The Yoga MD


#LetsTalk Burnout

It’s #BellLetsTalkDay

Let’s talk #Burnout

As humans we were designed for survival.

We were designed for acute short-term stress.

When we face a challenge or stressor, or Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS) is triggered and we go into our Fight-Flight-Freeze- or Please (Fawn) response to help us fend off the Stressor.

It is a charge that goes into the body, that should get discharged as we fight, run away, appease that which is stressing us. After which, we are supposed to go back to our homeostatic state, where we are back in our ventral Vagal Parasympathetic Nervous System “Rest & Digest, Pause & Plan, Calm & Clear” Response. Our Window of Tolerance, where we can live SAFELY. The process of going back to Homestasis is called Allostasis. Some guy got it wrong – it is an alloDYNAMIC state in which we are continuously cycling in and out. (Homeostasis should also be called Homeodynamic. Shout-out out to Dr. Ananda Balayogi Bhavani for calling that out!)

However, when we go into freeze, or when we get overwhelmed, we can no longer sustain the energy of the SNS response. We “dive” down into our dorsal Vagal Hypoarousal response, where we begin to numb, dissociate, even feign death. This is not weak, it is a smart physiological solution to help us conserve energy. Unfortunately, we are humans, and we have expectations of ourselves, and we start getting mad at ourselves to motivate us out of this state. It just stresses out and keeps us stuck in Hypoarousal state.

Right now, we are facing a prolonged chronic stress response, from which we have not had adequate opportunities to discharge stress. You may see us getting angry at each other (fight) as a way to clear the stress. We have nowhere to run, and our hearts can only beat so fast before we dive down into the cave. Our Allostatic load (the cumulative effect of stress) are very heavy, and the process to come back to homeostasis is not always possible.

What’s worse is COVID 19 is a NEW stress. It’s Novel. It requires even more resources. Unless we have supportive environments and communities to which we can safely return to homeostasis, we will burnout.

This is just our physiology.

This is how we are wired.

This stress needs to be released. It doesn’t have to be a big work out. It can be a big laugh or cry, dancing to your favourite song, singing, chanting, yodelling even!

Just don’t beat yourself up about it. Some of us have been carrying large loads for a long time. Be kind to yourself.

Slide source: Unknown but depicts Dr.Stephen Porges’ Polyvagal Theory with the Yogic Concepts of the Gunas (Rajas, Tamas and Sattva), the three states we are constantly cycling through.

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