Today we’re going to talk about burnout, so I want to ask you – Are you feeling lethargic and struggling with productivity lately because mentally, you’ve been feeling absolutely exhausted even before you start to work each day? Well, if this sounds like you, it may well be that you are suffering from burnout. And yes, this is a real thing.

Right now, our society is experiencing an epidemic of burnout because there are so many people who are worrying about their families, their jobs, their livelihoods, the rising cost of their mortgages, how they are going to feed their children, while some are having to take care of aging parents also. This is causing us all to feel mentally and physically exhausted, sapping our motivation, and constantly feeling emotionally and mentally drained and overwhelmed. However, burnout is complex and usually not caused by just one thing. Some of these causes can be self-inflicted too. But the good news is that burnout doesn’t have to hang around in your life.

And in this episode, we are going to identify five steps that you can take to help you reclaim your physical and mental energy to put you back into an alert and action-oriented state.

In this Episode

1:10 – Introduction

7:51 – Number 1 high-quality brain fuel

16:47 – Number 2 decision fatigue

23:24 – Number 3 your email inbox

28:39 – Number 4 prioritize sleep

34:33 – Number 5 is exercise

37:23 – Causes and how to avoid them


Putting yourself first is important because it allows you to prioritize your own needs and well-being, which in turn can help you be more productive, creative, and fulfilled in all areas of your life. By taking care of yourself first, you are better equipped to care for others and contribute positively to the world around you.



Visit the A Voice and Beyond Youtube channel to watch back the video replay of this guest interview or to see my welcome video.

Episode Transcription

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  00:00

Hi. It’s Marisa Lee here. And I’m so excited to be sharing today’s solo round episode with you. Whether you’re a member of the voice community, or beyond your voice is your unique gift. And my mission, which has been inspired by my own personal and professional journey, is to empower you to share your gift with others. Now is the time for you to discover your voice in life, develop a positive mindset, and become the best and most authentic version of yourself to create greater impact. Ultimately, you can take charge, and you can become the director of your own life. It’s time for you to live your best life. It’s time now, for a voice and beyond. So, without further ado, let’s go to today’s episode.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  01:10

Today, we’re going to talk about burnout. So I want to ask you, how many of you are feeling lethargic and struggling with staying focused lately? Are you far more distracted and way more disorganized than what you usually are? It could even be that you feel disconnected. And perhaps your brain feels like it’s in overload. You’re having trouble getting things done, and your productivity fluctuates. It goes up, and it goes down. Maybe you’re having trouble thinking clearly, and you’ve been feeling absolutely mentally exhausted in recent months. Well, if you answered yes to one or all of these, it may well be that you’re suffering from burnout. And this is a real thing. Mental fatigue and burnout have become a real problem for so many of us over the past decades. And especially more so since the pandemic, you may feel that since COVID, it has destroyed your drive, and your determination. And it’s become harder and harder to have that mental focus that you once had. You may find that your mind is not as sharp as it used to be, you’re feeling a little bit of brain fog or a lot of brain fog, you’re feeling lack of clarity, and it takes you a little bit longer to make decisions and you feel totally burnt out. I am here to tell you that you’re not alone. What you’re feeling is basically like a mental and physical exhaustion. And that’s how I feel some days, I just feel burnt out than me there are times that kind of fatigue shows up when I’m focusing on a task that is mentally challenging for a while, or a task that I don’t enjoy doing. I might also feel this kind of brain drain. If I’m constantly on high alert like in a fight or flight mode for a number of days. It sends my brain into overdrive, leaving me feeling exhausted, hampering my productivity and my overall cognitive function. So if you’re constantly stressed out, and maxed out, caught up in the chaos and the drama, you may well be suffering from this burnout to that kind of overwhelm becomes way too much, and you simply can’t handle another thing. It’s just like this overall tiredness, and it’s your mind feeling fatigued as well as your muscles. For some, the most common symptoms of burnout include feeling exhausted, and unable to perform basic tasks, which leads to losing motivation in many aspects of life, including your work, your hobbies, and your relationships. You may feel that you’re unable to focus or concentrate on tasks. You then start to lose your passion and your drive. Right now, our society is experiencing an epidemic of mental and physical fatigue. Because there are so many people who are worrying about their jobs, their livelihoods, how they’re going to feed their families, pay their mortgages, keep up with rising living expenses while they’re taking care of their children. And some are also taking care of aging parents as well. Look, there are so many other things causing this burnout that we’re having to deal with on a daily basis. This kind of fatigue can even make those small tasks that were once a walk in the park for us seem unachievable. It can zap all your motivation and make it hard for you to stay on track, and you start to miss deadlines. It’s that feeling that you just can’t function correctly. In this episode, we’re going to offer some suggestions to help minimize burnout. In a no-fast kind of way. I want to help you move out of that state of fatigue, and put you into alert and action-orientated state, I can’t promise you that you’ll never feel burnout again. But even if you can experience it less often, a little less severely. It’s so worth it. I’ve done my job. Burnout is complex. And usually, it’s not one thing causing it. contributing factors can be physical ones, such as poor nutrition, lack of sleep, hormonal imbalances, or it could be cognitive because you’ve been asking your brain to do way too much. These are all things that are in your power, that help you reduce and manage that fatigue. The good news is, luckily, there are some basic steps you can take to manage burnout. So let’s get proactive and identify some of these steps you can take to help you live that life. You want to experience that life you deserve to live. So here’s my five steps to help you get started.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  07:51

Number one, give your brain high quality fuel. It’s easy to forget that our brains require energy to function. It’s the same as we wouldn’t run a long distance marathon and then feel like a failure just because our legs get tired. So why do we treat mental fatigue so differently? Why are we so hard on ourselves when our brain power is exhaustible, too. But the good news is, it’s also 100% rechargeable, if we manage it wisely. We forget about feeding our brains and the brain is filled with the very same food as our muscles are. In fact, our brains are the gas guzzlers of the body’s organs, using up over half of the glucose in our bloodstream. Therefore, what you eat really does impact your cognitive functioning in a massive way. When it comes to diet, the biggest problem here is that it’s hard to know what we should and shouldn’t be eating. It feels like there’s new conflicting reports in the media almost every day about this. One day, the news tells us that it’s okay to eat chocolate. Go knock yourselves out. Then the next day, the morning show tells you that you should only eat dark chocolate and all the other chocolate is really bad for your health. Then, just when you thought you had heard at all, the very next day you see a post on social media that says no amount of chocolate including dark chocolate is good for your health. In fact, it says it is one of the biggest causes of care answer. So, in three days we have gone from chocolate is okay to eat, to avoiding all chocolate at all cost. It’s all too much. There’s so much confusing and conflicting science out there about good nutrition. It’s a minefield of misinformation. My opinion when it comes to nutrition advice, and the best piece of advice is that you should always be skeptical. Proceed with caution. You can end up trying all these weird and wonderful supercharged foods and fad diets. But I can assure you that you don’t have to go paleo or keto, or become addicted to salads in order to avoid mental fatigue in the middle of the afternoon. I know that for me, if I’m not giving my body the correct nutrition during the day, I find that come mid afternoon, I can’t concentrate. And even the most simplest task feels like it’s the most difficult one. I find myself reading the same paragraph over and over again, or correcting the same line of the mail I’m about to send out over and over again. Things that would have been water off a duck’s back in the morning become so overwhelming mid afternoon, I find that I start to get impatient with people and short tempered and I start to lose my cool, and there is no need to feel this way. So here are some basic good sense guidelines for maintaining sufficient energy levels throughout the whole day. without sacrificing too much. You can start by cutting down on refined sugars. This is one piece of nutrition advice that all research does agree on. It’s been proven that sugar consumption does decrease alertness within one hour, and increases fatigue within 30 minutes. In other words, the Sugar Rush isn’t real. But the sugar crash is you can aim for sustained energy levels throughout the day by cutting down on the amount of refined sugar you eat. I know that when I have foods high in refined sugars, I have the highest of highs and the lowest of lows to the point that I start to shake my heart races and I feel nauseous. It’s a horrible feeling. And there is no way I can concentrate on anything or even function as a normal human being in that state. The main reason we consume foods full of refined sugars is because we haven’t meal planned. It’s important to meal plan so you know exactly what you’re going to eat in advance. Because if you wait until you’re hungry, you’re going to be feeling low on energy and you will have zero willpower and you are more likely to crave a quick energy hid in the form of some kind of chocolate bar. I know this because I’ve been in this situation and I’ve had one of my students go and grab me a chocolate bar from the nearest vending machine. Personally, my meal prepping for my lunch commences with the evening meal the night before. I always cook way too much and I love leftovers. Oh my goodness. Dinner always tastes better the next day for lunch. I found the most effective way for me to eat healthier is to cook more than my husband and I can consume and keep lots of plastic trays handy that I can use and recycle. This might sound like a lot of hard work for you because it means making more time to cook at home. But I can assure you it is SO SO worth that. Another important tip is don’t skip breakfast. Eat a breakfast that will sustain your energy levels until lunch so you don’t crash and burn in the middle of the morning. I suggest eating more eggs, yogurt and oh Each meal and whatever you do, eat fewer donuts, muffins and sugary cereals. These foods are not going to sustain you till lunchtime. It’s a good idea to keep lots of low sugar unprocessed snacks on hand, in case you do happen to end up having a crash and burn episode during the day. You can try refueling your body with almonds, whole grain crackers and cheese, or my personal favorite is carrot sticks with the homeless dip. It is so yum. And be sure to stay hydrated. All studies show that even mild dehydration can negatively impact brain performance. So drink lots of water all throughout the day. Don’t wait till you’re thirsty because by then it’s too late. So go ahead and try some of these ideas and see how your body reacts. We’re all unique. So figure out what makes you feel best. Even the most basic advice won’t work for everyone. If you’re experiencing big energy crashes in the middle of the day, try experimenting with the content and timing of your meals. Keep a log of your energy levels and see how your body reacts. In the end, only you can say for sure what makes you feel best.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  16:47

Number two, decision fatigue. You know, every day we make 1000s of choices. It’s been estimated that the average adult makes about 35,000 conscious decisions each and every day. One of the consequences that comes with this is decision fatigue, which in turn can lead to mental fatigue as well as putting you in a bad mood to. So with this kind of fatigue, you may end up being short tempered or feeling irritated, snapping at people around you more often than what you usually do. Because as we know, being mentally fatigued, makes it harder to control your emotions. Okay, let’s look at this idea of decision fatigue. And I can assure you that there’s such a thing, because I know it for a fact, because I suffer from this. And I’m sure I’m not the only one. Not only do we make 1000s of decisions for ourselves each and every day, but we are constantly being asked to make decisions for other people. I have to tell you there are times this drives me absolutely insane. And boy, can I snap? My poor husband cops it from me a lot. I’m sure that he asks me what feels like a million questions every day. You might think that’s ridiculous. And that it doesn’t happen to you. Alright, well answer me this thing. How many times does your partner or a family member or friend ask you something like? What should I wear? Do you want me to make the salad? Do you want me to pick up the groceries? What do you feel like for dinner? What do you want to do on the weekend? How do I look in this? And what do you think I should wear tonight? When this happens Do you immediately snap to and I usually end up saying something like I don’t know just you deal with it. This happens because we have decision fatigue. And the sad thing is when you snap people feel like you don’t care. And even worse, they feel like you don’t love them. I have experienced this with my husband and my children many times when they asked me a heap of questions. I was in decision fatigue and I just didn’t want to have to deal with it. Then I end up feeling guilty because I’m being so mean there’s no winning for anybody in this situation. Not only is our decision fatigue distracting out But most importantly, it leads to mental fatigue. We’re so tired of making decisions that we don’t have the energy for those important decisions. Unfortunately, of the 35,000 decisions we make every day, they are usually insignificant and irrelevant. And this decision making begins from the time we wake up in the morning. So, when we wake up in the morning, we have to think about things like, what do I have to do today? What time do I need to leave for work? What should I wear? Should I drive or should I take the train today? If you have to make those decisions, first thing in the morning, or by the time you get to work, you’re already going to experience decision fatigue, and your brain is going to lose the ability to make that really powerful decision you need to make. I heard this amazing story about Warren Buffett many years ago. And for those of you who don’t know who Warren Buffett is, he’s an American business magnate, investor, and philanthropist, whose net worth is currently estimated to be around $100 billion. I was told that when he’s making those big investing decisions, he’ll go and lock himself in an empty New York apartment. Not only that, but it’s been said that during that time, he just has milk and cookies, because he doesn’t want to lose valuable brain energy to decide what he’s going to eat, or even what to wear. And that’s another example of how to avoid decision fatigue. And that is wearing the same thing to work every day. Now, this is going to sound crazy, but Barack Obama and Mark Zuckerberg do this. My version of this is that I actually plan my clothes the night before, right down to my underwear. So it’s one less decision I have to make in the morning. Sometimes I even buy the same dress or the same skirt in different colors or patterns if I really like it. So it makes it even easier to decide what to wear. It’s my way of providing some simplicity for my brain. So what I want you to do right now is to identify what are the decisions that you’re making on a daily basis, that are distracting you and see which ones you can prepare for in advance. Making a habit of doing this we’ll have your mind clear, to make the decisions, those biggest decisions that will come your way during the day and help you remove decision fatigue.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  23:24

Number three, your email inbox. This is another thing that may be causing your mental fatigue. If you’re starting your day, by checking your emails, you could be setting yourself up for more mental fatigue and mental burnout. Even before you get to work. I read a study that said that in 2019, there was 333 billion emails sent. And I’m sure that since the pandemic, this figure has escalated, especially as people have been working from home more. Have you ever stopped to think how many emails you receive every day? And you may be asking, Well, how does checking my inbox zap my mental energy? Well, it’s because as soon as you open your inbox, you’re now focused on everyone else’s priorities. You’re now focused on everyone else’s needs. You’re starting the day doing something for somebody else. You’re having to think about other people’s stuff and not doing your own work. By the time it gets around to you doing what you need to get done, and give it the brain energy it deserves. You have no brain space for your own stuff. off. Okay, I understand there are times you might need to look at your emails in order to do your own work. And that’s fine. But you want to start with the things that are important to you and not start with the work that’s important to someone else. When you start your day with your purpose in mind, your to do list and the work that you want to achieve, you will have the mental focus and the energy to fulfill your purpose and your passion. You can serve your family and your students, your community, and you have the capacity that you can deliver all of that as you promise them. And so I want you to think about how you can avoid starting your day with your emails. Or if you really need to read your emails at that time to get your work started. Be sure to prioritize with the emails that you need to open, I promise you that you’re going to be so much more productive and effective when you start with the work that you truly need to do and get through that first. Maybe you can set a time to look at your emails later in the day when it suits you to take the time to respond to everyone else’s needs. I’ve become very disciplined at this for some time now. And I can honestly say that it’s changed the way that I function. It used to totally stress me out before, every time I heard an email come through and I’d look at it. It used to distract me and took me ages to get back into the task that I needed to do. I’m able to get through so much more of my own work. And I feel more accomplished by the end of every day. By then I’m more than happy to help everyone else who’s sending me emails, asking for whatever they may need. So another thing, don’t start your day with your phone. You need to stop. Don’t start your day with checking your phone study show we look at our phones around 50 to 200 times per day. But for most of us, we’re doing it every minute, right? So 60 minutes a day, multiplied by let’s say we’re awake for 16 hours. That means we’re checking our phones around 960 times a day. That’s ridiculous. So maybe try setting yourself a time limit for how long you’re going to allow yourself to be on your phone, or try putting your phones Do Not Disturb and see how much more you’re able to achieve when you don’t have your phone distracting you. We’ve already got so many other distractions that cause us to feel mentally fatigued, and you don’t need another one. It is time to stop consuming and start creating.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  28:39

Number four is prioritize sleep. This is relevant to all of us. Your brain needs sleep to function well. We are way more alert. We retain information and access our emotional intelligence and creativity. When our body has had the rest it needs. Sleep is one of the most important aspects of our lives, health and longevity and yet, it’s becoming more and more neglected in our society. And this neglect comes with devastating consequences. In fact, the new age of sleep science reveals that sleep plays a vital role in our every waking moment and every aspect of our health from weight gain, diabetes and heart disease to cancer and Alzheimer’s. Every major disease in the developed world has very strong links to sleep deficiency. You may not believe this, but sleep also helps with your ability to be more skilled, to be more intelligent to be less stressed. Rest and be more creative. All your preparation work actually starts the night before. And yet, what we’re finding is that in today’s fast paced, always connected forever on demand, constantly stressed out and sleep deprived world, our need for a good night’s sleep is more important, and yet more elusive than ever. For me, personally, I feel as though I am hung over when I haven’t had enough sleep. And I’m an emotional basket case when I’m overtired. Not only that, but I can’t think straight, my brain feels like mush. When most people go to bed, they don’t realize that sleep time is recovery time. What happens to your brain is that it goes into a dishwasher mode, when you go into a deep sleep. It’s like when you load the dishwasher before bed, and in the morning, the dishes are clean. That’s what happens to your brain. Neuro chemicals start moving and dealing with the debris of cellular decline. And it also deals with all that cortisol, that stress hormone we want to get rid of the only time our brains dishwasher goes on is when we go into a deep sleep. So if you have had a sound sleep for the correct amount of time, you will find yourself feeling sharper, smarter, and more creative in the mornings. I know I do. I always wake up with all these brilliant ideas, I feel more creative. And that is because the debris of cell decay and that stress hormone has been dealt with. That’s why after a good night’s sleep, you feel less or no stress in the morning than what you say in the afternoon. Now is the time to stop making excuses as to why you don’t sleep. You can condition yourself to get more sleep. Your human body wants that seven to eight hours sleep every single night. Every study conducted over the past 50 years proves this. So don’t think that you’re the exception to the rule. There is no exception to this rule. That’s ignorant thinking. So here are some simple strategies for better sleep. And I like to call this the three to one rule. So number three in the three to one rule is eat dinner three hours before bedtime. You need a decent break between meals and sleep, especially if you eat carbs that are slow to digest. And I know I find it hard to go to sleep on a bowl of pasta, so eat dinner three hours before bedtime. Number two is learn to power down for at least two hours before bed. This is so important. This means to disengage with your emails, text messages, and all forms of work two hours before bed. Then one hour before bed disengaged with all technology so that means all screens off. That means no social media, no computer, no television, go and read a book instead. Technology changes our sleep cycles and prevents us from getting a more restorative sleep. The science also tells us to have a calming bedtime routine, doing the same series of relaxing habits every night before bed, signals to your body and your mind that it’s time to wind down for the day. I’ve created my own power down routine and I assure you this really works

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  34:33

number five is exercise. When you’re exhausted. I know the last thing you want to do is get up and move. But studies show that physical activity might be just what you need. Exercise has been proven to boost overall energy levels both immediately and over the long term. Well If you don’t do regular exercise at the moment, be sure to start small. You don’t have to train for a marathon or join a CrossFit gym to see the benefits of exercise. Low intensity exercise that is equivalent of an easy walk can actually boost your brain energy, just as much as moderate intensity exercise. This will help you prevent burnout. So set a goal to go for at least a 10 minute walk every day. Once you’re doing that consistently, slowly increase the amount of walking time. No matter what it’s important to make it as easy as possible just to get yourself started. And make sure you schedule your exercise routine because when you plan the day and the time for when you’re going to do something, you are more likely to actually go and do it. When you do it at the same time every day and it becomes routine, it’s easier to build a consistent habit. If you don’t trust yourself to commit to this, find yourself an accountability buddy. Everything is so much easier when you do it with friends. If that doesn’t work, find a trainer. Because having someone else to tell you exactly what to do will remove a lot of the mental effort involved in exercising, all you have to do is get your butt there, and the rest of the decisions are made for you. No matter what. Find a physical activity you enjoy, or at the very least, find one that you hate less than other forms of exercise. If you hate running, just like I do, it’s going to be hard to stick with the habit. So go for a walk instead, make physical activity feel like play time, and you never have to exercise again.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  37:23

Burnout is a really complex thing. And it’s not usually caused by one thing. As you can see, contributing factors can be physical ones, such as poor nutrition, and lack of sleep. Or your burnout may be caused because you’ve been asking your brain to do way too much and it’s in overload. So some of this overload can also be self inflicted, it could be the result of you spreading your attention across way too many things. All of those decisions, you have to make the information you have to process the emails you feel you need to respond to the tasks that you take on for others. It’s no wonder we feel mentally exhausted at the end of the day. Yet, that’s exactly what most of us operate like on a daily basis. Come on. It’s time right now to remove some of these tasks and responsibilities that have become of your normal day to day routine. Check out the ways you can help to reduce burnout and maintain brain and body function. Look at the ways of reducing the use of your smartphone, your tablet, and your computer. Even make lifestyle modifications because all of these things such as getting enough rest. Eating healthy food can also help you find balance and move towards the life you want to live. Burn out doesn’t have to hang around in your life. So be sure to go and identify some of those steps you can take to help you achieve the goals you want to achieve. become the person you want to show up as in all areas of your life and dare to dream big. You can do anything you put your mind to. It’s time to step out of the wings and take center stage in your life. You are worthy. You are worth the effort. Always have been and always will be.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  39:57

Thank you so much for listening to this episode. load of a voice and beyond. I hope you enjoyed it as now is an important time for you to invest in your own self care, personal growth and education. Use every day as an opportunity to learn and to grow so you can show up feeling empowered and ready to live your best life. If you know someone who will also be inspired by this episode, please be sure to copy and paste the link and share it with them. Or share it on social media and use the hashtag a voice and beyond. I promise you I am committed to bringing you more inspiration and conversations just like this one every week. And if you would like to help me please rate and review this podcast and cheer me on by clicking the subscribe button on Apple podcast right now. I would also love to know what it is that you most enjoyed about this episode and what was your biggest takeaway? Please take care and I look forward to your company next time on the next episode of a voice and beyond.