Suki Hon | Ep #41 | Can the Hustle Culture Lead to Burnout ?



dartif integrative and preventive healthcare the content discussed in this episode is for informative purposes only and should not be replaced by individualized professional

consultations or professional medical advice hey guys i’m tasha hey listeners this is goonie and we’re here to discuss lifestyle medicine hi everyone welcome to dr of the podcast we are excited to be back today with you uh and so today we like to speak about something very very prevalent in our society which is burnout and particularly kind of the impact on our physical health and psychological health because of burnout and for that we get to speak to suki hon a naturopathic practitioner who’s based in toronto canada who specializes and works a lot with people in this area so welcome to dr patka suki we’re glad to have you here today thank you so much for having me so welcome suki in this culture in this the current culture where we’re always wired and uh connected burnout have unfortunately become something quite common and um we’d like to bring the definition of what a burnout is so burnout is a syndrome conceptualized as a resulting form of chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed it is characterized by dimension one is feeling of energy depletion and exhaustion or exhaustion the second one is increased mental distance from one’s job or feeling negativism or cynicism related to one’s job and the last one is reduced professional efficiency and to echo that there was an article that was published in the national library of medicine which highlighted that bernard was significant predictor of the following physical consequences which include type 2 diabetes coronary heart disease hospitalization due to cardiovascular disorders musculoskeletal pain changes in pain experiences prolonged fatigue headaches gastrointestinal issues i know it’s a long list and and on the psychological side uh highlights how insomnia depressive symptoms and the use of psychotropic and antidepressant medications happen on the rise and essentially classified that as mortality below the age of 45 years old like we all know that burnout isn’t technically a new phenomenon like it’s been going on for many many years um but the way that our society has advanced has definitely contributed to its prevalence today especially in the context of work and school so first and foremost we are over stimulated as a species right now so like with all the screens the noise the lights smells etc like we are overloaded with all these cues and these are actually perceived as stressors already to our bodies because our nervous system hasn’t adapted properly to how we’re living today but additionally like what you mentioned like we um we do place a lot of heavy emphasis on productivity and like hustling um that we put ourselves in overdrive when we are in the workplace so we have been conditioned to learn that you know our success is relied heavily on you know like how much we can get done and earn so we push ourselves beyond our capacities to get there at the expense of our own health and of course the internal pressure that we put on ourselves to do this constantly becomes the issue and you know when we have this mentality in the end we start to have these poor work boundaries and our mental emotional physical health is not prioritized which can lead to a whole slew of other issues which you have listed and yeah it it has been a bit more prevalent now because we are talking about it more and we’re recognizing it more as an issue that like oh hey you know when i’m going to work i’m feeling this way this isn’t actually normal and we have finally come to accept that that isn’t supposed to be the way it’s supposed to be you know with regards to the list the exhaustive list that tasha kind of read through and and you kind of explaining the context in which we might be prevalent to it and all you know this hyper connectivity and all these screens um sometimes it’s hard to say that you know you are in a state of burnout because so for example you could have diabetes or like the resulting factor is that but then you’re like how did i even get there and so you as a naturopath how did you how do you see your patient come through and and say okay they might be telling you i have xyz but the actual reason is is you’ve been through burnout and honestly it really depends on what symptoms they are showing because it can jump in so many different ways but most patients do recognize burnout when fatigue is their biggest concern however burnout is something that kind of sneaks up on you and by the time you get to that stage you’re already on the more extreme end of the spectrum because we have already emptied our tanks so to speak um so of course the most obvious sign of burnout is feeling tired and drained regardless of how many hours you do um sleep at night um and this is typically what people recognize but what a lot of people don’t realize is that chronic stress can affect literally every other part of our system including our neurological musculoskeletal cardiovascular immune system reproductive system etc so depending on the individual they may have different types of accompanying accompanying symptoms such as mood changes sleep issues gut issues um they’re getting sick more often hormonal imbalances reproductive issues weight changes you know like cognitive impairments and kind of like what you said like increased risk of heart diseases um so of course those are kind of like more on the extreme end if we’re not addressing it but you’re right like it does present in so many different ways so in practice what i personally do with my patients is that whatever symptoms they are experiencing i always ask about their stress and how they’re coping with it because there is such a connectivity around that so kind of addressing that particular area is always key yeah i think that’s a good indicator of telling us how someone who can communicate it um can actually express okay these are the things i’ve been experiencing and then you’re like oh yeah these are all like the telltale signs of burnout um and so now i know what i can start addressing but what about people who aren’t able to articulate that right and maybe on a visual level as well maybe as a practitioner when you see someone and they’re not able to communicate is there something that really stands out for you to say like oh i think this person is having right now yeah so you know that that is a tricky thing if someone isn’t really un um aware that they are burnt out so again aside from asking the questions like hey you know like how’s your stress you know like how would you rate it on a scale of one to ten how are you coping with it um visually it’s it’s definitely a bit more difficult to tell but if you have someone where their vitality seems to be a bit dampened that’s kind of when you’re like oh okay like you seem a bit drained um you know like how’s house work how stressed how’s home um and we kind of go from there but when you say vitality is dampened could you kind of elaborate what that means yeah so essentially when i think of dampened vitality for a lack of a better word is that the the person that i’m seeing they are they’re not as i guess vibrant or especially if it’s someone that i’ve been seeing you know for a while where i noticed like oh they’re not emoting as much they are not as energetic um and just the way that they are talking it doesn’t seem like their authentic self especially if it’s a patient that i have been seeing for a while there’s just that that change where they just overall seem tired which again goes back to that big telltale sign of burnout is fatigue and i’m sure a lot of people who have gone through burnout will understand like it does have such a huge impact on our energy levels and how we kind of like go through our days like okay we just want the day to be over so like let’s get it over with and with that their the way that they present themselves can can be slightly different as well but of course that isn’t to say that everyone’s vitality is dampened when they’re burnt out but that is one way that it can manifest right and so you mentioned at some point where to sleep even though they have x amount of hours of sleep they still feel very fatigued um could you go more in depth with regards to that comment because you’re thinking well if you have your eight hours of speed then why is it that you you can’t recover from it and that is such a great question because burnout and even the sleep quality or quantity sometimes um can become this vicious cycle so first and foremost sleep is only one aspect of trying to replenish our bodies right when we’re stressed and burnt out were depleted in basically every aspect so you can think of like nutrients vitamins minerals and then the sleep aspect as well so if we’re sleeping a lot but we’re not replenishing or nourishing our bodies the way that it needs to be while we’re burnt out we’re still unable to kind of regain all that energy and kind of like refill our tank right and another thing is that when we’re stressed our nervous system actually kicks into its sympathetic mode meaning it’s in its fight or flight mode to deal with the stressor whatever that may be and when it comes the time to sleep even though we’re trying to tell our bodies to rest our nervous system has a difficult time switching over to its rest and digest mode which is the parasympathetic mode especially when our work family personal boundaries become compromised and that can affect a our ability to sleep well so it can lead to things like insomnia or just the quality of sleep that we are getting we may be sleeping for 10 hours but if we don’t have good quality sleep then we’re not restoring our bodies the way it needs to be restored and you know on a hormonal level um the melatonin that we release which is our main sleep hormone can also get disrupted during stress right so typically cortisol rises and falls throughout the day um but when we’re chronically stressed cortisol regulation kind of gets disrupted and we don’t get the usual pattern that we want and without the proper pattern we don’t get the proper release of melatonin meaning our bodies kind of get confused to when it’s actually night time right and on top of that there’s so many different aspects uh when we’re stressed we also tend to stay indoors overwork you know like we don’t take care of our well-being as much which again depletes our tank um but also when we do that and we’re indoors exposed to all the screens artificial lighting and things like that that also doesn’t help with our internal clock which then again confuses our bodies to whether or not it’s daytime or nighttime and then again going back to the sleep quality that gets affected and then the restoration piece also gets affected um that’s a that’s a very good like breakdown of how kind of the cycle can really eat into each other and so you’ve been covering kind of like the physical uh representations of what burnout looks like what about the mental health side of things that’s a great question especially because it does impact our well-being so much so with burnout typically what we see is a loss of motivation they they have a higher risk of experiencing anxiety and depression um you know lower tolerance towards others so people can be more irritable less patients um you know there may be withdrawal from friends family things like that sense of self-doubt is always going to be there um more pessimistic outlook and again neglecting their own needs so kind of putting their health and self-care practice in in the back burner so of course it’s not to say you know they will experience all of these things but with burnout the the risk of experiencing those are definitely higher right i mean even in the workpiece because according to definitions etc like burnout is linked to the workplace and i think these are good ways to even to recognize when someone is going through that because when your colleague is sometimes potentially you know going through or is reaching a burnout stage might be demonstrating these aspects which is like sometimes because we’re all working from home it’s difficult to see the physical side and we you know we’re not there we’re not at home we don’t know if they’re taking pills or how they’re eating etc and so but the more you know mental health side is it’s a good these are good indication for us to rely on to recognize when some people are going through that and just saying reach out to them and be like are you okay um and sometimes we can open up a good conversation and um potentially help them but have you experienced when like when you label that as burnout does it help people or does it completely reject it i have yet to have someone reject that concept in terms of the contributing factor for what they may be experiencing usually it’s like oh yeah no that makes sense especially like you said when that emotional and mental component is present because it’s so obvious it has such a huge impact whereas if someone only presents themselves with more physical symptoms they may not link that together yet until i explain that cycle and then they’re like okay yeah let’s address our stress because it is making these things worse you know a lot of times when people present with physical symptoms they’re like oh you know like everyone experiences these things like right it’s pretty normal right but it begins like actually no we shouldn’t be experiencing these things so let’s address the root cause of it and if stress is one of them then we of course address that the reason why i’m saying that there’s a potential there’s possibly people who might reject it is because of this hustle culture right they might say well i’m all good anyways even if i was going through something like that i can’t you know afford to to even think that way i you know i can’t stop i can’t get dressed and so they they you know they already automatically say no this is not something that is happening because i’m wondering if there might be some people who might actually reject the diagnosis of being burned out and i can i can totally see that because of how you know our society is we value hustling and productivity and you know like multitasking and always on the go so i can definitely see that but at least for the patients that i am seeing in practice who are seeking uh this sort of help yeah typically they they are more receptive they put a step forward of saying i’m here to get help i’m i’ve noticed that something’s going wrong but i’m i’m thinking of my surrounding and the people i know from the community when you talk about burnout people just say yeah you just need to have a bit of good sleep drink some water and he’ll be fine he or she will be fine do you think that there’s a link or prevalence between the bam community and burnout i actually love this question um because we we don’t think about this enough so short answer absolutely because now we are actually going beyond burnout in terms of you know just career and schooling in its own context like of course those still come into play across all ethnic groups but um you know now we are factoring in the challenges you know poc or marginalized groups are experiencing as contributing factors towards our stress and burnout you know like given what has happened in the past few years more so in north america with the blm movement the anti-asian hate crimes even the israeli-palestinian conflict the discoveries of indigenous children from former residential schools specifically more in canada and everything else that is going on it is a lot for us to handle so the mental and emotional toll that it has even like hearing these traumatic news is is quite painful and of course like very very draining and you know beyond that there are there’s all the background things that happen like micro or macro aggressions racial inequality discrimination oppression and the effects that those have on our well-being on an individual and systemic level like that also plays a huge role and specifically even as you mentioned like in the workplace we as poc and marginalized groups like we do experience work a bit differently we do have to work harder to you know like get or you know receive what maybe our white counterparts need to do right so yeah the relationship with work is it is so complex the background of like i need to show up for work in my best self because if i don’t then a whole set of people will have to you know deal with the stigma that comes with you know your ethnic background and so you have to fight the stereotype because if you don’t then a whole generation behind will be sacrificed because of that but that’s also coming internally like it’s it’s um a culture that has been nurtured within but the environment has not helped undo these stereotypes i guess yeah even thinking as much as you know like the immigration population where they’ve moved to different areas for a better life you know they may be giving up say a medical degree back at home to become something else just so they can give their their kids better opportunities and with that they have to work harder they’re working at jobs with lower pay meaning that they may have to take on multiple careers or jobs to pay the bills and that can be very very tough on that individual and with that it’s like okay they don’t even have time to think about burnout because they need to feed their families first so there’s so much that ties into it but you’re absolutely right like poc or bam community we do have other factors that contribute to our burnout and stress just because there are a little bit more of those extra things that kind of take away from our tank that you know other more privileged populations may not have to deal with yeah um and in your practice right do you see many people from the bam community coming to get help and showing up for the assistance i do see um a a good percentage although i will say with naturopathic services i do understand that you know it is out of pocket it’s not covered under our ohip so unless they have insurance it can get a little expensive so i know that can be a potential barrier and that’s why i do offer affordable rates but uh that i i do understand that that may be a reason why i’m not seeing as many as i would like but i do see the bam community as well yeah just in my own like research for the podcast and stuff i think a lot of people from the bam community who are practitioners in the complementary space or even just general health practitioners you can see that they take much more initiative to create a space where they are more accessible to other people in the community versus people who are more privileged um and so to go back to where we were from what we’ve been talking about how burnout kind of comes about so from a naturopathic what would you say are the ways to address and deal with these symptoms so naturopathically we always go back to basics especially because burnout is like a state of depletion so we want to replenish and nourish so think nutrition good quality sleep and supplementation to help rebuild our system of course we always have to talk about coping strategies and provide different stress management tools that resonate for that particular individual and that’s doable for that individual and really emphasize on slowing down and kind of just plant the seed where you know like hustle culture isn’t the only thing that exists here and it is okay to slow down you know it’s okay to take a breath um because at the end of the day we are not on this earth to just work and pay rent we’re here to live right so just kind of planting that seed be like hey you know what it’s okay to slow down and at least that will give them that first step to accept the fact that burnout shouldn’t be the norm um so that’s kind of like the key thing there and and so because you work using a lot of acupuncture acupressure points is there a reason why you you gravitate more to acupuncture acupressure for your patients yes so i grew up in a traditional chinese household so i’ve been exposed to traditional chinese medicine ever since i was young but i i love working with acupuncture because patients i can actually feel the immediate effects like right after a session or even for the day the next day so acupuncture typically strives to rebalance our our energies and ensure that you know the energies are flowing smoothly throughout our entire bodies and if things are stuck or there is an imbalance that is when symptoms come up so in addition to working on the foundational things which is the the nutrition piece the restorative sleep which depending on the state they’re in it does take longer to feel its effects whereas i love incorporating acupuncture for the more immediate benefit so they can actually feel some of you know the calming benefits and just the restorative benefits around there just so we can tie the longer and the shorter term benefits together that makes sense and what would be practical tips people can adopt to avoid burnout because i think that when you do reach a state of burnout which we need to put a disclaimer here is a really severe state of you know mental health issue and i think that you need to seek out for help regardless right um what are some tips you would give to people to prevent getting to that state so always taking a step back and scheduling time for yourself is key uh practicing self-care in the form that works for you to replenish that that energy tank essentially and of course self-care doesn’t have to be expensive or take up a lot of time like going on vacation or going to a spot you can make it out to whatever you want it to be so some great examples can include things like deep belly breathing which helps you switch from a fight or flight mode to a rest and digest mode you can spend time in nature whether this is simply going on a walk to the park or even in your backyard connecting with mother nature can actually reduce your cortisol levels and coming up with a wind down routine is always one of my favorites especially when we’re working from home so this can be post work or even pre-bedtime routine where you can put your screens away tidy up do some stretches just signaling to your body that it is time to rest and leave work or your to-do list behind yeah these are these are great very implementable tips uh i don’t know if that’s a word but you know that we can take away right now i think i’ve definitely used all of those at some point last year during lockdown so uh i can vote for them um and toki like before we close off our conversation do you have like a message to our listeners who are typically like people just like us you know the bam community mom and so listen to this conversation if they’re in a state of burnout or they’re not even sure how to start and where where to go what would you want them to to take action on and what would you say to them yeah and i think that is very true even just like looking at my parents they they’re always like okay you know i’m just a strong person i can take on everything and my message is that like you know it’s okay to not be a superhuman it’s okay to just simply be human right it’s okay to ask for help you know we don’t have to take everything on ourselves and asking for help has so many benefits to our mental well-being right it connects us with other people socially and even looking at the evolution of human beings like connection is part of our survival so you know asking for help is okay we are not doing this alone we are a community and we are here to support each other and i think that’s extremely important to to know especially during times where you feel a little more on the alone side um thank you for that tsuki um so to to do our closing in our rapid fire questions um sushi what is the first sign that you recognize when you’re out of balance personally for me i do become less patient towards others and i i do get cravings for specific junk foods so typically my chocolates and some chips you and i both um and i guess to come to that what would be your method of getting back into balance yeah so i try to schedule either a day off or block off a time slot in my day just to not do anything work related specifically and i know that isn’t possible for for everyone but that is the perk personally for myself for working for myself um and yeah i may go on a walk i may read make myself a latte i’m a journal whatever my body is craving or wanting at that particular moment i do but nothing work related and since you you mentioned books so talking about books what is one book that impacted your approach to well-being and wellness so actually i just finished the book called the art of non-conformity and that’s that’s just top of mind because we are talking about changing our mindset and our relationship with work and i think that’s a great book in highlighting those those shifts and that there are different ways of living life and um how we pursue careers so i think that that’s a that’s a good book to to explore yes rethinking your relationships with uh with work is definitely one so i’ll be reading that book thank you well thank you so much zuki for sharing your insight and and giving us your perspective on how to to navigate burnout and stress and be grateful to have you on our show you’re very welcome it was a pleasure being on this podcast and thanks for having me if you enjoyed this episode go ahead and select that follow a subscribe button for now stay safe and we’ll see you next week

Suki Hon | Ep #41 | Can the Hustle Culture Lead to Burnout ?

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