• Autumn Paone

How to Reclaim Your Life: Put the (Vitamin) "B" in "Burnout"

Burnout. The embodiment of pure exhaustion in every sense of the word. Victims of this workplace plague experience physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion- sound familiar? To combat this, experts tell us to exercise, get enough sleep, and learn when to say “no”; as you may be thinking, that is much easier said than done. Even if employees do manage to master these lifestyle changes, we neglect one of the most important components of our health: food. Sure, we can just tack “eat healthier” onto the long list of habits we need to form, but it tends to be a widely misconstrued concept. What exactly does it mean?


To clarify, I’m not talking about diets full of fasting and quick fixes that our “diet culture” has popularized. I am referring to simple, nutritional ingredients because above all, food is fuel. Our bodies and our minds need nutrients to function optimally, or function at all for that matter. Although culture focuses on the physical perks of a balanced diet, studies show it has a diverse range of benefits. For example, eating healthy improves cognition, mood, and motivation,¹ as well as preventing onset of disease.² Realistically, what we put in our bodies has the power to make or break our well-being.


The Role of Vitamin B


B-group vitamins are of particular interest. They have shown to improve multiple aspects of brain function as well as energy levels.³ For example, vitamins B6 and B12 have a positive effect on the production of mood-related neurotransmitters. Thus, they are necessary in regulating certain emotions. Unfortunately, there is a staggering population that lacks appropriate quantities of these vitamins.Deficiencies in B6 and B12 lead to increased negativity and pessimism, consequently decreasing motivation. People with low levels of vitamin B are likely to have suboptimal cognitive function and fatigue- two main symptoms of burnout.


People with low levels of vitamin B are likely to have suboptimal cognitive function and fatigue- two main symptoms of burnout.

Adam Niescioruk / Unsplash


What can you do?


When we fall victim to burnout, we tend to turn to our ultra-processed, fast food society. Various studies have concluded that stress correlates with higher intake of food. Specifically, we eat more comfort food with low nutritional value.In moderation, it’s an acceptable indulgence, but as a habit, it disrespects our minds and our bodies. How can we expect to function properly when our food is no longer fuel? The good news is that there is a pretty simple fix: B vitamins can be found everywhere! Because of this, altering your meals will be manageable and rewarding.


  • Start by removing sugary and processed foods from your diet and substitute with natural ingredients where you can. For example, almond flour or oats can replace white flour, and pure maple syrup can replace processed sugars.

  • Some examples of vitamin B rich foods are fish, bananas, whole grains, meat, and dairy. Vitamin supplements are also a safe and viable option to get an extra boost.

  • Use the power of proximity: make it easy to see a snack full of vitamin B instead of processed fats and sugars. You’re less likely to reach for the latter option if it is not as convenient.¹⁰

  • Educate yourself. Know if you are consuming natural ingredients or chemically processed ones. 

  • Set goals for yourself; find a vitamin B rich food you enjoy, vow to eat a serving of it every day, and work from there. Don’t get discouraged, baby steps will set you on the right path!


Like I said, vitamin B is easy to find, it simply has to be incorporated into your routine. The only bad news is that it is not a “band-aid solution”. It will take time and patience to implement the proper lifestyle changes and reap the benefits. However, it will be more than worth it. If you cannot shake burnout despite attempted remedies, take a good look at your dietary routines. Adding more vitamin B is low-cost and no risk, and it could be the last change you have to make to abolish your burnout for good.


References

  1. Kennedy, D. (2016, January 27). B Vitamins and the Brain: Mechanisms, Dose and Efficacy--A Review. Retrieved August 27, 2020, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4772032/

  2. Ford, T. C., Downey, L. A., Simpson, T., McPhee, G., Oliver, C., & Stough, C. (2018, December 1). The Effect of a High-Dose Vitamin B Multivitamin Supplement on the Relationship between Brain Metabolism and Blood Biomarkers of Oxidative Stress: A Randomized Control Trial. Retrieved August 27, 2020, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6316433/

  3. Kennedy, D. (2016, January 27). B Vitamins and the Brain: Mechanisms, Dose and Efficacy--A Review. Retrieved August 27, 2020, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4772032/

  4. Stough, C., Simpson, T., Lomas, J., McPhee, G., Billings, C., Myers, S., . . . Downey, L. A. (2014, December 22). Reducing occupational stress with a B-vitamin focussed intervention: A randomized clinical trial: Study protocol. Retrieved August 26, 2020, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4290459/

  5. Ibid.

  6. Ibid.

  7. Groesz, L., McCoy, S., Carl, J., Saslow, L., Stewart, J., Adler, N., Laraia, B., Epel, E. (2012, April). What is eating you? Stress and the drive to eat. Retrieved August 28, 2020, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3740553/

  8. Stough, C., Simpson, T., Lomas, J., McPhee, G., Billings, C., Myers, S., . . . Downey, L. A. (2014, December 22). Reducing occupational stress with a B-vitamin focussed intervention: A randomized clinical trial: Study protocol. Retrieved August 26, 2020, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4290459/

  9. Ibid.

  10. Hunter, J. A., Hollands, G. J., Couturier, D., & Marteau, T. M. (2018, February 1). Effect of snack-food proximity on intake in general population samples with higher and lower cognitive resource. Retrieved August 28, 2020, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5768324/