I recently attended a really good workshop about professional burnout and brain food – although when applying, I wasn’t expecting talk about ‘real’ food. I thought the workshop would be about inspiration – the figurative ‘brain food’. But it turned out so much better than expected. I don’t want to sound cheesy but that workshop changed my everyday life. I have more energy, I’m feeling less stressed and I can cope with a lot of things that would have irritated me before with a smile now.
Being an affiliate means your whole business depends on yourself. If you’re not well, your business is not well. If you’re not able to work at your full potential, your income suffers. There’s no one else to fill your spot and do the things you should be doing. This is why it is very important to take care of yourself and your health. In preventing disease, managing stress and building your resilience, there is nothing more important than healthy eating.
We all know stress. Although nowadays we treat the word stress as a completely negative state, that’s not exactly true. Stress is a response to a challenging physical, emotional or intellectual demand. These challenges present a danger to our body. When stress is just a response to keep you alert and prepare your body to avoid danger, that’s a positive response. Try to imagine caveman out hunting and encountering a lion. Adrenaline rises, which is one of primary body’s responses to stres. The caveman focuses on running away. Back in the cave, he relaxes, gets some rest and prepares for his next hunt. Stress just saved his life.
The problem we are facing in today’s world is that ‘lions’ are all around us and we have no cave to hide in and relax. Our lions are financial, psychological and emotional pressure, illness and infections, all kinds of fears, and if that wasn’t enough, we are putting our bodies under even more stress with poor eating and drinking habits. Caffeine, alcohol, sugars and other refined carbohydrates, and a lack of proper, nourishing food are unfortunately becoming everyday habits for many people. Mix all of the above with lack of sleep, relaxation and exercise and you have the perfect recipe for a burnout.
What exactly is burnout and how can you recognise it?
We could say that burnout is the next level of stress. It happens when your body can no longer cope with the demands of stress. It’s a constant feeling of exhaustion, fatigue that’s not relieved by rest, lack of energy and motivation, low productivity and increased anxiety. People suffering from burnout often have digestive discomforts. They are prone to infections and get ill quickly. They suffer from joint aches and pains, have decreased intolerance to cold, they sleep poorly and have problems waking up or even getting to sleep despite tiredness. All this can lead to big health problems and depression. Therefore it is very important to avoid burnout or recognise it’s early symptoms and prevent it developing further.
I know this sounds easier said than done, but there are many measures you can take to prevent burnout. Let’s state some of things that might sound obvious, but there’s no harm in pointing them out. We’ll focus on food in second part of the article.
In an effort to prevent burnout, you should always prioritise a good night’s sleep. There’s nothing more important than giving your body a proper rest. This will be much easier and more efficient if you incorporate some exercise into your everyday routine. Although there are many good gyms around, try to also exercise somewhere in nature or at least take a 15 minute walk every day. And I don’t mean a walk to the shopping centre or local store. Try a proper walk in the woodland green area. Seek many opportunities to laugh, incorporate little things that make you smile in your day and spend time with people that make you feel good.
Resolve stressful situations instead of avoiding them and stop putting stuff off until later. If you know you are in a stressful period which sometimes unfortunately can’t be avoided, make sure you take breaks and try some relaxing techniques like meditation or yoga.
How can food help you avoid stress?
You are probably familiar with situations when you think you just don’t have time to eat. All you need is another cup of coffee to get you going. Or you’ve been so busy, you completely forgot about food and now it’s 9 o’clock in the evening and you’re absolutely too tired to cook so you just order pizza and collapse in front of the TV.
These foods and drinks are putting your body under even more stress. Not supplying your body with proper nutrients it makes it impossible for it to fight against ‘danger’. Remember that caveman? Imagine if he had had only a cup of coffee in the morning to go hunting. Would he have been able to escape from the lion? Would he have had enough energy to run back to the cave? Probably not. Remember this every time you think you are too busy to eat or prepare a meal. Your body needs fuel to perform.
Eat regularly and remember the rule of at least 5 meals per day. Eat quality protein at every meal and try to remove simple refined carbohydrates from your diet. Remember to stay hydrated. The easiest way to make sure you are drinking enough is to always have a bottle of water with you. That way you will remember to drink and you’ll be able to track how much water you’ve had. An average adult woman needs around 3 liters of water. Add another liter for a man. If you workout or drink alcohol, those needs rise. Plan your meals and spend some time food shopping. I usually spend time on a Sunday making a meal plan for the coming week and doing the shopping. This way I know what I’m going to cook and I can prepare meals in advance. That’s how I avoid snacking or temptations to order take out at the end of an exhausting day.
Have breakfast. It’s probably getting really annoying how many times you hear this, but it’s for a reason. There are still so many people who are skipping breakfast. It’s the most important meal of the day and it is the first thing your body’s going to have after many hours of fasting overnight. Start your day with a glass of water. You could squeeze some lemon in it to wake up your digestion system, boost your immune system and help your body to alkalise.
Try a smoothie. Ever since attending this workshop I am crazy about smoothies. They really give me energy, and I feel better and healthier. They are an easy way of getting many important nutrients into your body, especially if you stick to general guidelines: 50% leafy greens, 50 % various fruits, some boosts in form of superfoods, nuts or seeds and water or non dairy milk like almond, oat or soya. But don’t stop there. A smoothie is not your breakfast. Try to have some proper food within two hours of waking up. There are many articles and recipes on the internet with ideas for a healthy breakfast, but you can never go wrong with eggs, wholegrain breads, oats and granola, yogurt and fruit. If you prefer a stronger breakfast, have some lean meat and some vegetables like mushrooms, peppers or aubergines.
Fight Burnout with the Right Nutrients
To conclude, let me just point out some important nutrients to fight burnout. During stressful periods, make sure your diet contains a lot of vitamins C and B, magnesium, amino acids, omega 3 and zinc. Food sources for vitamin C are kiwi, blackcurrant, strawberries, peppers, sweet potato and Brussels sprouts. You’ll find loads of vitamin B in chicken and lamb meat, fish, eggs, dairy, nuts, almonds, seeds, walnuts, sweet potato, asparagus and broccoli. Foods rich in magnesium are seeds, almonds, cashews, cocoa, eggs and figs. Oily fish, cod liver oil, linseed or flaxseed oil and walnut oil are a good source of omega 3 and zinc can be found in crab, oysters, pumpkin seeds, ginger, egg yolks and lamb and beef meat.
So there you have it – a little guide on how to take care of yourself in order to stay healthy. If you’re healthy your business will stay healthy and you’ll be able to grow it. I hope this article will help you as the workshop helped me. With proper nutrition and exercise, not only will your physical performance be better but you’ll also feed your brain so your mental performance will improve.
Start slowly, build routines into your day and make a step by step plan. Don’t try to do it all at once as the possibility of failing is much bigger. You could start by trying to cut caffeine out of your diet or just reduce it at first. Start drinking smoothies. Go for a half hour walk every day. Take small steps and you’ll soon notice the changes in your body – this will keep you motivated to take the next steps.