What's Happening To My Body During Burnout? And How Can Acupuncture Help?
Jul 27, 2020
Burnout is the result of long term stress.
That’s the simplest explanation. It doesn’t have to be stress you’re aware of, it can be insidious. It doesn’t all have to be internal stress (like negative self talk, the pressure you put on yourself to succeed, perfectionism, etc.), it can be external too (like needing to care for family members, having an unreasonable boss/manager, a global f’ing pandemic).
What is often missing from the burnout conversation is that there are actual physical changes that are happening in your body and part of recovering from burnout is healing those changes while you heal the situations, beliefs, and mindsets that go along with them.
So, what’s happening physically during burnout? Here are the basics.
1. Your brain is overwhelmed and starts to shrink (not by much! Don’t worry!). These changes can make it hard for you to manage new stress, control your emotional responses, have good spatial awareness (in this interview on FRIED with fellow burnout coach Devon Grilly, she talks about clumsiness as a sign that she’s too stressed), feel connected to family, friends, and peers, and remember the right words at the right times.
- Cortisol levels go up, adrenals get fatigued. Adrenal fatigue is no longer a buzzword. It’s become a normal part of the vernacular in the alternative healthcare world. It basically means that your adrenals have been pumping out cortisol (the stress hormone) for too long and are wiped out. The signs that you’ll notice are: feeling slightly depressed, having a weak immune system that leads to lots of colds and flus, being tired all day and then wired when you try to sleep, changes to your menstrual cycle, an afternoon crash (that 3pm-4pm nap is a THING), and weight gain around the middle.
- Your gut bacteria (the good stuff that keeps you healthy and helps you digest and absorb well) gets smashed. All the studies show the same thing, gut bacteria is negatively affected by long term stress. In the short term, and with a good diet, the bacteria is able to recover quickly after a stressful event. When the stress is hanging around all the time, the gut bacteria fails to recover as quickly and usually, the quality of the diet decreases and the cycle begins.
Those are the 3 main things I need you to know about stress, burnout, and your body. The next thing I want you to know is that acupuncture can help all that! :)
1. Acupuncture has been shown to improve brain plasticity and supports the regrowth of cells and dendrites. In regular people speak, acupuncture helps your brain to regrow AND makes it more capable of handling future stress. Acupuncture is to your brain what vitamin C is to your immunity!
- Acupuncture can reduce cortisol levels. Acupuncture is regulating medicine - that means that when something is too much, acupuncture lessens it and when something is too little, acupuncture increases it. This was first shown to be true in a study on the most important acupuncture point, ST 36. This point was used in people with low stomach acid, high stomach acid, and stomach acid within range. Once the point was use, the low stomach acid increased, the high stomach acid decreased and the within range, well, stayed within range. Acupuncture helps by regulating the hormonal system at large, making it easier on your adrenals and telling your body that new stress hormones aren’t needed right now.
- Acupuncture improves the number of good gut bacteria. Again, acupuncture helps regulate - whether it’s hormones, stomach acid, muscle tension or gut bacteria.
Acupuncture isn’t the ONLY way to heal your body when it comes to burnout. Any medicine that helps to regulate your body, calm your nervous system, increase parasympathetic nervous function and decrease stress hormones will do. Ayurveda does well, as do certain breathing and meditation techniques. The thing about acupuncture right now is that it is more and more available and the standards for practicing in the US are rigorous - making it more likely that you’ll find a practitioner that is well qualified to treat you!
You can book an appointment to work with me in midtown Manhattan here. Or, you can shoot me an email using the contact form and I’ll help you find someone in your area!
Drop any Q’s you have in the comments section and I’ll be sure to come answer!