Burnout is emotional, physical, or mental exhaustion. Symptoms include extreme fatigue, hair loss, anxiety, frequent colds, and more. It’s basically a stress overload. Adam Parker, a corporate wellness consultant and the host of The Ideal Day Podcast, addresses the issue.
Adam had his own serious burnout experience in 2018 that led to his work today: helping others avoid burnout or recover from it. He offers insights on the topic for all of us. He defines it. He explains the dependence strategies many of us rely on to manage it (including turning to coffee or alcohol). And he offers healthy alternatives that help us lower the load we feel. He speaks of guarding the mind and the body; he reminds us of the healing power of nature, sunlight, and connection to one another. And ultimately, he offers tools that help us regain our health and balance.
Visit his website: youridealday.com
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Listen to the episode here
Within the below transcript the bolded text is Hilda
Burnout is emotional, physical or mental exhaustion. Symptoms can include extreme fatigue, hair loss, anxiety, frequent colds and more. It’s basically a stress overload but there are practices that we can adopt to help us prevent it altogether. This is episode 360 and our guest is Adam Parker. He is a corporate wellness consultant and the host of the Ideal Day Podcast.
He had his own serious burnout experience and it turned his life around and it led him to where he is now. A man on a mission to help others navigate their own recovery and/or to prevent burning out in the first place. He offers us insights that help every single one of us. He defines burnout. He offers strategies for avoiding dependence on multiple cups of coffee or alcohol to push through the stress. He reminds us that what we take in even subconsciously through TV or social media can up our stress load. He covers the need to guard against blue light and EMFs. There are all kinds of valuable information in this show and most of all, he reminds us of the healing power of nature, sunlight and connection to one another. He offers us tools that help us regain our health and balance.
Before we dive into the conversation, I want to offer you a free gift. It’s Weston A. Price Foundation’s information pack that gives you background on the foundation along with our most popular brochure Timeless Principles of Healthy Traditional Diets. It includes pictures of some of the work of Dr. Price and the isolated people groups that he visited.
They stand in sharp contrast to civilized moderns, as we would call ourselves, who subsist on the displacing foods of modern commerce. The brochure is in this pack along with a list of dietary guidelines and dietary dangers. Go to the WestonAPrice.org website, click on the Request Free Info Pack button and it’s all yours.
Coming up, Adam explains other ways we can guard the body and the mind including the importance of blocking blue light. He also enumerates other pillars to help us return to balance and prevent burnout.
Visit his website: YourIdealDay.com
Get the Weston A. Price Foundation free info pack.
It’s a pleasure being here.
You have got your show Your Ideal Day. You have got a lot of things going on, a coaching program but I know your career started when you were in the tech field and you were on the rise. You were climbing that corporate ladder and exactly what you dreamed of and that’s when you started to experience burnout. Tell us that story.
The harder you work, the more successful you feel you are, but you should always take care of your health.
From as far back as I could remember, being a kid, I was fascinated with these innovative tech companies. Several years ago, Google was on the rise. Facebook was starting to grow. I remember being at university. This is way over several years ago, thinking, “That’s where I want to be.” Once I graduated, I moved to the city of London.
Within a couple of years, I found myself working for one of the big tech firms and it was great. I was doing the whole city thing. I was getting my coffee on the way to work like the cosmopolitan coffee. In the office, I was drinking probably 3 or 4 coffees. When you don’t know, it was the thing to do, working late and taking out clients.
The harder I work, the more successful I got and it was great. As time went on and I was getting higher and higher in my field and more responsibility, I started to have symptoms that things were not quite right and it was things like exhaustion. I was getting sicker a lot more easily and when those things happen, you think, “That was fine. I have got to keep hustling and working harder.”
What I found is I found mitigation strategies. I was tired, more coffee. I was getting anxious in situations that I would not normally, I was fine. We are social. We have clients. I have more alcohol. I was finding these mitigation strategies and it progressively got worse. It was a process. It got to the point and I remember this day I woke up and I could not get up.
Literally, I was tired. I had no energy. I was anxious in bed. I said, “This is not right.” This is what tends to happen to burnout. These symptoms continue and then it can evolve into poor health if you don’t address the symptoms. My hair was falling out, which I now know is a sign of thyroid issues. That was, for me, the breakpoint but I knew way before that, things were not quite right.
I hit this rock bottom. I realized I had to make a change. I said, “This is not sustainable,” and I had to take time off from that job to recover. It was deemed as work-related stress. I shifted my focus to focus on how can I A) Get better but B) When I am better, thrive in this environment because I enjoy this environment. I want it to be sustainable.
I want to get to the strategies and a little bit but I want to ask you more about the symptoms of burnout. Does it appear differently for different people? You described yours as anxiety, overwhelming fatigue and your hair was falling out. What are the symptoms for others?
It’s important to realize that there is no official diagnosis of burnout. However, this is interesting. This January 2022, the World Health Organization now recognizes burnout. They have called it an Occupational Phenomenon and that’s in their 11th Revision of the International Classification of Disease. It’s something that we have recognized now especially since COVID and everything that’s happened there.
In terms of what does it feel and look like, the most common symptoms would be exhaustion like you are tired all of the time. Your immune system normally gets lowered. You might be getting more colds or flus more often. You would be like, “Why am I getting sick all the time? This is not like me.” It can manifest in poor sleep. If we get good sleep, we feel it.
You might track your sleep. I track my sleep but a lot of people don’t but they will know. They will wake up and they won’t feel, “That’s don’t feel refreshed,” or they might get insomnia. What also tends to happen is you start to create these dependency strategies. I will say, “I was sleeping so I had more coffee.”
A lot of people will lean to alcohol. Here is an interesting statistic for you. Here in the UK, when the lockdown started, the statistics came out on what are the changes in buying behaviors. We are all locked indoors. What’s going on? Two things skyrocketed. The first one was takeaway food because we are all now locked indoors. We have got Uber Eats and all of these things.
The second was alcohol consumption. Alcohol consumption increased by 30%. It absolutely skyrocketed. You can see that was people’s coping mechanism. Their community and their livelihoods in some cases have been taken away. People tend to start to lean on these dependencies to deal with the stress.
Help us understand what burnout is exactly. You have described the symptoms. Let’s talk about what it is.
Burnout essentially comprises emotional, physical or mental exhaustion. The way I like to explain it to people I work with is you have a seesaw. I know that in the US you call it a teeter-totter. We call it a seesaw here in the UK. On one side, you have got deadlines, demands and stress. We have all got deadlines and responsibilities. We have got demands on us and we all have this stress that we have to deal with.
On the other side, we have recognition. We have the rewards for our efforts and we also have relaxation. What we want to do is have a nice balance between the two. That’s where we need. Ideally, I always say, “If we can get more relaxation and recognition, great.” As demands, pressures and stresses build, what starts to happen? We start to, “I can’t go. I can’t meet you tonight. I can’t go for dinner. I can’t spend time with my family. I was going to have a relaxing weekend, now I have got to do that project.” Slowly but surely, the recognition, the reward and the relaxation start to be diminished. That imbalance occurs and then we start to manifest the symptoms of burnout.
What you are describing is what so many of us experience. As you put it in those phrases like, “I wanted to do this but I have to work,” I have heard this many times and observed it in my own life when that imbalance occurs. Talk to us about how we can manage it. I don’t think everybody can step off the hamster wheel as you did and take time off to recover. How can we regain that balance you are describing?
Burnout is about stress and we said demands and all of that stuff and there’s that imbalance. We have to learn to manage the stress fundamentally. Humans have evolved to adapt to stress. We have all heard the story of the caveman or woman, the tigers around the corner. We have an acute stressful moment. Blood rushes to the muscles. We run. We save the day. Everything’s great.
The challenge in this world is chronic, consistent stress alongside no relaxing moments, no rest and no rejuvenation. That’s the problem. Fundamentally we need to look at how we manage our stress. Since COVID happened, burnout has absolutely 10X. It’s been the perfect storm. We had this narrative of burnout is long-existing but now with everything that’s happened, it’s personified.
We have had people having a lack of movement because we have been at home. We have had a lack of connection because we are stuck in front of our screens. Lack of natural light. We have had a lack of good food because now we have Delivery Hero and Uber Eats. You have Uber Eats and other ones. It’s the click of a button. This COVID event personified all.
On top of all of that, there is that anxiety, that fear of what’s going to happen and the uncertainty about some boogeyman virus about to get you. That’s on top of the usual stressors and then adding to the ones you mentioned.
It’s important to realize that there is no official diagnosis of burnout.
Talking about fear is an important point and this is one of my preventative strategies that we will jump into. What you input into your mind is so important. I can talk about all of the bio-hacks and the ancestral things and they are a cornerstone of this process of recovery and prevention. However, we have never had a moment in our history where the fear-mongering from the mainstream media was so high.
What people don’t tend to realize is even consuming that information passively can have a big impact on how you feel. I found an amazing study and it basically said that three minutes of consuming mainstream media, which is normally negative news in the morning, increased your likelihood of having a bad day by 27%.
It’s framing our day. For me and I’m sure a lot of your readers, you wake up it’s about uplifting music, audio or whatever it is, while you frame your day. If you are passive and you don’t realize that watching the news or listening to the radio can create fear and that is also stress. We think about when I’m working late, I’m doing this and that. What you consume is also adding to your stress load. That’s important. This fear narrative has, for some reason, been ramped up to the maximum since this whole COVID outbreak began.
I don’t know how many do it anymore but I run an alternative health circle. It’s hard to tell but a lot of people do begin their day watching talk shows or whatever it is that is trying to keep you interested and engaged. They will even ramp up the fear because it’s the best seller. People want to know when the man bit the dog. It’s news, it’s exciting, It’s scary and it’s drama. They tune in to that and then they end their day watching the news again. For many of us, it’s scrolling, you don’t know what you are going to come across and some of these things instill fear in us. A good point is that that’s part of our stress load.
To more to that point. The subconscious mind is powerful and the subconscious mind is deductive. What does that mean? It only accepts. Our conscious mind has reasoning and logic. How would you get through to the subconscious mind? It’s through time-spaced repetition. Same message over and over and a perfect example of that is mainstream media.
If we passively listen to mainstream media and we don’t control what we input, we will stop believing things and accepting things and that adds to the stress load. All of a sudden, you are making decisions and having to do things that cause you stress because of what you believe now. I’m not saying the mainstream media is not true or not but what I am saying is most likely it’s going to be negative information that will impact your stress levels. We have to be careful about what we are taking in because that has a big impact, as much as working too hard, as much as not eating good food. It all plays a big part in our ability to deal with stress.
I’m so glad you said that because I will often say the same thing. What we consume in our diet is not just the food, it’s everything we are taking in. Let’s talk about some other bio hacks or strategies for returning to balance and avoiding burnout.
When I work with my clients, I take them through essentially my nine pillars for burnout, recovery and prevention. It’s all about changing habits, creating habits and once you get these dialed in, you have got the armory to keep burnout at arm’s length. One that I love to talk about is nature and our biology expects us to engage with nature. It’s part of our primitive wiring.
I was thinking about the work of Weston A. Price is amazing. He wrote about all of these primitive cultures, all around the world, wherever they were. They adapted to their environment and they thrive in their environment. I think to myself, “We as humans, our new environment is this corporate world. This work from home or this office world. We have adapted to this world.” We have adapted to seeing the junk lights all day. We have adapted to not moving and getting unhealthy processed takeout foods on the go. We have adapted to this stress but we are not thriving in the environment. We can thrive in the environment when we have the knowledge and the tools and that’s what I try and do when I work with an individual who’s suffering from burnout or going into burnout.
Nature is super important and I’m sure your readers have heard about Shinrin-Yoku forest bathing. This was invented in Japan because there were high suicide rates. The medicine was to go out into nature and be with nature. Don’t take technology and it’s great for health. What does nature do? Nature lowers cortisol levels, number one. It relaxes and aligns you with your circadian rhythm. We were talking before we jumped on about the frequencies of energy. There’s energy and life. There’s a joy in holding a tree because there’s energy in the tree. Being in nature is a gift and it’s free.
I also understand that a lot of people work in cities that don’t have access to nature. There’s a spectrum. Ideally, be out in nature every day. If you can’t, go to your local park. Walk around, be with the trees and earth. The absolute minimum I would say is people have to be outdoors in natural lights for at least 30 minutes a day because lights within itself are healing. We know it gives us good Vitamin D. It lowers our stress. It helps our circadian rhythm reset or keep functioning. There are so many benefits to the natural spectrums of lights.
I liked that you said when the Japanese were prescribed to do forest bathing, they were told to leave their devices behind because sometimes we almost act like, “Maybe I did not see the sunset if I did not take a picture of it.” It’s so silly. We need to come back to return to the wise tradition of being in nature without all the technology because it’s healing. Tell us about another one of the pillars that you recommend.
Another one of my pillars is I call it to guard. We touched upon it earlier. You have to guard the door to your mind, as it were. Not that your mind but also your body. Let’s think about our minds. We live in an attention economy. We know this. We know that mainstream media and social media are all about grabbing our attention and not so focused on our own wellbeing.
We know this. We have seen the documentaries and studies. We have to dial in when we intake this information. It’s about being in manual. You have got automatic. Automatic, one is watching TV, things are going in and I’m not filtering what I’m taking in. Manually, I’m saying, “I wake up in the morning and I’m going to play some motivational audio or podcasts that I like,” whatever it is. Filter what content comes into your mind. That’s important.
What else do we need to guard from? We need to guard from blue lights. Blue light blocking glasses. It’s super important because, in the evening, we are in front of our devices, which we all are. We all like a bit of Netflix or whatever it may be in the evenings and there is nothing wrong with that. We need to create strategies to avoid impacting our circadian rhythm.
Within the health circle, a lot of your readers will know about blue-light-blocking glasses but when you are dealing with the corporate world is where I focus on, they are like, ”Glasses?” It’s all a new concept. If you think about it, it’s not pushed out into mainstream media. I always think, “As soon as the latest Netflix show starts seeing people with blue-light-blocking glasses, everyone will jump on board. It’s not within popular circles yet.
There are things like electromagnetic fields as well, knowing that that’s a risk and knowing that we have to create strategies to mitigate that. When I went on this journey, I discovered all these things and I’m like, “I completely transformed my reality and how I live my life,” and I start to take things for granted. When I would speak with clients, I would realize how far I had changed my routine.
This is an example. When I talk about EMS strategies, a number of my clients have their phones next to their heads when they sleep. For me, that’s been a no go for Nellie. Over five years, I had the phones in a different room. These things are small changes but have a huge impact because our biology ourselves are not used to these non-native fields. Distance is our friend. Having distance is an easy strategy but a very important one.
The same thing has happened to me where what I do is normal until I hang out with someone who has no idea that it’s a good idea to turn your WiFi off at night. It’s a good idea to wear blue blockers, like you said, in the evening or to avoid screens altogether for more profound, restorative sleep. That’s so funny but thank you for the reminder that these small changes can make a big difference. What other pillars can you tell us about?
if we are going along the biohacking narrative connection, we now live in a world where we are more connected than ever. We are talking, I’m here in the UK in London, you are over in the States. We are connected but we are more lonelier than we have ever been. Loneliness and burnout go hand in hand.
Burnout is essentially emotional, physical, or mental exhaustion.
There was a study that came out of Harvard that said the more lonely you are, the more highly stressed you are. There are a lot of connections between being lonely and burnout. Especially since COVID, everyone’s working from home and what’s happened is we have had this connection piece removed, where people would enjoy going into the office and speaking to the people, that was taken away.
People were not able to see their friends and their families. It’s varied where you are in the world right now. In the UK, we are getting back to normal where most people are still doing a hybrid model, half in the office and a half at home. There are some places around the world where it’s still don’t go into the office, working from home. We need to understand those close relationships and strong communities are vital to health. Going back to the basics, going back to our ancestors, this is how we evolve.
Close relationships in real life. It’s lovely that through the beauty of technology you and I can connect right now but it pales in comparison to being in the same room.
That is important. You think about the hormone oxytocin, it’s the together hormone. Now I feel connected to you. There’s a spectrum. The best oxytocin release is face-to-face being with someone, being around their energy and being connected. Then it goes down to a Zoom call, phone call and text. Understanding this and understanding that we need to create moments where we are connecting with people. One of my clients was one of the major pieces of his burnout because he would say to me, “I don’t have those water-cooler moments anymore. They are gone.” We go on Zoom and it’s all about got to be productive. We have got to work. Those moments can make people’s day.
You are having a conversation. You are in the kitchen at work. “How are you? What are you doing?” Those can enlighten people and that was removed. That’s the connection that we thrive on as people. If you think about like hunter-gatherers, they would spend three hours, probably foraging, hunting the rest of the time, back with their community, their tribe, having fun and being together. That’s how we are wired. I talk about this new world of office work. We can’t thrive unless we have that connection. We have to bake that in.
Over here in the US, during the early days of COVID, they would say, “Only essential employees can come in,” and they started categorizing work and workers as essential and non-essential. I would say, “Connection is essential for good health.”
We think we have got to be productive and we realize that we do and it’s great to be productive but it can only last so long if we are not bonding, being with people and feeling that connection. What I find interesting is I always have an amazing night’s sleep when I have had an evening of bonding with friends, family being connected. It’s great for lowering stress and boosting those good hormones like oxytocin. I sleep like a rock. I was like, “This is what I have to bake in more than most because it works for me,” but in general, we have to get that connection and make it priority.
Have you ever encountered someone who does not buy all that you are saying who’s like, “I’m not burnt out. I’m tired because I’m working hard but that’s the way it goes. This is part of the hustle. This is part of what you have to do to stay on top.”
For me, it’s part of the culture. Let’s think, “I’m an entrepreneur. I have got to crush it. I have got to work all the hours. I’m in the corporate world.” The corporate world is, in its essence, its own culture. The culture is if you work in a corporate and someone says, “How are you?” The automatic response is, “Busy.” There’s the culture of “I am busy. I’m always on the go.” One hundred percent of the people say, “I got to work hard and we are always tired.” I say, “Great. I have a different path and I have strategies that you can have it all. You can have a high work rate and output and also not feel burnt out.”
There is a way to do it and it comes down to education and knowledge and that’s what we look at that the whole biohacking element and then being in alignment with our ancestral DNA. There’s the other side of it around organizing your time, creating boundaries and learning that no can be as powerful as saying yes. There is a way around it. I love the motivation of the people I worked with who are so driven by what they want to achieve that everything else is secondary. What I try and educate and say, “I love where you are going. Let me give you some tools and perspective that’s going to further elevate you.”
Stephen Covey said in his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People that we have to stop if only to “sharpen the ax.” If I keep working hard, it’s like my ax is going to get dull. I’m putting in all this effort and I’m exhausted but if I take a break to rest, it gives me opportunity to sharpen the ax so when I go back to work, I’m more effective. I think that’s what you are alluding to.
People think, “The harder I work and the longer I work, the better the result I will get.” When they realize, take a break, switch off and then come back stronger, it can be a game-changer for people. It’s part of the culture that we have been fed. We were fed that culture for movies, films, and the environment we work in because nobody likes to come across like, “I’m going to take a couple of hours off to chill out.” That’s something that people don’t promote culturally. It’s like, “I’m busy.” Say yes. When you recharge those batteries, you come back so much stronger.
We have time for one more pillar. What would you like to emphasize here at the end?
I would say the last one we talk about is self-care. When we talk about the seesaw or the teeter-totter analogy, we got the demands, stress and deadlines on one side, we have got the recognition, relaxation and reward on the other side. When we don’t focus and prioritize ourselves, you hear the analogy. It’s, “Please put your oxygen mask on first before helping others.” We hear this all the time. If you don’t look after yourself, first, you are no good to your colleagues, community and family.”
We have to create this notion where we are putting ourselves first. What does that look like? That looks like understanding what fills our cup. What makes us feel good? What relaxes us? For some, it’s going for that walk for others. It’s family time. It’s understanding what fills our cup and then creating boundaries in order to make those things happen.
It’s creating boundaries. It’s prioritizing your schedule to make sure that what you need to help you do your best you have in place. In the world of work, if you work in a corporate environment, you can’t just leave early to go do stuff. There are ways around it. There are mitigation strategies around it. Block it out as a one-on-one with someone. It is a way to carve out time so you look busy and play that narrative but get what you need. I love an evening walk after work before dinner to unwind from the day and let my thoughts unravel. Bake it in, make it a priority if it’s I need to work out.
Personally, one of my non-negotiables is I love to work out in the morning because I feel good. I have got good energy. That’s a non-negotiable for me. I have to do it. I will move things around my calendar to make sure I get that in. Self-care is important. It’s setting boundaries. It’s learning to say no. People don’t like saying no to work because it might be turning money down or I might be disappointing people. There are positive ways to say no and to create space for yourself. Learning to know your limits is important.
Sometimes you have to say no to others to say yes to yourself and for anyone reading, who’s like, “I can’t do self-care or I can’t put myself first because that’s selfish.” Self-care is not selfish. It allows you to have the energy you need to give to others. We need to keep that in mind. I have a couple more questions and one is, everybody’s feeling stressed. Everyone is close to burnout. You suggested that these things are prevention strategies. Do you think it’s realistic? Do you think people can apply some of these things to their life to avoid burnout altogether?
We now live in a world where burnout is very common. We have discussed the WHO has now classified it as something that we need to consider as part of our normal lives. I feel it comes down to education. A lot of the things I talk about are tools that I have taken from the health space. I will try to apply within entrepreneurial environments and corporate environments to say, “These are easy changes in habit and routine that have a ten-fold impact.”
For example, putting us in blue-light-blocking glasses in the evening. Super easy to do, massive impact on sleep and on energy. These are short switches in habits and behaviors that get you to a place where you can thrive whether you are an entrepreneur or working for a big corporate. It’s having the knowledge. I feel so grateful and blessed that I went through my episode of burnout.
Guard what comes into our minds and into our bodies.
As we know, health is a very deep rabbit hole. There is so much amazing content online and I was fascinated by it because I did not want to go to an allopathic doctor. I did not want to take antidepressants. I’m not depressed. I know that. There’s got to be another way. It’s getting that information to people that is not going to be their main focus because they are driven. They have got amazing goals they are trying to achieve and this is giving them the tools to help them. I have these nine pillars and not all of them are applicable because some people have a great sleep and feel rested and have their own way of doing things.
It’s offering different strategies and habits that people can use to bake into the tools and strategies they will have because people already will have these mitigation strategies. We want to avoid strategies like eating more processed food and alcohol and those ways to de-stress. We want to bring in nature, guarding ourselves against certain dangers and connections because they are the things that we are wired to enjoy and to fill our cups.
This has been great. I’m hopeful that this will encourage folks to add some of these tools into their toolbox and avoid burnout or manage it in healthy ways. I want to ask you the question I like to post at the end of the show. If the reader could do one thing to improve their health, what would you recommend that they do?
This is so relevant for the time that we live in and that is to guard what comes into our minds and comes into our bodies. Be aware that if we don’t have an awareness of what things can passively be absorbed, whether that information or going out and having a takeout and having seed oils, whatever it is. They can impact our ability to deal with stress and also our general well-being. I say, “Guard your mind from mainstream media social media, blue lights and anything digital. Know that you have to create the rules around how you engage with your technology versus it control you.
Adam, thank you for your time. Thank you for your encouragement. I appreciate you.
It’s been an absolute pleasure.
Our guest was Adam Parker. Check out his website for more on the pillars to prevent burnout and for other resources. It’s YourIdealDay.com. You can find me at HolisticHilda.com. While you are on our website, go to the show page. There’s a dropdown menu item that says About the Show. Click there and you’ll find a way in which you can communicate with me.
Yes, you can leave me your testimonial on how the Wise Traditions diet or lifestyle has made a difference in your life. It’s 2 to 3 minutes long. Record it like you would record a voicemail message for a friend on their phone even though people don’t do that very much anymore but it’s as easy as 1, 2, 3. Once you give that to me, I may be able to include it in an upcoming episode. In the meantime, thank you so much for reading, my friend. Stay well. Hasta pronto.
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