11

votes

Burnout Syndrome

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created May 17, 2012 at 1:55 PM

http://occmed.oxfordjournals.org/content/50/7/512.full.pdf+html

The journal article refers to Burnout Syndrome as a disease of modern society with physical and psychological consequences. I've worked in the social services field for the past 15 years and I am certainly experiencing burnout which seems more pronounced that I've adopted a paleo lifestyle. I attribute the increased feelings of stress to no longer self medicating myself with white flour and sugar. Albeit, I feel less anxiety I remain sensitive to stress and ambiguity.

Has anyone else here experienced career/job related burnout since changing your diet. I exercise, eat healthy and periodically meditate to manage stress. I'm now beginning to consider a midlife career change or going back to school. I'm looking for feedback from any of you who may have made significant life changes after dialing in your nutrition and exercise goals. Did you see decreased stress, increased well being or regrets etc. Thanks in advance for your comments!

775bc83a7c54975e77a8500e065a24c3

(814)

on May 18, 2012
at 01:46 PM

Thank you for a sincere and intelligent answer. You've reminded me that happiness is an inside "job"...and happiness ought to be my fulltime job.

A97b68379a576dfa764a4828304d2efb

(4181)

on May 18, 2012
at 12:33 PM

@Denis, I can tell I am going to lose a few days of my life to earlyretirementextreme.com. Thank you for sending this link!

7660f5a0ec906d3922d79b20f3434ecc

(788)

on May 18, 2012
at 12:02 PM

Hit the nail on the head. You may find earlyretirementextreme.com or mrmoneymustache.com interesting. These blogs are to mindless consumerism and financial slavery what paleo is to the SAD. I had a lot of lightbulb moments.

65bf1ca7071028018c6d8305d0ddcd76

(3049)

on May 18, 2012
at 04:42 AM

Congrats on making positive changes! There is research that suggests that work tasks you are good at, but don't enjoy, do not help people grow or improve skills and in fact diminish productivity. You are better to focus your energy where your skill and some natural talent lie.

B5ce28b0b79ce45955a3e8794641a365

(10)

on May 18, 2012
at 03:29 AM

+1 for mentioning me in the post (knavish corporate stooge)

Fd70d71f4f8195c3a098eda4fc817d4f

(8014)

on May 17, 2012
at 05:04 PM

+1. I'd upvote this 50 times if I could.

A97b68379a576dfa764a4828304d2efb

(4181)

on May 17, 2012
at 04:58 PM

Man, I hope so. I especially know how depleting it can be to work in public interest and I hear social work is exceptionally draining. I wish you all luck in the world.

870fdea50f2a9f1cd2890c8e22549300

(2056)

on May 17, 2012
at 03:53 PM

It occurs to me that we may also feel more empowered to make additional changes in our lives when the first changes are successful. We can suppress awareness of pain when we think there is no solution but to endure.

775bc83a7c54975e77a8500e065a24c3

(814)

on May 17, 2012
at 03:43 PM

My sentiments exactly, except yours are more articulate. I am trying to remain positive and turn insight into appication and dig myself out of the hole you so adequately describe. I believe were headed in the right direction.

775bc83a7c54975e77a8500e065a24c3

(814)

on May 17, 2012
at 03:36 PM

Insightful response. Yes, I am more sensitive to burn out after diet change and the burn out has likely been there for some time. Ive come to believe I ignored these symptoms through self medicating with junk food. Now that Im no longer using this poor coping mechanism, Im finding job stress as less tolerable...like an addict who no longer is using to escape or fix stress. Im glad your feeling better!

775bc83a7c54975e77a8500e065a24c3

(814)

on May 17, 2012
at 03:24 PM

Thank you for your response. You're right about paleo being a huge change for me physically. The mental/spiritual/emotional changes have been equally if not more challenging. Best wishes with your current goals.

775bc83a7c54975e77a8500e065a24c3

(814)

on May 17, 2012
at 03:17 PM

Ive thought about teaching or nutrition. The closet university offering nutrition classes is 60 min+ commute one way. considering online classes.

B6114a1980b1481fb18206064f3f4a4f

(3924)

on May 17, 2012
at 03:08 PM

Oops - never used the word burnout but that's what I meant by unsustainable. I was really burntout as a Ph.D. student and becoming a professor would only have intensified that burnout. I had to make a change.

Medium avatar

(195)

on May 17, 2012
at 02:55 PM

What career are you interested in pursing? A more paleo style one?

870fdea50f2a9f1cd2890c8e22549300

(2056)

on May 17, 2012
at 02:50 PM

I noticed there is a burnout tag already so I changed your tag.

D1728f99db66ff91d695a6df5cd38b02

(1368)

on May 17, 2012
at 02:47 PM

Sorry to hear that you are stressed. Good question!

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4 Answers

9
A97b68379a576dfa764a4828304d2efb

(4181)

on May 17, 2012
at 03:11 PM

Switching over to a paleo lifestyle brought the rest of the inadequacies of my life into sharp relief.

I thought I was a very healthy person with no major health complaints when I made the switch. Within a few weeks, I became very aware of how many problems I had only because I was finally able to notice their absence. I started wondering what else am I complacent with that is bad for me, intolerable or not an inevitability?

Ah, work.

Most of us spend the majority of our days toiling away for something we don't believe in because it gives us money, which we need to survive (so we're told). Add to that the substantial debt that many of us are carrying, and you essentially become a slave to this system. By the time you figure all this out, it is too late. You have the house, family, student loans, etc and you cannot escape. It is stressful and causes burn out because the majority of us work in environments that are completely contrary to what we know to be good for our bodies, our minds, and our souls. We bust our asses and spend precious time away from family, friends, sleep and exercise so we can make marginally more money every year that barely keeps pace with inflation. We never truly ever make it. Companies amass more and more profit while some knavish corporate stooge wrings his hands and tells you that raises aren't available again this year and we're all in it together in some mawkish effort to scrimp and save for the good of the company's future. It is a lie that tastes more and more bitter as I grow to understand what real food and nourishment tastes like.

So, to answer your question, yeah. I have more energy and feel anxiety in a different way, but I am probably much less fulfilled and content with my life since switching over. I know I was mislead for years about my diet. I could have staked my life on the veracity of the claim that healthy whole grains, beans, and restricting meat were the only path to a healthy life. Now I want to know what else they aren't telling me about social mobility and just remuneration. Hint: I think it has something to do with the American Dream being the boldest lie ever told.

A97b68379a576dfa764a4828304d2efb

(4181)

on May 17, 2012
at 04:58 PM

Man, I hope so. I especially know how depleting it can be to work in public interest and I hear social work is exceptionally draining. I wish you all luck in the world.

Fd70d71f4f8195c3a098eda4fc817d4f

(8014)

on May 17, 2012
at 05:04 PM

+1. I'd upvote this 50 times if I could.

B5ce28b0b79ce45955a3e8794641a365

(10)

on May 18, 2012
at 03:29 AM

+1 for mentioning me in the post (knavish corporate stooge)

775bc83a7c54975e77a8500e065a24c3

(814)

on May 17, 2012
at 03:43 PM

My sentiments exactly, except yours are more articulate. I am trying to remain positive and turn insight into appication and dig myself out of the hole you so adequately describe. I believe were headed in the right direction.

A97b68379a576dfa764a4828304d2efb

(4181)

on May 18, 2012
at 12:33 PM

@Denis, I can tell I am going to lose a few days of my life to earlyretirementextreme.com. Thank you for sending this link!

7660f5a0ec906d3922d79b20f3434ecc

(788)

on May 18, 2012
at 12:02 PM

Hit the nail on the head. You may find earlyretirementextreme.com or mrmoneymustache.com interesting. These blogs are to mindless consumerism and financial slavery what paleo is to the SAD. I had a lot of lightbulb moments.

6
Fd70d71f4f8195c3a098eda4fc817d4f

(8014)

on May 18, 2012
at 03:14 AM

Not sure where to start with this one, except to say that I genuinely wish you success in figuring things out, Edward. I'm right there with you!

I don't have an answer to your question - about finding more inner peace, well-being, and less stress from a career change. But I can soooo relate and I figured I'd share, since it helps to get things out there.

I'll spare you the details, but in a nutshell, I am absolutely, positively MISERABLE in my current job. In fact, I've hated just about every job I've ever had. And I've done a lot of soul searching to try and figure out if it's actually the jobs that are the problem, or is it ME? And you know what? It's the jobs. Can I try to cultivate a better outlook? Yes. Can I learn to meditate, try relaxing breathing techniques, neurolinguistic programming, or whatever it's called? Yes. But I'm pretty sure I'd rather just have a job that doesn't make me need meditation and calming breaths, know what I mean? ;-)

The good news is, I'm not just sitting on my laurels waiting for the universe to drop a better job in my lap. (Although that would be nice, and some days, the pace of change is so slow that it can feel like all I'm doing is waiting for my fairy godmother to come rescue me.) I'm 2 months away from a master's in nutrition and hopefully a drastic (if gradual) career change. I'd like to quit the day I graduate and then have 30 clients a week lined up at my door, but somehow I don't think it's gonna happen quite that quickly.

My current job is, in every conceivable way, dead wrong for me. I happen to be good at it, but that doesn't mean I give a flying hang about it, y'know? I'm stressed out and tense, but not because of deadlines or pressure. In that sense, my job's actually not stressful at all. I'm very much a low man (woman?) on the totem pole with no major responsibilities beyond my daily mindless tasks. What makes me nuts is the sheer misery. Some days it's total apathy - a complete flatline. You'd need a cattle prod to get me excited about anything. Other days it's barely controlled fury/anger/impatience with coworkers, bureaucracy, and endless paperwork solely for "CYA" purposes. But the bottom line is, is the whole system broken? Yes. But the person I'm angriest at is myself. Because I've been there for two and a half years and I knew from the second day that it was dead wrong for me. And I've stayed out of FEAR. Fear of the unknown, fear of having to move back in with my parents at the age of 33, fear of flying by the seat of my pants and landing on my feet, which seems to work for plenty of other people but absolutely terrifies me. (And fear of Suze Orman's voice in my head going on about my IRA...)

In terms of Paleo diet and stress/career, all I can say is, all things considered, I'm doing pretty darn good. I don't even want to think of how I'd be faring if I were still eating the SAD and doing chronic cardio. I'd probably have gained an astounding amount of weight and I'd be lucky if my adrenal function wasn't a distant memory. I fully credit my diet for the stamina I do have and the fact that I'm still kickin' and able to get up and face the world every day. (And sometimes I imagine how amazing I'd look and feel if I was eating the way I am and had even a modicum of fulfillment in my work. I very much hope to one day experience how it feels when "all the pieces come together," although I suspect there's a chance they never will. (Can I find enjoyment and satisfaction in things outside work? Of course. But the full-time job and school have put a crimp in spare time for volunteering, joining a club, etc...for now.)

And it's rough, because even though every now and then I do turn to food or wine for a little comfort, for the most part, I stay away. So when I'm super worked up and aggravated, or really down in the dumps, I don't do what most "normal" people do -- medicate myself with a donut, or Chinese food, or what-have-you. I don't have the money for retail therapy, so I can't drown my feelings in shiny new toys or fancy clothes. I can't go home and jump into a pint of ice cream. My coping mechanisms are now a loooong walk outside or my favorite shows on Food Network. Honestly...I wonder how much more workplace violence there would be if you took away the sugar and coffee! (Not that I have anything against coffee.) They're the go-to pick-me-ups for most people in an office environment, no? If not for my diet, I don't doubt that I would benefit from medication. (But again...I don't want to be medicated in order to tolerate a [email protected] job; I want a new job!)

Switching to a Paleo/primal way of eating didn't bring out the unhappiness in my situation. Identifying more and more lifestyle factors I believe in, redefining my core values, and seeing how utterly incongruous my current daily routine is with those is what did.

Edward, seriously, good luck to you. You're not alone. I think many people feel "trapped" in jobs they don't like. (Or cities, situations...) The scary part is doing something about it. But we need to. Life is better than this! It (and we!) have more to offer than this, and forgive me for being cheesy and metaphysical here, but the universe deserves better from us.

"Don't ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive."

"A ship in the harbor is safe. But that's not what ships are built for."

(Kudos to anyone who made it this far! And thanks...)

775bc83a7c54975e77a8500e065a24c3

(814)

on May 18, 2012
at 01:46 PM

Thank you for a sincere and intelligent answer. You've reminded me that happiness is an inside "job"...and happiness ought to be my fulltime job.

65bf1ca7071028018c6d8305d0ddcd76

(3049)

on May 18, 2012
at 04:42 AM

Congrats on making positive changes! There is research that suggests that work tasks you are good at, but don't enjoy, do not help people grow or improve skills and in fact diminish productivity. You are better to focus your energy where your skill and some natural talent lie.

5
B6114a1980b1481fb18206064f3f4a4f

(3924)

on May 17, 2012
at 02:50 PM

I have been Paleo for about 8 months following a slow switch to Paleo during the 6 months before that. I made diet changes, fitness changes and a strong commitment to lowering my stress levels and getting more sleep. As a single mom of twin-year-olds and a Ph.D. student in environmental economics, stress reduction and more sleep have been really hard -but I have made a lot of progress!

About four months into my life style change to Paleo, I realized my previous lifestyle as a mom and student was not sustainable and I needed to make some major changes for my health and well-being. Some of these were small but important changes- taking up yoga again, committing to more naps, time with friends and me time, slowing down my dissertation work and taking a little time to start up a blog. I also made one huge, monumental decision/change. About two months ago (after six months on the Paleo diet), I decided I would not pursue a tenure-track faculty position, which had been my original goal, and instead go back to free-lance writing and maybe a part-time research or grants writing position at the university when I graduate. After a lot of soul searching and realistic thinking about my life and situation, I realized that a tenure-track faculty position would be too stressful for me and not give me the time, space and flexibility to pursue activities that were nurturing to my body and soul, and my childrens' bodies and souls. I decided I needed something that was fulfilling and that I could feel passionate about, but that didn't create so much extra stress, pressure and time-demands that I couldn't function as a mother and a person. It was a hard, traumatic decision, but it felt so right afterwards - like a huge weight had been lifted from me.

This was a HUGE about turn for me. I think I finally was feeling so much healthier and so much better about myself and my life after 4-6 months of Paleo that I had the energy and optimism to hope for something better for my life and to realistically examine my future career plans. I bet a lot of people make huge, life-altering decisions after becoming Paleo because Paleo in itself is a huge change for most people, and making and sticking to one major life change, no matter what it is, often begins a chain-reaction process of change for people. I for one have never made on big change in isolation. Every life-altering decision/change I've made has always been one of many changes. It's hard to fight momentum!

B6114a1980b1481fb18206064f3f4a4f

(3924)

on May 17, 2012
at 03:08 PM

Oops - never used the word burnout but that's what I meant by unsustainable. I was really burntout as a Ph.D. student and becoming a professor would only have intensified that burnout. I had to make a change.

775bc83a7c54975e77a8500e065a24c3

(814)

on May 17, 2012
at 03:24 PM

Thank you for your response. You're right about paleo being a huge change for me physically. The mental/spiritual/emotional changes have been equally if not more challenging. Best wishes with your current goals.

1
870fdea50f2a9f1cd2890c8e22549300

(2056)

on May 17, 2012
at 03:10 PM

I suspect this is a case where correlation does not infer causation, but in reading your question carefully I am not sure you are drawing that inference. Are you thinking that since your change in diet you are simply more sensitive to burnout that has been there all along?

In my case, I reached something of a crisis point in my life when I was diagnosed with a sleep disorder. Treating the sleep disorder successfully made me feel like I was coming back from the dead, and caused me to question my beliefs that what I had been experiencing in my life were the inevitable vicissitudes of middle age. I probably was "burned out," but I can't attribute this either to modern society or to my career generally but to a pathological lack of restorative sleep. I know that to a small boy with a hammer the world is a nail but I do think that the mainstream culture does not attach sufficient importance to sleep, and one thing that drew me to the "paleo lifestyle" was its emphasis on the value of sleep.

Once sleep was improved, I gradually began increasing my activity level, which led to further improvements in my sleep and in my overall well-being. HIIT didn't make sense when I was not sleeping, nor did lifting weights--I do both now, and feel that my health is still improving, some fifteen months after I began treatment.

The benefits I have felt from changes in my diet over time are far more subtle than the ones I have felt from "fixing" my sleep and increasing my exercise. Some of the effect from the dietary charges may, I suspect, be placebo.

None of this has led so far to changes in my career, which is in what is probably considered by most a "high stress" field, but which I have always loved. My long-time meditation practice may be part of what has sustained me over the years.

I realize that you may not have been looking for feedback from people like me. But because I actually feel like I got my old, perfectly satisfactory, life back once I stopped slowly dying in my sleep every night, perhaps the fact that you're feeling burnout may be a signal that there are other health-related changes that you can still make in your life.

775bc83a7c54975e77a8500e065a24c3

(814)

on May 17, 2012
at 03:36 PM

Insightful response. Yes, I am more sensitive to burn out after diet change and the burn out has likely been there for some time. Ive come to believe I ignored these symptoms through self medicating with junk food. Now that Im no longer using this poor coping mechanism, Im finding job stress as less tolerable...like an addict who no longer is using to escape or fix stress. Im glad your feeling better!

870fdea50f2a9f1cd2890c8e22549300

(2056)

on May 17, 2012
at 03:53 PM

It occurs to me that we may also feel more empowered to make additional changes in our lives when the first changes are successful. We can suppress awareness of pain when we think there is no solution but to endure.

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