Are you on the pathway to Burn-out?

physical and mental burnout

Burn-out an “occupational phenomenon”: International Classification of Diseases as described by World Health Organization (WHO).

Burn-out is included in the 11th Revision of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11) as an occupational phenomenon. It is not classified as a medical condition. It is described as : ‘Factors influencing health status or contact with health services’ – which includes reasons for which people contact health services but that are not classed as illnesses or health conditions. It is defined as follows

Burn-out is a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed. It is characterized by three dimensions:

  • feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion;
  • increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job; and
  • reduced professional efficacy.

When Simon first started with his organization, he loved his job. He went into work every day filled with passion and purpose, and he was excited about the difference he could make in his new role. But just couple of years later, he is feeling his work is meaningless. He spent years in university to get specialised education to get to do the kind of work he does. But he feels hopeless, stressed and gets sick often.

Is that familiar to you? Or a version of your own, but similar feelings?

Is it damaging your sense of wellbeing?

If constant stress makes you feel helpless, disillusioned and cynical, and completely exhausted, you may be on the pathway to burnout and you would know this probably much before someone else gives you that label!

The unhappiness and disinterestedness caused by burnout can threaten your job, your relationships, and your health.

What is Burn-out?

Burnout is a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion instigated by extreme and continued stress. It occurs when you feel overwhelmed, emotionally drained, and unable to meet constant demands. As the stress continues, you begin to lose the interest and motivation that led you to take on a certain role in the first place.

Burnout reduces productivity and saps your energy. Burnout is a state of physical and emotional exhaustion.

Signs and symptoms

Most of us have some days in our life when we feel helpless, overloaded, or unappreciated—when getting ourselves out of bed requires strong determination and will power. But if you feel like this most of the time, you may be burned out.

Burnout is a gradual process. The signs and symptoms are subtle at first, but become worse as time goes on.

If you are feeling tired most of the time, your immunity has reduced and you get sick often, your appetite or sleep habits have changed, you are lacking in motivation, you feel helpless, or feel a sense of failure, getting cynical about life, get “triggered” by small things, you feel stressed all the time, then you pay attention – your body is telling you something.

You may be feeling overworked and undervalued, emotionally. And if you find that to cope with life, you need “emotional eating”, alcohol, cigarettes, or any other addictions, or you have started to withdraw from responsibilities or isolating yourself, then you do need to do something different. If you notice some of these things happening in your life and feel “something is not right”, you need to work to actively reduce your stress, maybe then you can prevent a major breakdown.

Prevention is better than cure.

Causes of Burnout

It may lot of times start from one aspect of life, eg your job, but it does have implications for home, relationships and other aspects of your life as well. But burnout is not just from stressful work or too many responsibilities. From ayurvedic perspective, your diet, lifestyle, your body type (prakruti), your pre-existing imbalances (vikruti), how do you rest and nourish yourself, all make a difference.

Support yourself

What you put in your body can have a huge impact on your mood and energy levels throughout the day. According to Ayurveda, we can categorize our food and activities as tamasic (bringing lethargy and dullness in mind), rajasic (bringing agitation of mind) or sattwic (bringing peace and equanimity). Think about what you are eating and what kind of energy or mental state is the food bringing. Think about sugary snacks, processed foods, caffeine, preservatives, pesticides, nicotine, alcohol and unnecessary hormones coming through food. There is enough research done about effect of all these on us.

Burnout doesn’t go away on its own. It may actually get worse unless you address the underlying issues causing it.

Recovery from burnout is typically slow. You need time and space to recover. It will involve rethinking and reassessing your life and bringing big changes – diet, exercise, lifestyle, outlook in life, probably career, your personal goals, and more, with the introspection that you need to do.

Treatment of stress / burn-out from Ayurvedic Perspective

Ayurveda is one of the traditional systems of medicine that practices holistic principles primarily focused on personalized health. Ayurveda is also a person-centered medicine (PCM), which deals with healthy lifestyle, health promotion and sustenance, disease prevention, diagnosis and treatment. Ayurvedic treatments are typically specifically to the unique individual, according to their body type (prakruti) and imbalances (vikruti) experienced by the individual. They are therefore adjusted based on current diet, lifestyle, health, emotional wellbeing and other signs and symptoms of the individual.

Ayurveda describes many treatments and tips to address symptoms of stress.

Some of the recommendations may include:

  1. Individual lifestyle- and diet advice given by a practitioner to help nourish you and build your physical strength. Foods to favour and food to avoid for the individual are recommended. The specific herbs are determined by the physical and mental state of the individual.  We look at the overall picture of the patient, and not only just symptoms are treated, but also sustainable solutions related to stress for the client. This may mean some lifestyle advice as well, specific to their need.
  2. Massages Snehana massage with specific herbal oils done to relax the muscles and joints. Kati basti, a herbal steam and shirodhara with herbal oil are important protocols to use. We have many treatment protocols to choose from and appropriate one is recommended based on individual experiences.
  3. Mental health: Pranayama, yoga and meditation may be recommended to support the patient both mentally and spiritually. Integrating pranayama, yoga and meditation as a daily routine may also help with high pressure and stress. It helps increase both your physical and mental vitality and resilience.

Ayurveda is not about passive healing process whereby a pill or massage will cure all your problems. It works on the principle of growth in personal consciousness. Health is not just a matter of the state of the body, since it is obvious that we are much more than just this material form.

Ayurveda is not just a medicinal approach to health; rather it is a complete paradigm of life. It is a view of life which understands that the non-material components of our lives – our consciousness, mind, thoughts, feelings and emotions – animate and direct our more physical parts.

Based on this perspective, Ayurveda defines Ayu or Life as the intelligent co-ordination of the 4 parts of life, namely the Body, Senses, Mind and the Soul.

Heart – The centre of Life: Introducing Ojas

In Ayurveda perspective, heart is the centre of life, where physical body and consciousness meet each other. Ojas stands as a linking medium in between them. Ojas is the medium through which consciousness reaches the physical body.

Maybe in another blog, I will write more about this concept of “Ojas”  But here it is sufficient to say, that we find whenever we experience burnout or even stress, it is because somehow, we have neglected the heart and letting our head rule us too much. We remain healthy when our head and heart align and our hands (and actions) are in alignment. In the end heart always wins, and if we are doing things based on decisions from head but mis-aligned with our heart, we are not going to create positive energy within. And that hidden resistance will start showing up as all kind of negative feelings, resulting in stress and burnout. So our health strategy for stress and burnout will need to involve mental health necessarily.


The purpose of our articles is to provide information. The information is not intended for use in the diagnosis, treatment, cure or prevention of any disease. If you have any serious acute or chronic health concern, please consult a trained health professional. If you are looking for advice of a trained ayurvedic practitioner, call or e-mail us. 

Neerja Ahuja
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