Exhaustion, overwork, irritability… How to avoid burnout?


It’s a very sensitive subject. We’ve been talking about it more and more over the past few years, but do we really know the definition of burnout and its defining signs? It’s sometimes complicated to know when you’re suffering, to talk about it, and even seek treatment before the situation worsens. Cathy Assenheim is a clinical psychologist specializing in neuropsychology and the author of the book I am exhausted !. She was a guest Well done to you on Europe 1 to advise you on revision.

How long did the burnout start?

If the term is still quite new, “it has always existed,” says the expert. “We used to associate it with the depressive side, we also spoke of a nervous breakdown.” In fact, “It’s been ten years since we started talking about it in terms of physiological pathology,” Cathy Assenheim continues.

Before that, the question was asked differently. “There has also been a societal shift that puts a lot of emphasis on well-being,” she says. Women and men of previous generations “didn’t” ask themselves the burnout question until they broke down. “They were given other names for different and varied illnesses,” such as insanity or depression.

How do you recognize the signs of burnout?

To answer this question, the clinician would like to recall what adaptation is: “These are nervous and hormonal changes that we all make on a daily basis” when we are hungry or thirsty, or even when we need to address a professional or personal problem. “The more nerve changes, the more hormonal imbalances.”

So the first stage is revision. “When you start rowing a little, the nervous system strengthens to give the body a kind of crutch”. A whole range of symptoms can alert you: excitability, a “robot mode”, disturbances in resting, falling asleep late or even waking up very early in the morning.

Severe tiredness

After a while, the crutch your body is resting on begins to give way. Increasingly intense fatigue, such as great insomnia, should alert you. Other symptoms may present: anxiety flare-ups, a failing immune system, irritability, irritation, sugar cravings, or even repeated ENT symptoms.

In the end, nothing works anymore, and “we lie in bed, we can’t get up, we have no choice,” says Cathy Assenheim. At this point, “not even recovery works anymore”. Difficulty breathing is also felt as the “nervous system is linked to breathing”. Hearing or vision problems may also occur.

does it let go

On the contrary, the specialist emphasizes, burnout has nothing to do with willpower, “it’s a physiological disorder”. Rest is therefore useless when you are experiencing the symptoms of burnout because you are in constant action. “They need to do biological studies and see the state of the disorder,” she points out.

Another common idea: the alleged weakness of the person concerned. “It has nothing to do with a mental weakness, on the contrary, it’s often people who are constantly adapting.” And anyone can be affected, adults as well as children. Cathy Assenheim’s youngest patient, for example, is eight years old.

What to do if you have symptoms?

You can go to a GP, with one nuance, you need a caregiver who is “trained in neurotransmitter analysis” and “prescribes saliva and urine tests that allow you to see adrenal function and any associated hormones.” . These are the signs of exhaustion, the psychologist explains again.

Only after these analyzes will your doctor initiate treatment to regulate the disorders. You can also try to better regulate your sleep as it affects the nervous system.

How long does it take ?

Can a few weeks vacation help stop the process? For Cathy Assenheim the answer is no. “You have to understand that when you are exhausted, the basic resources, i.e. nerves and hormones, are attacked. Head out of the water”, specifies the specialist.

For the most severe cases, “treatment lasts three to six months.” In addition to physiological treatment, psychological work is strongly recommended in any case, but must be carried out after the acute phase of burnout.

How to treat

For example, there are plants that are naturally primed for genes like rhodiola, saffron, and ashwagandha that regulate the hormone cortisol produced by the adrenal glands. A good diet and good sleep are also necessary.

Physical activity can also help, but “not endurance,” explains Cathy Assenheim, “because we already have an overwhelmed nervous system, so we’re going to accentuate that lack of recovery” when we work on endurance. “Nervous” times are also to be preferred in sport, e.g. B. from 8:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. or from 4:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.

Between 1:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m., the specialist recommends a “not too long” nap of one hour or even 1:30 p.m., “otherwise you will mess up your entire nervous system”.

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