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Health interventions for people who work hard and play hard

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Research from Mental Health UK in their first burnout report for 2024 has shown nine in ten adults in the UK were under extreme levels of stress in the last year.

Stress is the biggest contributing factor to burnout. The report revealed that a staggering 20% of workers needed time off with poor mental health as a result of stress, begging the question, is the UK on the way to becoming a burnt out nation?

In these unprecedented times, it’s not unusual for individuals in high pressure careers to not only have to deal with a stressful workplace environment, but also to be expected to entertain clients and socialise in the evenings outside of the office. Individuals aged between 35-44 were shown to be the most likely age group to experience extreme stress, which could align with this being a point in many people’s lives where they are striving for more and to progress in their careers.

There are many factors that can contribute to burnout but the most common ones highlighted by the report were too much volume of work (54% of people) and unpaid overtime (45% of people). Unfortunately, around 35% of workers do not feel comfortable letting their managers know that they are feeling stressed, and 49% of people say that workplaces are not equipped to spot signs of stress and burnout.

What is burnout?

The World Health Organization (WHO), classifies burnout as an occupational phenomenon, not a medical condition. They define it as arising from chronic workplace stress and identify these key indicators: lower efficiency at work, feeling exhausted, feeling negative or cynical about work, and being mentally distant.

Although WHO refers to this only in relation to the workplace, it will come as no surprise that people who experience burnout will also experience feelings of exhaustion in other areas of their life, too. Although healthcare workers are particularly at risk, burnout can affect anyone.

What can we do about burnout?

Although we do need some stress in our lives, we all know that extreme or prolonged stress can have a negative impact on many different areas of our lives. With sickness levels at an all time high and at a cost not only to businesses, but to individuals, what can we do to help reduce the risk of burnout?

If you feel like you’re already well on your way to burnout central, there are ways to support yourself while you work to manage and reduce the stress. It is much easier to prevent burnout than it is to recover from it.

Utilise mindfulness techniques

Mindfulness techniques have been shown time and time again to be a really effective tool for managing stress, improving wellbeing, quality of life and reducing burnout. A review of more than 30 studies published in the British Medical Journal (Cohen et al.) supports this.

A helping hand from IV drips

But there are also medical interventions you can consider. IV vitamin therapy is a treatment that is no longer exclusive to hospitals and can be utilised to help support the body. How? IV drips deliver vitamins and nutrients into the body via a cannula in a vein. Health optimisation clinics usually offer a range of vitamin blends to choose from which can be modified to suit your individual needs.

But why would you get an IV drip if you feel you’re tired and well on the way to burning out? When we’re living a demanding lifestyle and are constantly in a state of stress, the body can use up its resources (vitamins and nutrients) faster than we can replace them through diet alone. This can not only compound the symptoms of burnout even further, but means that the organs may not be working at their best and the body itself isn’t in a good position to deal with stress effectively.

By topping up your vitamin levels (especially vitamin B12 glutathione, and vitamin C) you can help give your body what it needs to support your organs so that your cells can repair, and regenerate, function properly and give you energy. All of which can help your body to deal with the effects of stress better.

Enhance sleep quality

Sleep is vital for our body, and can help lower cortisol levels. However, stress is widely known for interrupting sleep.

When we are feeling stressed, the hormone cortisol is elevated. This can make it harder to not only fall asleep, but to get deep, restful sleep. And once you’ve had a bad night’s sleep this can contribute to the cycle of cortisol and bad sleep. Here are some techniques you can try to improve your sleep:

Deep breathing exercises: Slow, even, calming breaths can be really helpful in slowing down the stress response. When lying in bed, try the 4-7-8 exercise. This involves breathing in through the nose to the count of four, holding your breath for seven, then breathing out through the mouth for 8. Do this for a few minutes to feel the effect.
Establish a wind-down routine: A bedtime routine can contribute greatly to improved sleep quality. Eat early in the evening if possible, and start to reduce the amount you are drinking as you near bedtime. If you exercise in the evening, try to keep it gentle, like yoga or stretching, and stop screen time about an hour before bedtime.
Melatonin for sleep: The brain naturally produces melatonin when it’s dark and is linked to the circadian rhythm, which controls when we wake and sleep. Taking melatonin supplements could help improve sleep, however, we’d recommend seeking advice from your GP first.
Meditation exercises: Meditation is the process of focussing on the present and just 10 minutes is known to help improve sleep. Try to focus on your breathing and when thoughts pop into your head, observe them, then let them go and focus again on your breath.
Warm shower: A warm shower before bed will lower your body temperature which can in turn help you sleep better.

If you are burning the candle at both ends, and are starting to feel the effects of a demanding job combined with a busy lifestyle, you’re certainly not alone. However, taking steps to manage stress as early as possible can help to prevent burnout. If you feel like you need support, it may be time to seek advice from a healthcare professional.

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