Got Brain Drain? Here’s How to Avoid Burnout

“If you have a drained brain, you feel anxious, frazzled and fatigued,” writes psychotherapist Dr. Mike Dow in Heal Your Drained Brain (Hay House, $33). Sound familiar? Here are four strategies he suggests to recharge your mind and avoid burnout symptoms.

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burnout brain
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Load up on B vitamins

When you think of the brain, think of the letter B––as in B vitamins. Many people think of B vitamins for the way they can boost energy. But in the brain, they do more than just that. This is especially true if you’re suffering from brain drain. Stress can deplete B6 and folate (also known as vitamin B9) stores. Those vitamins, along with B12 and thiamin, are essential for making brain-balancing neurotransmitters and regulating cortisol and mood. (Be sure to watch for these silent signs you’re not getting enough vitamin B12.) So for brain drained individuals, they can actually help you with 3 things: 1) they will boost your energy, 2) help you deal with stress, and 3) help you manufacture feel-good neurotransmitters… naturally!

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Run club, woman runs on an open road
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Schedule long jogs

If you are severely brain drained, you may want to practice power yoga or long jogs. I often tell my patients, “You are the true expert of you.” In my book Heal Your Drained Brain, I describe the 4 subtypes of drained brains. If your brain is healing after trauma or you have been diagnosed with chronic fatigue, interval training may not the form of exercise I’d start with. If you’ve had a long, stressful day, I’d also say that’s a day for yoga or a long jog. Meditative movement (e.g., yoga, tai chi) can help heal your mind and body. You can even jog mindfully. As you’re jogging, bring your attention to your five senses. Can you feel the temperature of the air on your cheek? This can help reset your brain after a stressful day––or even for those who are recovering from more intense stress like losing a jog.

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Types of Yoga, Vinyasa
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Move with intention

When researchers looked at different types of exercise, aerobic exercise was the best as increasing the size of the hippocampus. (This can help to undo some of the damage that years of too much sugar has done to the brain––since sugar can shrink this part of the brain.) Exercise also helps to improve sleep quality. And to all those people wearing wearable devices that track your activity, that’s great. But there’s something even better about “intentional” exercise. If you’re a new mom running up and down the stairs or a businessperson running across town from meeting to meeting, researchers found you’re not getting all the benefits of “intentional” exercise. “Intentional” exercise means you are setting aside 30 or 60 minutes aside just for you. Someone is watching your child. Your phone is off. You’re at the gym, in that yoga class, or running by that lake. These forms of exercise are more healing for the brain that just the “unintentional” moving that comes from being busy.

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Happy People, woman who is happy
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Fake it ’til it’s real

In Heal Your Drained Brain, I created a form of therapy called energy-based cognitive therapy (EBCT). It combines traditional cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) with bodily-based poses from yoga. Here’s why: bodily poses can interrupt the circuits in the brain that get “stuck” in negative thinking. Examples of poses include: Breaking out a smile when feeling pessimistic and cupping your eyes and visualizing a positive light at the end the tunnel. Combining these moves while “talking back” to negative thoughts is my novel way of combining cognitive behavioral tools with poses that can change your neurochemistry. Interestingly, this has been proven in research. Subjects getting Botox (and, thus, could no longer frown) reported feeling happier. Another study had subjects hold a chopstick in their mouth in a way that forced a smile on their faces. Then, mood was assessed. When you’re smiling, you “trick” the brain into thinking it’s happy. Good news: You don’t need to see a dermatologist. You just need to put a half-smile on your face and remember all the ways in which you are innately worthy. Need help? Try these simple strategies to remind yourself you’re worthy. 

Next, learn about 13 secrets psychologists wish you knew about happiness.

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