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Six ways to address 'burnout'

Dr. Alice Fong is an integrative naturopathic doctor, with a focus on stress. She offers a few ways to address that feeling of 'burnout.'

PORTLAND, Maine — In the last year, it wouldn't be surprising if you've at some point felt a sense of burnout. We are all facing challenges we've never faced before, and we may be pushing ourselves too far.

Dr. Alice Fong, who is an Integrative Naturopathic doctor, spends a lot of time researching the root of stress and how to address it. She's come up with six ways we can all start fighting back that burnout feeling. 

"When we are constantly under prolonged stress and we are to the point where we feel depleted and fatigued and we just have no excitement for life anymore, that’s burn out," Dr. Fong explains. 

"People are afraid to get off the hamster wheel. We’re running, running, running all the time because there’s so much to do. They're afraid to actually get off and rest because they’re afraid things are going to accumulate and build up," Fong says. "The thing is, if you keep running in that hamster wheel, you’re going to slow down to a crawl and then not really get that much done. If a hamster got off the wheel and rested and ate and slept then they would actually get back on the wheel and be able to run at full speed, versus crawl indefinitely."

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Here are Dr. Fong's six ways to address burnout:

  1. Evaluate your performance. Take a step back and actually evaluate your performance and ability to be productive. Notice if there’s a huge disparity between output from the past. Recognize how feelings can impact productivity. 
  2. Manage your time. Ensure you set aside time for self-care. Occasional pushes to accomplish something big or for an urgent deadline is okay once in a while, but if it’s a recurring theme where it happens all the time, this is not healthy.
  3. Set boundaries with clear communication. Notice if you’re grumpier and more irritable than usual. Take a step back and ask yourself, “Is this how I want to live?” For example, I like helping people, but if I’m not taking time for myself, I tend to be grumpier and less fun to be around and be not much of a service to others. Rather than agreeing to take something on only to be resentful later to the person for adding something to your proverbial plate, communicate what you’re dealing with so they can understand you can’t do everything. 
  4. Let go of the guilt of taking breaks. Know it’s a necessary part of survival to keep going. Taking even short breaks can allow you to recharge so that you can be the best version of yourself.
  5. Prioritize what really needs to get done. If you take a step back, you might realize that not everything is as urgent as you make it out to be. Notice what you are getting out of how you invest your time. Figure out what’s actually important.
  6. Get your adrenals and hormones checked by a naturopathic doctor. Your adrenal glands are responsible for releasing the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline.  Knowing how well your adrenals are functioning can give us direction on how best to support our healthy stress response.

Dr. Alice Fong offers up a free stress guide. To receive it, text the word "Yes" to 66866, or click here.

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