Running On Empty – The Dangers of High-octane Living

27 Mar, 2012

Running On Empty – The Dangers of High-octane LivingThe lives that high-achieving men and women lead are ripe for burn-out. Their work hours are exceptionally long, their work loads exceedingly heavy and the pressure to excel enormously high. The technology they use makes their work day practically endless, and they also juggle the roles of parent, partner, cleaner, gardener, friend, gym-goer and who knows what else.

High achieving people are so passionate about what they do that they’re often reluctant to acknowledge that burn-out for them is possible – until of course, they hit a wall and start spinning out of control. Of course, life has its ups and downs and the curves are inevitable, however the crash can be stopped. To keep the crash from happening, it’s important to know the signs to look for: the warning bells that signal burn-out.

Physical Signs – Chest pain, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, digestive upsets, stomach pain, sleep problems, headaches, chronic fatigue, period problems and increased levels of colds and flus.

Psychological Signs – Loss of enjoyment for activities once enjoyed, sadness, excessive worry or anxiety, panic attacks, feeling trapped, loss of concentration, emotional fragility, increasing feelings of anger, frustration and irritability.

Behavioural Signs – skipping meals or overeating, increased alcohol / drug / caffeine use, drop in productivity, and isolated behaviours such as wanting to be alone, closing doors to prevent interaction, and being a poor team player.

If you are not experiencing any of these signs, that’s great news. But always keep these warning signs in the back of your mind – burnout slowly creeps up on you when you’re busy living your life.

If you are experiencing some of these symptoms, or worse still, most of these symptoms, you may be on the road to burn out. Unless you make some changes in your life, the situation will only get worse. The good news is, burnout isn’t a terminal condition. There are many things you can do to overcome it and get back on track.

Don’t Ignore Basic Maintenance:
In life, there are a few basic rules you have to follow if you want to survive.
  1. You have to sleep.
  2. You have to eat.
  3. You have to drink.

The problem is that high-achievers tend to cheat – a lot – in the basic maintenance game. Sure you sleep but probably not enough. You eat, but usually not very well. And you drink, but probably not enough of the right stuff (and in some cases maybe too much of the wrong stuff). In the end though, you are only cheating yourself. The solution is simple: sleep as much as possible (at least 7-8 hours each night), don’t skip meals, eat healthily, and drink lots of water. You’ll be amazed at how much of a difference just these simple things can make.

Schedule Relaxation

Busy schedules have an interesting way of making you forget the things you once found relaxing, and an even better way of convincing yourself that you don’t have time to relax. Ironically, you have to put effort into relaxing and if you can’t do it yourself, you need to book in regular massage, acupuncture, or yoga sessions to lower your “tipping point” and give you some breathing space. Surprisingly, you will find that things are put into perspective and your time out will make your time “on” much more productive and enjoyable.

Just say no

If you are like most high-achievers, you’re probably used to doing everything you’re asked to do and doing it well. However, each time you add a new commitment to your plate, you’re adding stress into your life. Try something new. Resist the urge. Just say no.


Don’t have time for it? You do now. Exercise is a great stress reducer, and even if you can’t find time for a complete work-out, you can still incorporate exercise into your daily routine. How? Take a brisk 10 minute walk during your lunch hour. Park the car far from your building so you have to walk more. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Once you realize how important it is to do, you can always find a way to fit exercise into your daily schedule.

Positive Vs Negative

Positive people have energy and enthusiasm that can lift the spirits of those around them. Pay attention to who you surround yourself with. A great way to reduce stress is to hang around as many positive, inspiring, calm and balanced people as possible.

Pop Some Pills

Natural ones, that is. Talk to your Naturopath about effective supplements you can incorporate into your daily routine. B vitamins, for example, support nervous system functioning and increase your resistance to stress by keeping your energy up, keeping you mentally alert, improving your memory, combating aging, boosting your immune system and fighting against depression. There are also herbs which are used to effectively boost adrenal function such as licorice, rehmannia and ginseng. Some herbs have constituents which are precursors to adrenal hormones, and others increase your resistance to environmental stress. Talk to us about which are best for you.

In closing, the most important thing to remember is that while there are many ways to reduce stress, the key to effective stress management is not having someone tell you how to relax, or how to live your life. The key is discovering your own stress “program”- a way of life including regular stress management activities that work for you. The key is making the commitment to incorporate them into your life. Once you do, you’ll find yourself leaving the dangerous track of burn-out and crossing over to the healthier track where you can rediscover the passion that once fuelled your high-achieving engine.

Life is your story to write. Unless you think your last words are going to be “I wish I spent more time at the office”, make sure that you carve some time out of your hectic schedule to make some room for living.