The Dangers of Burnout or When to Slow the Flow

How To Avoid Burnout

We have all heard the adages “no pain, no gain” and “go hard or go home”. If you’re putting yourself under pressure to exercise more, train harder and perform at your peak, you might need to rethink your mindset. The importance of acceptance, how to know when to hustle, and why it is okay to have days that are meant to slowdown is very important to our wellbeing.

We have worked hard to be competitors in the game of life, whether as a student or employee, an athlete or struggling just to workout, a stay-at-home parent or working parent, solo or with family and friends – we all share a warrior mentality that has been engrained in us that if we work for it all we can have it all. The one missing piece of information from this mentality is that being a high-performer, multi-tasker comes with a price – burnout.

Burnout can cause anxiety, depression, sleep disorders and physical conditions.

When it comes to getting the maximum benefit from exercise, most of us consider a good mindset equally as important as physical abilities. Yet, chances are we spend plenty of time chasing physical fitness gains and nowhere near as much working on getting our mindset in good shape.

This does not mean to stop exercising and switch our focus entirely from muscles to mental fortitude. There is no specific fitness formula that will work for everyone, however, to help balance our wellbeing we need to consider building a strong mental foundation to help create balance in our life with physical activity.

Ask yourself these 3 questions to help improve a good mental and physical balance:

  1. What is your “why” to exerciseIt’s important to check where your desire to achieve more is coming from. It is commendable if you are a driven person and you have a real growth mindset that thinks about where you want to face challenges and how to overcome your barriers. But if wanting to go hard, be better and be stronger is coming from a place of comparison, a place of self-judgment, or a place of punishment, then that’s something that should set off internal alarms for you to work on creating a healthier version of “why you exercise”.
  2. Are your goals behavioral-based or outcome-basedFor many, setting a goal to lose weight can be a great motivator, but what’s important is the difference between process and outcome. This means you don’t focus on just losing the weight, you focus on the process (eating well, exercising, prioritizing sleep, managing stress levels). When you engage with that process, there’s a high likelihood you’ll lose the weight anyway. By focusing on the process, you promote the likelihood of finding a form of exercise that doesn’t feel like a chore and you do it because you enjoy it. Most people are actually very good at losing weight. But if you’ve only been focused on the outcome of losing weight, and the process hasn’t been overly enjoyable, meaningful, or fulfilling, then you are probably going to put the weight back on.
  3. Why do you make excuses whether to exercise or not to exerciseExercise induced anxiety is real! Everybody knows exercise is good for them. Confidence, perceptions of self, or previous experiences around exercise are just some of the other mindset barriers that get in the way of too much exercise or not enough. You don’t want to eliminate anxiety from all aspects of life, because anxiety has a purpose. Anxiety is our body perceiving physically threatening or emotionally frightening situations and alerting you so that you can effectively deal with them. Anxiety becomes dysfunctional when it’s telling you that absolutely everything is threatening, even when there is no rational reason to be anxious. The interesting thing about anxiety and exercise is the physical sensations associated with each are very similar. Your heart rate goes up and you may feel hot, you feel sweaty, you’re experiencing shortness of breath. So, if you’re already feeling anxious about exercise, and then you start to exercise and you further experience these sensations, it can be hard to differentiate what is anxiety and what is a by-product of exercise. This can be an important part of your fitness journey to learn how to differentiate these physical feelings and unpack the thoughts and behaviors that may promote anxiety and influence future involvement in exercise. Anxiety can come from not feeling comfortable or connected with your body, confident in your skills, or that you have the support around you to start exercise. It also works at the other end of the scale, where someone finds something that works for them really well, but like a lot of things, when you do too much it becomes dysfunctional. In current times, when the world seems to be falling apart, it can feel like the only thing you can control is how much you eat, and how much you exercise. People tend to grasp on to exercise in order to grasp some control, which is great, but then that’s also the space where anxiety and exercise dependency and overtraining can kick in. Work on a healthier relationship with exercise!

Although there is no specific fitness formula that will work for everyone, our individual relationship with exercise is important. The personal process of working on answering the above questions will not be linear. Finding what gives movement meaning and value in your life will promote a lifelong healthy relationship with exercise