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I love how our guest gets right to the heart of the matter… ‘Life is meant to be enjoyed not endured’ is the motto of Whitney Gordon-Mead. Whitney has overcome fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, and burnout… Now, she’s dedicated her life to helping others avoid and recover from burnout, reclaim their passion and create the life they desire, because as she says ‘life is meant to be enjoyed, not endured!’ Enjoy this favorite Q&A from our interview.
SHARON: What’s the difference between fatigue and low energy, and how would you know burnout versus “I’m just so tired I’m not getting out of bed today”?
WHITNEY: First of all, burnout is not a short-term thing versus “Oh, I’m tired today, so I’m not going to get out of bed,” and then, the next day, you’re fine.
It’s a matter of scales. You can be tired, and you can be tired for a number of days, and then you can be fine. When you’re burnt out, you’ve got not just the signs of fatigue. Burnout is where you have difficulty sleeping. You get sick more often. You get irritable more easily. You get annoyed. You anger ─ just like that. You can get depressed. You can get anxious.
So there are a lot more symptoms; and the more symptoms you have, the higher your level of burnout would be. There are sixteen signs of burnout. I could go on, but you get the idea that it’s not just about fatigue.
SHARON: That’s helpful because, I think, sometimes, those words are interchanged, and it makes sense to be able to put them in perspective.
Fatigue is common with a lot of autoimmune. And, frequently, even though I’m fatigued, I still have some excitement, some zest, some wanting to get some things done yet though, sometimes, I have to pull my way through the day. And that’s not burnout.
WHITNEY: Burnout is not something that happens overnight. It can happen over a period of time. For me, the burnout took probably four months for me to start recognizing that it wasn’t a good thing. It took even another month or so before it just slammed me and wiped me out.
It’s interesting because you think that if you sleep for five, six, seven hours a night, that might be enough to recover from whatever it is that you’re doing. But when you’re a Type A perfectionist like I am and used to pushing yourself relentlessly, what I found was even seven hours of sleep a night wasn’t enough anymore. It was like I needed eight hours.
And then, if I was getting four or five hours of sleep a night, all of a sudden, I might need nine hours one night to recover; and, believe it or not, that’s one thing that a lot of people don’t know. They think that you can’t catch up on sleep.
You can catch up on sleep. It just takes time.
SHARON: So that idea of “Well, I’ll catch up on Saturday” isn’t a very good plan.
WHITNEY: The thing is you get in touch with how many hours of sleep a night you do need. Once you know how many hours of sleep you need, then, when you’re not sleeping that many hours, there’s a difference. Let me give you an example.
You need seven hours of sleep a night. Maybe three or four days in a row, you’re only getting five. So if there are three days in a row that you’re only getting five hours and you should be getting seven, that’s two hours a night times the three nights.
So you’re already behind six hours of sleep.
SHARON: So doing the math, I’m already behind one night of sleep.
WHITNEY: You can catch up on that time if you give yourself the time to do it, which most people don’t. I think the problem also with a lot of autoimmune is disrupted sleep. I know we’re not here to talk specifically about rest, but I hear a lot. At the height of my condition, it was a very disrupted sleep, so even if I got my seven hours of sleep, it wasn’t as restful as it could have been.
SHARON: I think what can also lead to low energy, fatigue, and crabbiness is if you’re waking up every couple of hours trying to get comfortable again.
WHITNEY: You’re right. And that deep, restful sleep can be hard to come by. I suggest to people who are not getting a quiet night’s sleep that they do consider getting a sleep study to check for sleep abnormalities. And then, you can address whatever those abnormalities happen to be. There can be several different things that are going on.
The other piece of it is to get your cortisol levels checked. All you need to do is find an excellent naturopathic doctor or even a doctor of osteopathy or an MD that’s trained in functional medicine, and they can do what is called the “Adrenal Stress Index” test. They check your adrenal function, and then they can prescribe something to help your cortisol so that it’s at the right level at the correct times.
SHARON: I want to point out that cortisol is part of the stress response; and if you have too much of that, that’s when they can tell “Oh, he or she is in a lot of stress.”
WHITNEY: And if your cortisol levels are high at night, you will never sleep well. That’s why it’s essential to get them checked and do something about it.
SHARON: Thank you for joining us in another great Q&A. Everyone have a great week whatever your adventures. Learn more about Whitney and recovery from burnout at https://whitneygordon-mead.com/.
Join me next week for another fantastic episode of The Autoimmune Hour, and listen to this complete interview about overcoming burnout at https://understandingautoimmune.com/Burnout