Overcommitted and Burned Out
We in the ‘civilized’ Western world have way more to do than is doable.
Does the term “overcommitted” fit you? If you are a caregiver, likely it does.
You probably don’t have time to read this, but I am glad you are.
Defining and Studying Overcommitment
According to a German study , the term ‘overcommitted’ refers to people who are doing way too much. And more specifically, we also have a high need for approval for the things that we do.
We are talking about a type A behavior personality where a person has a lot of ambition, likes to control things, and needs approval too.
People who are overcommitted generally try to do much more than is humanly possible, and they use up their all energy in the process, to the point that they can get sick to the point of exhaustion and poor health. In some natural medicine circles, this will lead to what is called ‘adrenal fatigue’, a condition where the adrenal system is working sub optimally.
Why Overcommitment Is Not Good For You
Overcommitment has been shown to lead to a number of issues including:
- sleep problems
- inflammatory disease (like autoimmune illness) and
- cardiovascular disease.
When you are temporarily overcommitted, and in an anxious state, your body tries to help you cope, by making many more stress hormones and also chemicals that can raise inflammation in your body. In the short term, these will help you muster the energy to cope with the stressor and get through. It is like when you are running from a bear, you want those stress hormones to kick up your speed and make you stronger. And you want those inflammation molecules just in case there is a fight, so you can fight the infection from any injury that might happen.
Unfortunately, overcommitted people run hot like this all the time. They are always running from the “bear.” In the long term, these stress hormones and inflammatory chemicals tend to start doing more damage than good: they beat up the brain, the linings of the blood vessels. They deposit fat in places they shouldn’t and there’s often poor blood sugar control. This is why so many diseases become more likely when we are overcommitted.
When you are chronically running from a bear, you will notice your resilience to stress starts to buckle too. Your sleep can be affected, and for women, hormonal issues start cropping up, including difficult periods with pain and emotional challenges, fertility issues and sufferable menopause symptoms too. For men, libido and sexual performance will go way down, fatigue takes over, and anxiety and depression can hit as well. For those genetically prone, they may end up with allergies, headaches, migraines, chronic fatigue, digestive problems, high blood pressure, or the opposite postural hypotension (a condition where blood pressure drops easily).
The German study from 2008 looked at 53 teachers (20 men and 22 women). Teachers are a group notoriously known to overcommit despite the fact that they are given little appreciation. They tested each person to find out who were over-committers, and who were not. What they found was the people who were demonstrated to be overcommitted in their lives had a tough time creating the stress response needed to keep up with the demands of life. Like in the case of adrenal fatigue, these people were running from the bear for so long, they couldn’t even make the hormones they needed to keep it up.
This makes these teachers and all of us over committers especially vulnerable to the burnout.
How To Protect Yourself and Heal from Overcommitment
Overcommitment syndrome as a very common underlying cause of illness. While most people can’t just completely stop their lives,there are a few ways to rethink and support your mind and body:
1 – Sleep a little more
Sleep is the best way to rejuvenate the body and the stress system. Trying to get to bed early (by 10 or 11 PM) goes a long way to lower inflammation and heal. Don’t exercise if you are not getting enough sleep, for you may deplete yourself more.
2 – Remember that ‘no’ is a sentence: it’s okay to say no sometimes.
Realize that you do not have to go to everything. You also don’t have to be the volunteer for that church or community project, because you feel guilty. You may not need to check all those emails or answer every facebook comment at night. You can also opt out of extra work – it won’t kill your career. It’s okay to let someone else do it; delegate when you can.
3 – Meditation: even one minute twice a day will help shift your body from “I’m running from a bear” stress mode to “I can be in the present” mode.
This will open up your digestive tract and lower inflammation in the body, as well as allow your brain to repair from all the stress hormones. Overcommitters live in the future – visiting the present can help break the cycle.
4 – Eat a High Energy Diet, and Lose Weight if Necessary
Being well-nourished and at a healthy weight will increase your resilience. Read about the diet I recommend for weight loss and energy.
5 – Take some Supplements:
Supplements for general health and mood, as supported by research, are a high quality multivitamin/mineral supplement , a fish oil supplement and a probiotic. These can help gently support systems that are constantly under siege.
6 – Find places for support: look towards friends, family, and other overcommiters to share the burden.
7 – Prioritize: going along with #2, know that you can’t do everything… so sit down in a quiet place and pick what is most important and make that the focus.
8 – Adrenal Testing and Support: There’s a test called a saliva adrenal test or saliva stress test, and it can show function of your adrenal system.
There are correlations between non-optimal adrenal function (aka “adrenal fatigue”) associated with orthostatic hypotension, POTS Syndrome (postural orthostatic tachycardia), chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia, as well as inflammatory issues like lupus and other autoimmune diseases.
Once you have the information from this test, you can pick the right herbs and supplements as well as lifestyle choices to boost your adrenals.
For some people, an adrenal supportive supplement can help gently nourish the adrenal glands when they are not responding as well as possible.
For adrenal help, use a combination that includes ashwanganda, B vitamins and mushrooms. There are many quality supplements out there for this purpose.
I like NutraBorn Optimal Adrenal Support. Talk to your holistic doctor to learn which might be best for you.
Remember, supplements themselves do not fix the problem, but they can help support the body to avoid exhaustion. When used with a proper regimen of sleep, lifestyle and dietary changes like mentioned above, you can gain your strength and vitality back.
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