There was a time in my life when no matter what I did, I was tired. I didn’t recognize it then, but it was burn out. Now I recognize it for what is was and is. At that time in life, I didn’t feel particularly stressed out. If you would have asked me, I was completely happy. What I didn’t know is that my brain was taking the toll of my constant going. I prided myself on being a “human doing” instead of a human being. I cringe as I write those words because now they are so backwards to me. Anyway, burn out is real and it sucks the life out of you, literally.
Burn out happens after your brain has sustained long-term abuse from stress, anxiety or even just over use. I call that “overdrive”. So many of us are in constant overdrive. We feel the need to strive, achieve, or just keep up in most cases. It is truly exhausting. Exhaustion of the brain is a product of burn out. It’s consequences are not pretty. They involve: sleep problems, anxiety, low motivation, brain fog, and increased illness. Find out if you are suffering from burn out and then learn how to avoid it.
4 Signs You May be Suffering from Burn Out
If you feel exhausted, even when you have gotten a “full night” sleep, this indicates that your brain is suffering. Most likely you are not getting into restorative sleep at all. I write “full night” in quotes because a good night’s sleep is typically a pipe dream for people who are burnt out. More sleep will help you recover from the effects of burn out, but it has to be restful sleep. That can only be accomplished once your brain is in a better spot.
Not Taking Care of Yourself
Self-care, what’s that? Self-care has become incredibly important to me in recent years. This is because I have worked so hard to get my brain (and life) into a good spot. Now I want to keep it there forever. My self-care regimen is what I refer to as my “Brain Health program”. I call it this because as a seriously Type A achiever, relaxation does not come naturally to me. But, as a brain health educator, taking care of my brain does. The main component of my Brain Health Program includes balancing how I use my brain. This means time thinking and time not thinking. You can read more about this in my post on Balancing Your Brain.
Brain Fog or Fuzzy Thinking
If your thinking has become fuzzy you are experiencing Brain Fog. Difficulty concentrating, staying focused, and getting your work done, might indicate that you might be burnt out. Especially if you have never had those difficulties before. Brain fog comes from the irregular brain pattern that is associated with burn out.The brain naturally slows itself down to help itself recover from the excessive use of overdrive. Brain Fog is a symptom that it is time for you to give your brain a break.
Thinking about Work… Even when you are not working.
I have been there. A previous version of myself, thankfully not the current me, could not stop thinking about work or my work goals. It was consuming. When my body was at the pool with my kids, my mind was back at work. Now, if I am at the pool with my kids, I don’t even think about work. My brain allows me to enjoy my down time and be present in it. It is much healthier. If you are constantly checking your phone, email, or just thinking about your to-do list all the time, it is likely you are heading for burn out.
How Do I Know if I am Burnt Out?
Burn out shows up on a qEEG Brain Map as a combination of patterns. It looks like three main things that you can see on the map below.
Increase in Extra Slow Brain Speed, called Delta.
When Extra Slow speed increases in the brain, this is a marker of exhaustion of the brain. What you will feel is brain fog, difficulty thinking and focusing, and general discontent. Your brain is exhausted from maintaining an overdrive pattern of too much High Beta.
Too Much Extra Fast Brain Speed, called High Beta.
High Beta is used to think and perform in a high level or constant way. Hence, why I call it “Overdrive”. It is associated with stress and anxiety also. High beta has been linked with a wide variety of physical problems in the body too namely; pain, stomach and digestion issues, sleep problems, illness, and so much more. To preserve itself, the brain slows itself down. This provides it the opportunity to recover from the exhaustive forces of constantly going and performing.
Low use of Medium Calm-Focused Brain Speed, called Alpha and Low Beta.
The Brain Map for Burn Out also shows too little use of medium, calm-focused, brain speed. What this means is not only is your brain using too much extra slow speed, and too much extra fast speed, it is also not using enough medium speed that produces the feeling of calm, focused concentration. It is a trifecta of sorts.
Symptoms of Burn Out
The above brain pattern leads to anxiety and exhaustion. According to the Mayo Clinic, other signs and symptoms of Burn Out include:
Excessive stress Fatigue
Insomnia Sadness, anger or irritability
Alcohol or substance misuse Heart disease
High blood pressure Vulnerability to illnesses
Tips to Improve Burn Out
Relax your schedule and your life.
If I start to feel off in this way, I immediately take something off my plate. Burn Out is caused by constantly going, thinking, and doing. Thus, the solution is to stop going, thinking, and doing. Just take one or two easy things off the plate and schedule in down time in their place.
Take a Brain Health Day.
I know you won’t want to, but… a break is what your brain needs. Give it a break and it will perform twice as well tomorrow. I personally have only done this twice in my lifetime because I could feel how off I was. If you feel off, you are off. Literally your brain is turning off to a certain extent. It needs a day. Give it a day.
Build downtime in to your schedule.
Right now, I want you think of your favorite thing to do to relax. Now, pick up your calendar and schedule it in. When you participate in your favorite activity it is like meditation for your brain. I love to read and do yoga. The hubs, Dr. Cosmas Leigh, loves to golf. He golfs twice a week like his life depends on it. I read daily and do yoga at least once a week. Love to hike? Do it! Love to knit? Do that. Now, get ready because here is the real key to success, schedule it. It must be scheduled so your brain knows it IS the thing that you are supposed to be doing right now. It is not work avoidance, it is a scheduled brain health activity. It will help you be successful in including down time in your life.
If you want to avoid burn out or back it off if you already missed the boat on avoidance, check out my 3 Brain Modes to Feel and Perform Your Best post.
If you are really stuck and are struggling with multiple signs and symptoms of Burn Out then you might need help shifting your brain out of burn out mode and back to optimal mode. You can use Neurofeedback for this.
How Neurofeedback Can Help Burn Out.
Of course, you should have a qEEG Brain Map performed to see specifically how your brain is performing to cause your symptoms. Likely what will be found is the brain pattern described above. Once that brain pattern is identified, then Neurofeedback protocols can be used to decrease the production of extra fast and extra slow speed (High Beta and Delta) and simultaneously increase the production of medium speed (Alpha – Low Beta) to improve you feel and how you are able to perform.
Our team of professionals at Leigh Brain & Spine use Neurofeedback training as a first line of defense to shift brains out of the burn out mode and into the healthy mode of calm-focus. We offer in-office and Remote Neurofeedback. Then we teach you how to keep it there forever. You can check out the details at our office website or find a Neurofeedback Expert near you.