Being constantly on the go and pushing your body past its healthy limits can result in burnout. Common signs of burnout include feeling constantly fatigued, low motivation, and apathy toward work and social events. Fortunately, you can recover, and prioritizing healthy food can help. Keep reading to learn which types of foods and beverages can help you heal from burnout.
Burnout refers to a state of exhaustion and can be caused by chronic stress and overworking.
Making nutritious changes can help your body recover from burnout and help you feel energized again.
Managing your stress, taking breaks, and asking for help are all critical elements to prevent burnout recurrence.
What is burnout?
Burnout refers to a state of exhaustion that includes your mental, emotional, and physical health. Enduring prolonged periods of stress, anxiety, and physical tasks can all contribute to burnout. Fortunately, you can recover from burnout by taking a break and making lifestyle and dietary changes that support healing.
Symptoms of burnout include the following:
- Feeling constantly exhausted and fatigued
- Decreased motivation at work
- Negative attitudes toward yourself and others
- Generally feeling apathetic
- Tension headaches
- Changes to sleep patterns
What causes burnout?
Any type of chronic stress, including physical exertion, can result in burnout. In many instances, your body will release warning signs that it needs a break, for example, developing a cold that lingers and lasts a full month. If these signs are repeatedly ignored, you increase the risk of becoming burnt out.
Here are examples of common scenarios that can contribute to burnout:
- A demanding work schedule
- Caring for an ailing family member or loved one
- Experiencing a major life change such as divorce
- Taking on too many commitments in a short amount of time
A lack of support can also increase the risk of burnout. Without asking others for help, you may feel like you are responsible for everything, which is impossible to maintain — even on the best days. If you have access to friends and family, you should try to ask for help more often. This is a vital step for creating a sustainable system to help manage workload in the future.
Foods to help with burnout
While recovering from burnout, you should include nutrient-dense foods as often as possible. These foods provide organic compounds that your body relies on to heal, such as vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and other essential nutrients.
Herbal teas include chamomile, peppermint, ginger, and many others. Most of these beverages are caffeine-free, which can be beneficial while recovering from burnout. Caffeine is a stimulating substance that can excite your system — the opposite sensation of where you should be headed while recovering from constant adrenaline and stress.
Some research has shown that herbal teas, specifically chamomile, can also improve sleep quality, which is vital for healing and recovering from burnout.
Options include kale, spinach, swiss chard, and dark lettuce varieties. These vegetables are rich in antioxidants, which are organic compounds that neutralize harmful free radicals in the body. It is vital for your health to consume antioxidant-rich foods because high levels of free radicals can contribute to inflammation in the body. The negative effects can be compounded by chronic stress, which is common in burnout.
You can enjoy leafy greens in a salad or blend them into your morning smoothie. You can also buy frozen spinach and add them to your pasta sauces or soups.
All fruits contain vitamins, minerals, and varying levels of antioxidants. They are also rich in fiber, which helps you feel full after eating, promotes a healthy digestive system, and helps to regulate blood sugar levels.
When a person feels tired and has low energy, which is typical for burnout, fruit consumption can decline. Your body needs these vitamins and natural sugars to thrive, so aim to consume 3–5 servings daily.
Frozen fruits are a great option if you can’t find any fresh varieties you enjoy. They also will last longer, which can be helpful in cutting back on food waste.
Whole grains are a significant source of carbohydrates for most people. They offer vitamins, minerals, fibers, and energy. Your brain, muscles, tissues, and vital organs rely on carbohydrates to function.
Your diet should primarily rely on whole grains over processed grains to help you feel energized after being burnt out. Whole grain foods include quinoa, teff, millet, buckwheat, whole oats, and amaranth. These are just a few examples, but you can try many other varieties of grains.
Omega-3 fatty acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are a type of healthy fat that is linked to heart health protection, brain health, and reducing inflammation - which is a common side effect of burnout. Living with chronically high levels of inflammation can increase your risk of disease later on, so it is important to take proactive steps to manage your health.
If you eat fish, you can consume omega-3s from trout, salmon, mackerel, and even tuna. Vegetarian sources of omega-3 include chia seeds, ground flax seeds, walnuts, and hemp. Remember that your body will not absorb as much omega-3 from plant-based sources — so you may benefit from a supplement.
Food preparation tips
You may have lower-than-normal levels of motivation to cook while you are recovering from burnout. This is completely normal, and you should be kind to yourself during this time.
If you don’t have the energy to prep vegetables, consider buying frozen options already peeled and chopped or pre-cut fresh options. It may cost slightly more, but if it helps you eat more vegetables (which are vital for your health and recovery), it is a worthy investment.
When you are cooking, try to double the recipe and store leftovers in the freezer. This will supply you with future meals that are easy to reheat and enjoy.
Lean on your friends and family for support if possible. Invite people over for a cooking party and create a few recipes together that everyone can split and take home at the end. Adding a social element to these events can make the event more fun and enjoyable.
Thinking long term
After you feel well again, which could take weeks or months depending on your circumstance, you should consider implementing strategies to prevent future burnout. For many people, this includes following a regular schedule, planning meals, and managing stress levels.
Start slowly and monitor your body for symptoms of stress. Recognizing the warning signs which are telling you to take a break. Most importantly — listen to these signs! Resting and nourishing yourself is the best way to reduce burnout in the future. If you need help, you may want to work with a mental health therapist who can teach you effective strategies for managing your stress levels.
- National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. Antioxidants: In Depth.
- National Institute of Health - Office of dietary supplements. Omega-3 Fatty Acids.
- StatPearls. High Fiber Diet.
- Frontiers in Psychology. Intake of raw fruits and vegetables is associated with better mental health than intake of processed fruits and vegetables.