Burnout is a very real thing, and if I ever forget that, I think back to a Refinery29 essay I first read a little more than a year ago. It was penned by Laurel Pantin, a former magazine editor who left a mega-career she’d built in NYC to move to South Africa. She was incredibly nervous about it (even took a picture of herself crying in a cab as documentation), but she knew she needed to make a change when this happened:
At some point, I realized that every day when I said good morning to a friend in the Condé Nast cafeteria, we’d both greet each other with “Ugh, it’s Monday,” “Bleugh, TUESDAY!” “Hey, it’s hump day!” “Tomorrow’s Thursday!!” “It’s FRIDAY!!!” I spent every day counting down to the weekend.
I use that revelation as a regular check point with myself. Am I looking forward to the week ahead, or am I dreading it? Am I finding fulfillment in my workdays, or am I just burning the 24/7 oil?
Jovanka Ciares, a wellness expert and nutrition coach based in New York, knows first-hand about job burnout too. She worked in the corporate world for more than a decade before her body essentially forced her to make a change (more on that later). Now, she’s been tapped as a celebrity trainer on ABC’s “My Diet Is Better Than Yours,” premiering tonight at 9/8c. Just for Levo, she broke down three signs of burnout that you can’t ignore—with actionable tips to counteract it.
[Related: “I Took a Major Career Risk—And It Worked”]
1. You can count the hours of sleep you get each night on, like, half a hand.
“We can argue that we love to spend an entire night working on that deadline, to look and feel like hard-working people, and that we are hustlers. In fact we’re doing an absolute disservice to ourselves, because inevitably your body will give you what I like to call a smackdown, such as the flu. Everything in nature sleeps. There’s nothing we can do about it. It’s part of who we are as humans. So practicing good sleep hygiene is absolutely key, and that includes going to bed at the exact same hour every night, ideally around the 10 p.m. mark. And staying away from electronic equipment while you’re in bed. This is not the time to watch TV. Finally, because I am very big on herbal remedies, rub your feet with sesame oil at the end of the night. You will sleep like a baby.”
2. You’re constantly having stomach issues.
“When I was working in the corporate world, my body gave me again what I call a smackdown. Unfortunately I was not paying attention to those cues, and by the time I paid attention they had already manifested—I had IBS, also known as Irritable Bowel Syndrome. I also had a couple of ulcers and benign tumors in my uterus. By the time I got to that point I was forced to make a change. One thing I love is liquid meals—juices and smoothies in the summer time; stews and soups in the winter time. The reason for that is because they’re very easy to digest and if you think about smoothies and soups, you can pack a lot of nutrients in a single meal. I’m also a big proponent of eating a few cooked meals a week. Now, I’m the first one to admit that I’m not the best cook and I rejected the notion of cooking at home, but there is no better way to know what your food is truly made with and more importantly how it’s produced and where it’s prepared. Start with breakfast—you can make a smoothie in 2 minutes. It’s the easiest thing to do.”
3. You know if your doctor were to take your blood pressure right now, you’d get a nice little lecture.
“Pay attention to your breathing. You alway want to try to go within, to find ways to relax and calm your mind, and there’s tons of ways to do that. You can do meditation, you can do yoga, and so on. Breathing however seems to be the common denominator in all of those practices, and the reason for that is very scientific. Breathing triggers the parasympathetic nervous system, which tells you, I am calm, I am safe. Breathing consciously is the easiest way to trick your brain into going from, Oh my gosh, I’m dying! To, Oh, I’m fine, no problem here. There’s this one little exercise that I tell people to do. It is not mine, it’s something I learned how to do from a well-known doctor, Andrew Weil, M.D. It’s called the 4-7-8 breathing technique: breathe in for a count of four, hold your breath for a count of seven, and breathe out for a count of eight. If you do that four or five times, it can be very hard to stay in that stressful state.”
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