices. In colder months, drink water at room temperature or slightly warmed. Aim to drink 1 – 2 litres a day depending on exercise levels. Always increase water intake over several days to give the body a chance to adjust.
- Breathe deeply – An easy one to get started is the 3-4-5 breath. Breath in for three, hold for four, out for five. Try it for a few minutes if negative thinking, anxiety, or overwhelm starts to set in. The slower and deeper the exhale, the more relaxed you’ll feel. This activates the parasympathetic nervous system (aka rest and digest) and calms the body (decreasing heart rate, slowing respiration, reducing cortisol levels, etc.).
Incorporating just 2 or 3 of these tips will make such a difference to your health and well-being. Consistency is better than perfection!
I love this quote by Mahatma Gandhi:
“It is health that is real wealth and not pieces of gold and silver”.
Sadly, we don’t tend to appreciate our bodies or our wellbeing until illness comes.
If you would like tailored lifestyle advice to help you live a happier, healthier life, please get in touch to arrange a free 15-minute initial consultation with Ify.
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org or Call: 01235 355 570