How to prevent burnout using Ayurveda

Burnout isn’t a myth. It’s not just you. Exhaustion has set in and the pandemic hasn’t helped. Burnout is on the rise. Our emotional reserves are feeling empty.

What is burnout?

According to Kat Hounsell, the founder of everyday people, an organization (based in the United Kingdom) that offers leadership development, well-being coaching workshops, and mental health first aid training, “Burnout is a syndrome brought on from chronic workplace stress that hasn’t been successfully managed.”

Is burnout caused only by work?

I would say that it’s not just work stress that leads to a burnout; lifestyle and personal life play a huge role too. Parents, partners, and non-professional caregivers can also experience endless exhaustion, feel overwhelmed by their responsibilities, or secretly believe that they have failed at their role. 

Know the stress difference between stress and burnout

Stress can be a motivator. Short-term stress can encourage us to go after our dreams and achieve success. Burnout might stem from prolonged period of stress but is different. If stress starts to take a toll on your emotional health, mental well-being, disrupts your asleep, increases anxiety, messes with your digestion, creates apathy, makes you feel depleted and empty, it can be indicative of a burnout.

What Ayurveda says about burnout

According to Ayurveda, there are three doshas: Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. Vatas tend to be high-energy but delicate and have little stamina. They get exhausted fairly quickly. Their energy comes in short bursts. Vatas out of balance can feel anxious, sleepless, constipated, nervous, and fearful. They have the lowest endurance amongst all the doshas. If vatas get spread too thin and let their self-care slide, they are likely to eventually reach a state of exhaustion.

Pittas have reasonably good stamina, they are bright, and are highly motivated in whatever they do. However, they are your Type As who don’t know how to manage the intensity or when to stop pushing. They neglect to balance ambition with self-care and self-compassion. They rarely create room for unstructured time. As a result, when exhausted, Pittas can get angry, blunt, cynical, judgmental, critical, and self-loathing. Pittas have endurance but can get burnt out if they don’t make time to replenish themselves and have fun.

While energy builds slowly in Kaphas, they have the highest endurance and best immunity of all the doshas. It takes them a while to get started but they are your marathon runners in life. Kaphas are the most stable and sturdy of all doshas and least prone to a burnout. But Kaphas are also caring and empathetic, so their giving nature makes them susceptible to feeling emotionally spent and drained out. Kapha burnout might look like lack of inspiration and disconnection from their community.

Here is what Ayurveda recommends to keep each of the doshas from burning out.

 

  1. Pause and reflect: It’s okay to take a break and reset your working practices. Turn inward and connect with what you really want from life. Spend time with those who nourish you. Learn to be alone in your own company and heal your old wounds, which might be impacting how you navigate stress. When we take breaks, we get more head space. It gives us an opportunity to shift our perspective.
  2. Don’t glamorize overworking: Let’s not applaud mindless busyness and the hustle culture. Ayurveda teaches us that our mind-body are connected. If you are feeling burnout and experiencing toxic stress, you are in all likelihood going to reach out for those bag of chips, extra cups of coffee, and move your happy hour to a 3pm on Monday. The extra caffeine and alcohol are detrimental for everyone, especially vatas and pittas. There is no pride in working 80 hours a week and not keeping any space for your loved ones and things that bring you joy.
  3. Stay organized and intentional: A vata might be scattered if there is no routine in place and then feel overly stressed about not meeting deadlines. A Pitta might benefit from knowing when to stop as their focus is enviable but their inability to stop can create challenges. Kaphas have great long-term memory but are slow to start. A mindful and planned day can help lower their lethargy.
  4. Nourish your body with the right foods: When we eat foods that our most suited for our dosha, we feel energetic and focused. Ayurveda teaches us that it’s not what we eat but what we digest that matters most. Pay attention to your digestion. How is the agni (digestive fire) feeling? Low digestive fire can be one of the reasons for sluggishness and lack of motivation. Also, eat at the same time every day— vatas can sometimes forget to eat and then feel listless. Lunch should be your biggest meal. Eat local and seasonal foods. Notice how the foods you eat make you feel.
  5. Exercise daily: Honor the kind of movement that brings you joy and make working out a daily habit. Not everyone needs to participate in a Triathlon nor does every human being need to do a headstand. But exercise is one of the best ways to stretch your tired body and relieve stress. It releases happy hormones that can help prevent the chances of a burnout.

A life without stress is almost impossible. But it is possible to lean on Ayurveda to help prevent a burnout. And if confronted with burnout, it is always important to take time to examine the underlying cause. If left untreated, burnout can have serious consequences on your productivity, health, and quality of life. You might feel cranky, lonely, misunderstood, uncared for and much worse.

Contact me if you think you are experiencing burnout and want help from an Ayurvedic perspective.