Beat burnout with burnout coach Leanne Spencer

Burnout – Tipping the balance

Central Nervous System
The central nervous system is composed of the brain and the spinal cord, and can be considered the command and control centre of the human body. The central nervous system (CNS) communicates with the rest of the body via neurons linked to what is called the peripheral nervous system (PNS). When a stimulus is introduced to the body, receptors communicate with sensory neurons, which in turn communicate with motor neurons to effect a response within the CNS. Some of these responses could be called reflex responses, for example when your hand brushes close to a heated flame. The urge to pull your hand away from the heat is automatic, and happens outside of your conscious control.

Like any part of the body, the CNS can breakdown. A nervous breakdown (also known as a mental breakdown) can happen when the CNS is subjected to repeated and prolonged stress. It can also be caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain, usually linked to serotonin but also connected to noradrenaline, dopamine, acetylcholine and GABA (gamma aminobutyric acid). Worry, chronic stress, fear, anxiety, nervousness and panic attacks are all symptoms of a mental breakdown, and this is exactly what burnout is. You could say that burnout relates to the burned out nerves or synapses in the brain.

Allostatic load
Allostasis is the process of achieving stability (homeostasis) through physiological or behavioural change. The female menstrual cycle is a good example; the body regulates itself by undergoing a period of change each month. An example of homeostasis is our core body temperature; our bodies maintain the same temperature by releasing or creating heat (sweating or shivering).

The term allostatic load was coined by Dr. Bruce McEwen, a professor of neuroscience at Rockefeller University. Put simply, allostatic load is the wear and tear on the body that develops over time when an individual is exposed to chronic and fluctuating stress levels. Interestingly, not all types of stress evoke the same response; it’s the type of stress and how you deal with it that matters.

Every system in the body is affected by allostatic overload. Initially, the production of adrenalin and cortisol sharpen up the memory, keeping the individual focused in a time of danger. As the stress is repeated however, the neurons atrophy and memory becomes impaired. The immune system is impacted also; low levels of stress promote immune function by sending immune cells to the areas of the body where they are needed to defend against a pathogen. Chronic stress however, actually has the reverse effect by suppressing immune function, and the individual’s risk of chronic disease suddenly becomes elevated.

Leanne Spencer is an entrepreneur, TEDx speaker, author of the Amazon bestselling book Rise and Shine: Recover from burnout and get back to your best and Founder of the Rise Method® and Bodyshot Performance Limited. Connect with me @riseshinemethod or Facebook.

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