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BurnOut Syndrome

Health & Harmony

By Dr. Nancy Gahles, DC, CCH, RSHom, OIM

BurnOut Syndrome

Burned out? What does that actually mean? What does it feel like to be burned out?

Burned out means that you are exhausted, spent, you’ve got nothing left, you are running on empty.

Feeling burned out manifests in irritability. You may feel irritable in your moods, irritable in your interactions with other, irritable with yourself. You may experience anger over small issues, flare ups of temper, anxiety or the opposite side of the coin, apathy, indifference, lassitude, depression. Feelings of wanting to cry or crying easily; difficulty concentrating; forgetfulness; confusion; and feeling overwhelmed or rushed are symptoms that you are burned out.

Irritability manifests in your body as muscle aches/spasms (neck, shoulders, back, legs); tightness in the chest; heart palpitations; digestive issues (GERD); changes in appetite; constipation or diarrhea; sleep problems; nervous habits (nail biting, tongue clucking); dry mouth or throat; high blood pressure; excessive sweating; fatigue; grinding teeth; headache; frequently sick; dizziness; adrenal/thyroid issues.

Your issues ARE in your tissues. Your body speaks the language that you may not be trained to hear or to interpret. You may know that your body and mind are telling you that you are exhausted, burned out, but you may not be able to or willing to listen or to act upon a solution. It may be that the circumstances in your life that contribute to BurnOut appear to be unchangeable. You may think that you are trapped in a lifestyle that is simply, your lot in life.

Who is at risk for burnout syndrome?

Caregivers are at the top of my list. Caregivers range from parents to professional caregivers and the “in between” hybrid of people who have dual responsibility of caring for their immediate family and their parents. The “sandwich” generation.

Caring for members of the family at home who require constant attention can breed anger, resentment, guilt and feelings of low self-esteem and despair. Anxiety tops the list due to the constant demands of being the custodian to someone who desperately needs you.

Compassion fatigue and vicarious traumatization are unique forms of burnout that affect individuals in caregiving roles bearing the responsibility, emotionally and physically, for the life and well-being of a patient, partner, child or parent.

Burnout syndrome is a well known phenomenon in adolescents who are to striving or driven to achieve, to meet often, unrealistic expectations of their own or expectations foisted upon them by parents or society. Dropping out of college is a symptom of burnout when students have been pushed or over-worked to the point where they simply cannot function anymore in that environment.

Burnout syndrome is manifest in our young adults entering the workforce where 12 hour days and incongruent remuneration is the order of the day. Couple that with 2-4 hours of commuting time and the resultant disruption in work-life balance and you have the perfect recipe for anger soup! Over achievers, those people who go beyond the call of duty in order to be “good enough” or please people are intrinsically at risk for burnout.

Solutions to burnout and skillful strategies to prevent and manage situations that could lead to burnout are at hand. Each person’s situation needs to be assessed on its own merits. The gift of success is in the understanding of the unique aspects of each case.

In my experience, the most successful strategies lie in evaluating the person in the burnout phase. What makes you tick? What makes you sick? Standard BurnOut tests offer information to proceed with. Consultation on the emotional, mental and physical symptoms must be undertaken to remedy the underlying dysregulation of the whole system. We, as humans, are adaptive network systems. We have the capacity to adapt to interventions that are able to restore us to right function. Interventions from the fields of nanomedicine, nutrition, exercise, lifestyle and behavioral modifications, mindfulness meditation and yoga are most effective strategies. Building spiritual capital is extremely important as research shows that meaning and purpose in life predicts resilience under stress. In his book How Can I Help? Author Ram Dass says: “We can burn up, but we can’t burn out if we keep our spiritual boundaries intact”.

Compassion, self-compassion, selective attention and loving-kindness are skill sets that need to be understood, cultivated and tended to in order to grow your garden of well-being. Grace under pressure is a character trait that serves you and the ones you care for. It is a learned behavior. It is a phenomenon that radiates to others. It is a virtue and a presence of light, the light that burns brightly but does not burn out. In the words of the illustrious poet William Blake:

Tiger, tiger, burning bright,

In the forests of the night,

What immortal hand or eye

Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

Skillful strategies are at hand for you to burn brightly, white hot. To learn to simmer down, to tend to the embers below. Cultivate techniques that allow you to keep the heart light/pilot light/eternal flame alive while you go about the business of being you.

Practice makes perfect.

I will be hosting a talk on Burnout Syndrome , the second in a four part

Women’s Wellness Series

Thursday February 9


West End Temple

147-02 Newport Ave.


Contact: Gail 718-634-0301

Dr. Nancy Gahles is owner of Health & Harmony Wellness Center, offering integrative and holistic healthcare. Health & Harmony hosts Spirit of Love~The Rockaway Sangha, an urban, lay community of people who gather to practice Mindfulness in meditation, communication and relationships in our community., call 718-634-4577

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