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    About this Episode

    We’re back! This is from our “lost episodes” — This is your brain…and this is your brain on burnout, any questions? OK, but seriously, burnout effects everyone, even if they/you don’t admit it. Burnout is a state of physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion caused by prolonged stress. It can affect ANYONE, but it is especially common among high-performers who push themselves to the limit. In this episode, we dive into the latest research on burnout and its effects on the brain, as well as offer practical advice for preventing and managing burnout. If you’re heading into 2023 feeling overwhelmed and drained, this episode is for you.

    🔑 Key Takeaways

    • Burnout is a serious condition that can lead to significant changes in the anatomy and function of the brain. Understanding the impact of burnout on the body and brain is crucial for avoiding long-term damage and maintaining personal well-being.
    • Burnout is not just a bad day, it's a chronic state caused by stress and affects the brain and body's cortisol system. It's important to recognize the signs and be creative in dealing with it.
    • It is important to acknowledge the interplay between job demands, control, and effort/reward imbalance as a cause of burnout. With the pandemic, finding ways to stabilize oneself and recognizing personal limits is crucial for mental and physical health.
    • Acknowledge constraints, reflect on what can be done within them, and expand your mind to find meaning in experiences. Coping with loss and repurposing unused resources can provide unexpected benefits. Don't let stress narrow your perspective; look for opportunities to benefit.
    • Stress and burnout impact brain structure and function, leading to cognitive impairments. It's important to prioritize self-care and manage stress to prevent long-term damage to the brain.
    • Burnout can lead to cognitive deficits similar to ADHD and even mimic memory impairments of diseases like dementia. Acknowledging burnout's legitimacy and finding effective ways to manage stress is crucial for proper navigation.
    • Stress is unavoidable, but taking breaks, time-blocking, finding meaning, reframing perspectives, and having hope are effective coping mechanisms. Focusing on what is under our control and developing personal strategies is crucial for managing stress.
    • Don't rely solely on one piece of information to make decisions, focus on what you can control, take micro movements, find ways to thread in positive feelings, and say no to triggers that affect your mental well-being.
    • Regularly assess and limit exposure to stressors by asking yourself if you can sustain your current pace. If overwhelmed, be deliberate in changing things to prevent burnout.
    • Recovery from burnout requires reflecting on and adjusting mental and physical health habits, enhancing communication, and building a support network to prevent burnout and achieve personal and professional goals.

    📝 Podcast Summary

    Burnout's impact on the Brain and Body

    Burnout is not just an emotional response to long hours or a challenging job, but a condition that leaves its mark on the brain and body. It's a diagnosable code according to ICD-10, and chronic psychological stress of burnout impairs people's personal lives, social functioning and cognitive skills. The neuro-endocrine systems lead to distinctive changes in the anatomy and function of the brain. Awareness of personal burnout and its aspects is crucial to avoid long-term harm to the body and brain. The body's systems manage its energy resources and when upset, they reallocate, not in a helpful way. Understanding this helps millions of people during this season of life to sustain things in which change is at the forefront.

    Understanding Burnout: A Thief That Steals Your Passion and Energy

    Burnout is a chronic state of being out of sync with one or more aspects of life, caused by a sneaky and cunning thief. It feeds on one's passion, energy, and enthusiasm, and turns them into exhaustion, frustration, and self-doubt. It's not just fatigue or a bad day, but a systemic issue that affects the brain and the body's cortisol system. It creates a tipping point for longer-term and longer-range system problems internally. Burnout is often associated with shame and denial, but it's now a medical code that can be diagnosed. It's essential to be considerate and creative to deal with it because stress only worsens burnout.

    Burnout as an Interplay Issue: Recognizing the Signs and Finding Ways to Stabilize.

    The discussion on burnout is not new and has been around for many years, but it is important to acknowledge that burnout is not a personal issue, it is an interplay issue. Constraints or limits are necessary to acknowledge and recognize what things are in one's locus of control and what things aren't. Burnout looks like high job demands, low control, and effort/reward imbalance which can cause mental and physical health problems. With the pandemic, there has been some acceleration in the regression state of balance, causing burnout. Going forward, it is important to set up tethers and find ways to stabilize oneself in certain directions, recognizing that we can plant more seeds than we can ever water or cultivate.

    How to Find Opportunities in Constraints

    Coping with loss and adapting to constraints looks like finding opportunities within disappointments. It is important to acknowledge the legitimacy around constraints and reflect on what can be done within them. Repurposing unused resources like parking lots can provide unexpected and desired benefits. One must expand their mind to look at the broader view and find meaning within experiences to move forward. Stress can narrow one's perspective, making it difficult to see opportunities. Therefore, it is crucial to acknowledge constraints, find ways to cope, and look for opportunities to benefit.

    Long-term stress and burnout can cause neurological dysfunction in the brain.

    Long-term stress can cause devastating effects on the brain leading to changes in its structure and function. Burnout is not just a feeling of exhaustion but it causes a vicious cycle that can cause neurological dysfunction. Stress is very harmful to our brain as it reallocates around negative emotional energy and stress, irritating our brain's ability to function on a more routine basis. Burnout is sort of an umbrella of many things - stress, emotional fatigue, physical fatigue, etc. - that affect brain’s cognitive functions such as creativity, problem-solving and working memory. Stress leads to changes in the structure and function of the brain and can expedite the aging process.

    Understanding the Cognitive Costs of Burnout and How to Address Them

    Burnout can lead to cognitive costs such as memory impairments, decreased creativity, and inability to function properly. Similar to disorders like ADHD, burnout can cause cognitive deficits, which need to be addressed differently for better navigation. Stress can cause memory impairments that might look like degenerative processes like dementia. It is essential to understand the legitimacy of burnout and then move towards different behavior changes to cope up with the situation. Being in a stressful path like public figures, experts in fields, actors, and singers can be challenging to avoid stress, but it is essential to focus on different ways to manage it.

    Coping with Stress: Strategies for Success

    Stress is inevitable but developing coping mechanisms can help deal with it. Those working in certain fields may not have control over stressful situations, but taking breaks, time-blocking, and finding meaning can alleviate some stress. Focusing only on negative aspects can lead to a negative cycle, so reframing and perspective-taking is important. Having a sense of hope is necessary to navigate stress, but it's important to prepare for the truth and not rely on external factors like a pandemic to improve the situation. Developing personal coping mechanisms and continuously working towards what is under one's control is essential for dealing with stress.

    The Dangers of Making Decisions Based on One Data Point

    One data point is not enough to make a decision and relying solely on one piece of information presents a biased and incomplete view. Instead of solely identifying hope in a situation based on whether or not things get better relative to a pandemic, focus on what you have agency over and what you can control. Take micro movements that contribute to a sense of good feelings and wins, and fall in love with the process. Find ways to thread in positive feelings that get you excited and motivates you, helping buffer all the negative feelings. Say no to specific news feeds, channels, etc. that might be triggers for you and find things to learn and do that provide nourishment while taking care of yourself or things around you.

    Tips to Avoid Burnout

    To avoid burnout, it is important to be aware of what pulls you in a certain direction and to limit your exposure to it. You should ask yourself if you can sustain the pace and quality of the last two months of your life if repeated again and again. This self-litmus-test can help diagnose burnout and elicit three responses: I can't go on like this, I can make this work but..., and I love my life and can keep going forever. If the first response is chosen, tasks are being dropped, personal needs are not being met, and everyday life has become overwhelming. It is important to have awareness and be deliberate in changing things to come back earlier on before it's too late.

    Managing Mental and Physical Health to Prevent Burnout

    Recovery from burnout is possible through interventions and management at the neurological level, as suggested by a study of 20 students who prepared for the medical licensing exam. Thus, it is important to manage mental and physical health by reflecting and making deliberate adjustments to set up guardrails, anchor points, and accountability to achieve personal and professional goals. Like managing money or weight, mental and physical health is not a binary construct, and requires enhancing communication within oneself and one's environment. Therefore, it is important to have key people in life who can offer a little conversation or awareness of tipping points, to enable re-allocation of resources early on and prevent burnout.

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