In the last 18 months, things have changed. Between pandemic stress, social isolation, climate anxiety, and political division, it’s been hard to catch a breath, let alone allow ourselves to rest.
And while it may have felt like a luxury to begin with, a recent study conducted by HR firm Mercer, found that 94 percent of employees working from home since COVID began have demonstrated performing at the same—if not higher—rates of productivity than they did previously at their employer’s headquarters. Proving what we’ve all already established among our friends and loved ones; more and more of us are burnt out. To a crisp.
Chronic stress and the overwhelming feeling of exhaustion are at a fever pitch, according to researchers both in the US and around the world. So what’s the average worker to do? Well, it’s like they say: The battle begins at home. And that means making incremental, sustainable changes to the way we look after ourselves, day by day.
But how? We asked two respected specialists in their field to join us in a round table discussion all about exhaustion. Mia Ridgen is a certified holistic nutritionist and the mind behind Rasa, an educational platform that helps you take control of your health and wellbeing. Joining her in this discussion is Victoria Young, a former tech leader turned yoga and meditation teacher who consults leaders on feeling and performing their best.
So whether you’re already exhausted or you’d like to avoid becoming that way, read on for two expert takes (and plenty of tips) on addressing stress and rebalancing your body and mind, for good. Now there’s a calming thought.
Victoria Young: When I was at Netflix, Facebook, and Uber over the past years, I could feel the pace of work reach an all time high in the decade that I had been working. The same technology companies that are making our lives easier and better in some many ways are—as a byproduct—also making our lives move tremendously faster. The pace of communication, the volume of information, and the expectations around response times can be very overwhelming.
That’s why it’s more important than ever to understand your own personal boundaries—what gives you energy, what drains you of energy, and the type of lifestyle that authentically works for you, based on what you value in your life.
Mia Rigden: I think burnout and fatigue result from a confluence of behaviors and actions, but in my practice, I see that so many of us are dependent on stimulants to get us through the day, then need depressants to relax before bed. It’s common for people to feel like they can’t get started without coffee. Then, breakfast is often sweet and full of carbohydrates which spike our blood sugar levels and cause energy peaks and valleys throughout the day, leaving us craving more foods that will bring those blood sugar levels back up.
After a day on the blood sugar rollercoaster, a glass of wine or cocktail is needed to “wind down,” which disrupts our sleep (yes, even just one glass!) It’s a vicious cycle of dependency that depletes us of our natural energy and puts our stress hormones to the limits.
MR: When we don’t prioritize our sleep, we wake up on the back foot and it’s like trudging through mud all day. So that’s the first. Secondly, not enough adrenal support. Our adrenal gland produces our stress hormones, and when exposed to too much stress, it gets overworked and can’t keep up with demands. Eating a balanced diet with adequate amounts of protein and healthy fats, along with a lot of vitamin and mineral rich vegetables is great support for your adrenals. Lastly, our over dependence on stimulants, like coffee and sugar. This gives us a false sense of energy, followed by a crash, which makes us crave more stimulants, influences our eating habits, disrupts our sleep, and affects our mental health.
VY: A lack of deep sleep, absolutely. That will see us running on empty and not sleeping enough, which can lead to short term foggy-mindedness and long term chronic disease. Sleep is one of the most critical components of maintaining balance in your body. It impacts hormones, insulin—the list goes on. When I found myself traveling constantly for work, in back-to-back meetings, and stressed about projects, I often also was having trouble sleeping. This would lead to a vicious cycle of always being tired.
Next, the misalignment of values. If you aren’t living your life according to your values, that’s what can trigger deep burnout. If you value creativity, and your work is not only relentless with emails or meetings, but also bereft of creativity, then you’re on a path toward burnout because there’s constant dissonance and friction you’re living with. By clarifying your values and establishing your boundaries around those values, you reduce the frustration that can be draining on a daily basis when you feel like those values aren’t being respected.
Finally, not having support! Having some sort of community or support system is critical in helping to manage for exhaustion. Without it, the anxiety can feel overwhelming and ultimately will drain you of energy. As a coach, my job is to support my clients to suss through all the different variables in their life. We focus on an integrated approach that looks holistically at all parts of their current lifestyle. Your physiology impacts your emotional state and vice versa. Being burnt out can be an emotional and physical experience. It’s important to get to the root of where the greatest source of energy drain is coming from and strategically solve for it by testing multiple different approaches.
MR: CBD helps with the body’s stress response. While we may not be able to control the stress triggers in our lives, we can (to a degree) control our body’s physiological response. By increasing our resilience to stress, we will be less susceptible to adrenal fatigue and the general wear and tear that stress creates.
VY: Cannabidiol is a tremendous help in regulating the physiological side effects of stress and it’s my personal favorite secret weapon when I need a great night’s sleep. I usually take some CBD and liposomal melatonin when I get towards the luteal phase of my period—when my REM sleep typically drops and body temperature rises, making it harder to get deep sleep. Because sleep is a critical foundation to every other aspect of my life; my work, my relationships, and my health, it’s important to me to get the most effective and highest quality products on the market.
MR: Sometimes our ambition gets the best of us and we try to do too much at one, so I always recommend adding just one new thing/routine at a time. This way, we can also monitor how it makes you feel. The effects are often gradual, so keeping a journal is a great way to keep track of your sleep, mood, eating patterns, digestion, and so on, and see if anything changes.
VY: My entire motto is get 1% better every day. Taking micro-steps creates an opportunity to learn as you go in regards to what works for you—and over time those micro-steps compound into bigger shifts in your body. So, whether you’re trying CBD for the first time or picking up investing in the stock market, start small and try different things to see what works for you.
You might find that you love CBD dummies or prefer mints. I personally love incorporating CBD into my nighttime routine to help with sleep and relaxation, but if I have a headache or stomachache during the day, I’ll also have some. The main thing is you don’t know what works best for you until you try! So test different things and different phases to find what works best for you.
MR: This is not going to be popular advice, but stop drinking alcohol and coffee for a period of time (try two weeks to a month), and commit to going to bed earlier. This will help your body catch up. And eat more vegetables!
VY: Hot epsom salt baths and magnesium supplements are my other two top recommendations. Hot baths before bedtime help to raise, then drop your body temperature, which is helpful for sleep. Obviously it’s also a very relaxing activity—especially if you add some candles, binaural relaxation beats, and a CBD bath soak. Most of us today are also deficient in magnesium, which is a critical mineral for many functions in your body. I take a full dose of magnesium every evening which helps keep my body balanced and muscles from getting too tense.