My name's Rosie Millen and I'm a fully qualified nutritional therapist going by @missnutritionist on Instagram. I actually experienced severe burnout myself. Seven years ago I collapsed in the park and was bed bound for three years straight. It took me four years to get back on my feet and I had to make a lot of changes. I made a full recovery, which is why I’ve written a book on the subject but certainly wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy. Knowing how you can boost energy and productivity without burning out is more crucial now than ever. After all, the last 18 months or so have been particularly tough, right? A lot of us are feeling stressed, overwhelmed, or low on energy, and since the pandemic more people are experiencing burnout than ever before.
A survey taken in July 2020 even reported that 75% of workers have experienced burnout, with 40% of those polled saying it was a direct result of the pandemic (1).
What is burnout and why is it on the rise?
In short, burnout is the inability to cope with the many stressors of modern life, to the point where your health is affected. To understand why this happens, a quick biology lesson...
The adrenal glands are endocrine glands that sit on top of the kidneys. There are two adrenal glands, each about the size of a walnut. They are chiefly responsible for regulating the stress response through the synthesis of numerous hormones. Healthy adrenal glands secrete a number of hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol. These allow our bodies to deal with physical and emotional stress.
If, however, the adrenal glands are constantly pumping out the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol, they can become fatigued and stop producing these vital hormones. This can eventually lead to adrenal exhaustion aka burnout.
How do you know if you're suffering burnout?
We all feel stressed and tired from time to time, but burnout is more than that. The five most common symptoms of burnout to look out for are:
1. You’re extremely exhausted and have low energy
2. You wake up even after a good night’s sleep and still feel tired
3. You experience dizzy spells
4. You’ve lost your drive and motivation
5. You find small tasks challenging
The people that suffer from burnout the most are typically the ones who are perfectionists, overachievers and have A-type personalities. But that’s not always the case: statistics show that 76% of employees experience burnout on the job at least sometimes, and 28% say they feel burned out ‘very often’ or ‘always’ at work (2).
It's a real problem that needs addressing. Thankfully, I know from personal experience that it's totally possible to avoid burnout through some simple yet effective lifestyle and diet changes.
How can you beat burnout at home and at work?
Slow down. Stop rushing from task to task and place to place in a bid to keep every single plate spinning. Being aware of where you’re spending your time is a good place to start...
Free up time by writing a ‘stop doing’ list of all the things that take up a lot of your time, whcih could be compressed or avoided entirely. I'm not asking you to stop doing the unavoidable - simply the things that are not wholly necessary and take up valuable time that could be used for other, more important things.
Meditation can be really effective for avoiding burnout. Many evidence-based studies show that meditation can help to reduce anxiety, depression, PTSD and levels of cortisol (3). Start with just 10 minutes a day and use one of the many amazing apps available to get started.
Sleep is paramount for the recovery of the adrenal glands. It is the most important thing to support you during times of stress and burnout. You need to be getting at least 8 hours a night to function properly. If you miss out on sleep and start to make it less of a priority it is a stress on the adrenals glands and will eventually catch you out.
In fact, shuteye is so important for avoiding burnout that missing just an hour of sleep results in raised cortisol levels the next day (4).
Improve your sleep quality with these 6 simple tips and tricks. Once you’ve got the basics sorted, there are also certain nutrients that can help. U ULTRA Mind, for example, contains an active ingredient called Palmitoylethanolamide (PEA) that’s clinically proven to help people fall asleep 3x faster, have more restful sleep and wake up feeling up to 11x more alert (5)
How to naturally increase energy
It might sound counterintuitive, but if you’re low on energy one of the best things you can do is quit caffeine.
That’s because when caffeine molecules reach the brain, they take the place of the molecule adenosine, entering our brain cells’ receptors in its place. Adenosine is what generates a feeling of tiredness and regulates our wake-sleep cycle. Because caffeine blocks adenosine from our brain cells, it has the effect of not making us feel so tired.
This feeling is boosted by adrenaline, which is secreted from glands that detect too much adenosine in the system. Over time, more and more caffeine leads to the brain creating additional cell receptors to cater for the adenosine. A vicious circle, this results in you drinking more caffeine. In the long-run this can even alter the makeup of your brain!
If that’s not bad enough, studies also show that caffeine can lead to increased anxiety and panic attacks (6).
Instead, consider taking supplements that support your body’s natural energy processes such as U ULTRA Energy Sport Pro. Each serving provides 500mg of concentrated beetroot extract, which contains a high level of nitrates.
Nitrates encourage blood flow to the respiratory system and muscles. They also support the cell’s energy source, the mitochondria. In short, Energy Sport Pro helps make your body’s natural energy processes more efficient, encouraging sustained energy levels, unlike caffeine or sugar that both give short bursts of energy that can result in nasty crashes.
You can also support the adrenal glands with apoptogenic herbs. Ashwagandha is an ancient, medicinal herb that modern research proves can reduce cortisol levels and help reduce stress and anxiety. It also improves sleep quality and helps to improve focus and concentration. U ULTRA Mind contains ashwagandha in a clinically-trialled dosage.
3 sustainable ways to boost productivity
1. Start the day with exercise. Exercise increases the levels of endorphins we produce, which are natural mood lifters such as dopamine which is the pleasure hormone. It also helps us feel more motivated and focused.
2. U ULTRA Mind. This supplement is perfect for beating burnout at work! As well as PEA and ashwagandha, it contains the amino acid L-Theanine, which is clinically proven to improve alertness and attention. Discover more about the science behind U ULTRA Mind here.
3. Take regular breaks throughout the day. Make sure you have intervals during the day to breathe and get away from current stressors. It might seem counterproductive to step away from work when you’ve got an ever-growing to-do list but it really helps. That’s because our concentration levels drop off massively after around the 40-minute mark, while numerous studies suggest that regular breaks improve concentration, memory and focus, making you more productive overall.
How to boost energy and productivity without burning out: Conclusion
Burnout strikes when we have too many plates spinning and we just keep on adding more. Slowing down, crossing tasks off your to do list and getting good at prioritising all really help to reduce the chance of suffering burning out. Energy is everything. By putting small, preventative measures in place every day, and giving your body the nutrition it needs to fire on all cylinders, you’ll be happier, more relaxed and more productive!
Nutritional therapist, Rosie Millen (@missnutritionist) specialises in fatigue and helps men and women to regain their energy by making changes to their diet and lifestyle. Rosie has personally coached thousands of people to increase their energy, helped multiple companies give their employees more energy and written hundreds of blog posts on how to recover from burnout. Her book 'Burnout’s a B*tch - The Antidote to the Overworked World We Live In' is out now.