Wednesday, 17 September 2008

Hopefully I'll not get burned out

I recently read a blog post by a highly regarded co-worker of mine at Bouvet. I found his blog post, which was about getting burned out, to be both helpful and very important as more and more people are getting burned out nowadays. I started to write a type of get well comment on his post and found that my response was getting too long so I decided to write my own blog post on the subject of getting burned out.

Occasionally I’m asked how I live the double life I do with full time work, doing research and development on the spare time, instructing martial arts and having a girlfriend. My typical answer is: Prioritizing, lifestyle and planning. But this way of life is not without a cost. My work and computer related interests typically have me sitting in front of the computer 10 hours a day, 6 days a week and it has been like this for some years now. This is of course not what some million years of evolution had in mind for me. I have for some years been wondering if I am on the verge of getting burned out myself after symptoms like dizziness, neck pain, headaches and general fatigue.

After reading about Lars Marius' experience with getting burned out I am surely going to be very careful to follow up on my precautionary measures. As I understand, the burned out illness or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) can be characterized as a total breakdown in the immune system. To strengthen the immune system and to avoid CFS in the first place, a combination of diet, nutrition, exercise, and stress reduction is said to help [1] [2], [3]. The fact that CFS is poorly understood in western medicine indicates that there might be many factors together that are causing the illness. I personally believe I would have crashed totally long ago if I had skipped some of the points below. The list below seems to be the right combination for me:
  • Stress management
  • Healthy food
  • Breaks during the day
  • Less alcohol
  • Workout
  • Less coffee and other stimulants
  • Drink lots of water
  • Stretching exercises
  • Relaxation exercises
  • Good sleep
  • Right posture and sight
  • Having some fun
For those who fear to be in the danger zone. Here is a more in-depth explanation of what I do to stay on top. Please note that I’m not a doctor and I am not saying that this is how you should live you life. So here goes.

I believe stress is the most important factor. Read a stress management book. Take control of your life, make plans. Think before you act. Make sure you avoid worries. A relevant example these days: Don’t take up loan you can’t pay back if the interest rates go up. Hakuna matata, yes you can look that up on wikipedia. Don't worry too much. Think positive. Avoid conflicts. If they happen then meet them head on with honesty, self respect and courage. Avoid negative people. Healthy food to me means a lot of fruits and vegetables. Herbs, fibers, vitamins, Omega-3, antioxidants and cutting down on what’s generally unhealthy food. Take a food intolerance and allergy test. You don't need to drink 4 cups of coffee a day. Drink some herbal tea instead. If you are tired at work then you should see to it that you get your sleep. Coffee and other stimulants will remove symptoms like tiredness. Listen to your body. If your body say it needs sleep make sure it gets enough over the week. Drink lots of water. Make sure to have a bottle of water within arms distance all day. Breaks during the day are important. Do some outrageous movements to stretch those muscles you will not use during the day. Working with computers more than 7 hours a day will make you weak from the lack of movement. Adding some work related stress will make you stiff in addition to weak. Work out, preferably with lots of versatile movements. Cardiovascular aerobic training is better than anaerobic which generally makes you more compact and stiff. Workout or at least take a walk. It will strengthen immune system and increase the resistance to the effects of stressors. Find time to relax, find harmony. Learn to meditate or do breathing exercises. Find that place where you can escape weekly to enjoy the surroundings. Pamper yourself. Make sure you get sun. Get glasses made for computer work if you don’t have perfect sight. Learn good touch typing skills and make sure you sit in an upright ergonomic position [4]. The combination of physical aerobic exercise, healthy food, lots of water will help the body to flush out the toxins in the body. Research suggest that toxins are the cause of CFS [3][5][6][7][8] I also believe that moral is a key issue. Being a good person helps you to feel good about yourself which will reduce stress and you will become more at ease. You do not have to be religious but try finding that something that can make you have a stable and clear vision in life. Another important factor: Don’t be a slave. Live free and not a slave to what others thinks of you. If you feel that you should have the latest and most expensive cell phone when you don’t really need it, then you are a slave to capitalism. A decent lifestyle is important. And last but not least, don't forget to have fun. If you are having a job where you just go to work because you feel a responsibility then you should get a job you like. (I know that this is not an option for many)

[1] C-Helath- Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
[2] Cleveland clinic - Diet, Exercise, Stress and the Immune System
[3] PHOENIX RISING - A Guide To Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME/CFS)
[4] pcworld.com - Essential Ergonomics
[5] healingessences.com - Toxicity
[6] Holistic Health Topics - Chronic Fatigue Syndrome from a Holistic Constitutional Perspective
[7] Campaign for a National ME / CFS clinic - A neurotoxin called Ciguatera discovered in Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
[8] Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Forum