The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) defines work-related stress as ‘the harmful physical and emotional responses that occur when the requirements of the job do not match the capabilities, resources or needs of the worker’; the United Nations (UN) called it ‘the twentieth century disease’ and the World Health Organisation (WHO) calls it a ‘worldwide epidemic’. 

I wrote this in my book that I published in 2002, The 7 Steps To Sanity. Yes! 2002

Fast forward to 2015 and it was reported by Bretland and Thorsteinsson that, “Burnout is a topic of high public and research interest reflecting its severe consequences, with costs to the global economy estimated at over $300 billion annually and a burnout “pandemic” forecast by the World Health Organisation (WHO) in the next decade.”

As a naturopath this is not new. I came to train as a naturopath after burning out myself in my 20’s, that’s more than three decades ago. The last three years has seen things escalate with the influence of the pandemic bringing stress levels and uncertainty to an all-time high.

A 2021 a published study into Redefining the key symptoms of Burnout, it was found that there are five key signs. Exhaustion, cognitive impairment, compromised work performance, empathy loss and social withdrawal.” 

The study concluded that “burnout may therefore potentially be modelled as a unidimensional construct.”

So, what do we do with this information? There is still uncertainty in life and the workplace. Mental health challenges are at an all-time high. The years 20/21 were altered long enough for people to create whole new ways of being and the hybrid workplace brings benefits and challenges.

Rising interest rates and mortgages has financial pressure is at an all time high. People are working increased hours and seeking side hustles to make ends meet.

There are now nearly one million Aussies who hold a second job, according to the latest data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics. The financial stresses are not going to ease in the near future. So how do we cope.

In research I conducted amongst busy business people I found “69% of those surveyed are taking little or no action to deal with stress and its effects on them” and this came from people saying they did not know where to start or felt it was all too big for them so they chose not to start at all. Where in reality it is quite simple. All we need to do is to look at one area of wellness, strengthen in that area and then build from there. The challenge comes because we try to do it all at once, find that it is bit always sustainable, we fall off track and then say “well I may as well stay off track”. In my experience the place to start to get is a life is to work on the adrenal glands because they the part of you that is going flat out trying to keep up with you.

In clinic we say that you recharge your adrenal glands with good food, good rest and good play. We need to start managing our lives and our time in a more deliberate and planned way rather than bouncing around from one thing to the next, reacting to everyone and everything around us. Imagine we treat this like any other new project we’d take on in life or at work and schedule in the tasks and activities required to support us.

Being a realistic bottom line naturopath, we can’t change what is. We can however, stay grounded and adapt. 

I know I do! I am a naturally ‘go fast person’, my mind races and the pace with which I like to get things done makes most people’s heads spin – and I have no intention of slowing down anytime soon! I’ve been through burnout and now I know that in order for me to be able to keep up the pace, I need to support my adrenals.

One of the most effective things that I do is I take adaptogens and I use Vetiver essential oil every day. If aromatherapy is new to you, I encourage you to take a closer look at it before thinking that it’s too ‘out there’. It’s really just ‘old time’ pharmacy, many essential oils are the original ingredients which have now been replicated by cheaper or synthetic versions in pharmaceuticals. 

Vetiver is known for its grounding effects; it is beneficial for mental exhaustion and helps to relax a scattered mind – it is ideal for the workaholics among us. I use it in combination with Jasmine, Bergamot, Sandalwood and Geranium, in what I call my ‘Sanity Saver’ blend. The way I use it in my office is in a room diffuser and before I go to sleep I rub a few drops diluted with body oil into the soles of my feet or abdomen for a good night’s rest. It’s not a sedative, it simply grounds you so that you can focus on one thing at a time rather than trying to do ten things at once and not achieving anything other than driving your stress levels through the roof. It’s about focusing and recharging. And at night, it helps your mind to stop racing so that you can get a good night’s sleep. 

Some of the same oils in my Sanity Saver blend were used in a three-year study conducted with children suffering from ADD/ADHD. Whenever the kids felt ‘scattered’ they simply inhaled the oils and it was found that this settled the brainwaves back into normal patterns and improved their scholastic performance and behaviour. The results were: Lavender increased performance by 53 percent, Cedarwood increased performance by 83 percent and Vetiver increased performance by 100 percent. 

As for adaptogens, they are a class of herbs that help us to adapt to stress. You may have heard about the hormone Cortisol which is a hormone made by the adrenal glands. Cortisol has been receiving a lot of attention as more and more people are burning the candles at both ends and their adrenals are paying the price.

Some of the common factors that increase the production of the “the stress hormone” cortisol are sleep deprivation, overuse of caffeine, improper nutrition, constant hits of stress and simply burning the candle at both ends.

Bottom line if you want to work and play as hard and as fast or slow as you choose you need to support your body. Bringing some adaptogen herbs and or aromatherapy oils into your daily routine, can have us replenishing taxed and exhausted body systems and back on the road to prevention.