How To Reset Dopamine Levels and Overcome Burnout

By

MSR

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Published on

June 05, 2024

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Updated on

June 05, 2024

Medically Reviewed by

Dr. Robert Stevens

Other Conditions

“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it” – Ferris Bueller (1986)

Balance. In nature, health, and our home and work lives, finding balance is one of the key elements to stability, harmony, rationality, and keeping the bigger picture in focus. Upsetting that equilibrium can, left unchecked, cause havoc. Dopamine level , is essential to our well-being and can influence many parts of our behavior, physical functions, and how we think and plan.

In this article, we look at burnout, why it happens, how it impacts us, and why it’s important to maintain a healthy dopamine level  to overcome burnout.

Suppose you are experiencing burnout or interested in learning more about neuroscience and dopamine. In that case, we encourage you to explore re-origin’s self-directed, science-based neuroplasticity program. As part of the program, we provide an understanding of how to retrain our brains to help avoid burnout and reset dopamine levels back to baseline.

What causes burnout?

Burnout is a form of exhaustion caused by prolonged mental, emotional, and physical stress, leading to feeling overwhelmed. It is typically associated with work-related situations but can also occur in other areas of life, such as personal relationships or caregiving responsibilities.

Several factors can contribute to burnout:

  • Work-related factors such as long hours, high workloads, excessive job demands, lack of control over one’s work, insufficient resources and support, a lack of recognition, and work-life imbalance can all contribute to burnout.
  • Persistent stress from other sources, such as relationship problems, financial hardship, health issues, and major life events, can also increase the risk of burnout, as can a lack of social support from family, friends, and colleagues.
  • Certain personality traits may alsocause individuals to be more susceptible. For example, perfectionism, having high self-expectations, a strong need for control, and being overly self-critical can increase the likelihood of burnout.
  • Engaging in unhealthy dopamine-boosting behaviors, such as scrolling social media out of habit, can also contribute to burnout by encouraging bad behavior rather than knocking tasks off a to-do list or engaging in self-care.

How does burnout impact us?

Our brains are not wired to postiviely adapt to long-term stress. When a big project or presentation is due and causes stress, the body perceives it as a threat, triggering the fight or flight response. In this state, our brain sends out significant levels of dopamine, When we have very high levels of dopamine, we react emotionally through fear and self-doubt, leading to burnout. The net result is that health, wellness, and performance suffer.

The role of dopamine

Dopamine is a type of neurotransmitter and hormone, often known as the “feel-good” hormone, which gives us a sense of pleasure and the motivation to do something when we’re feeling joy. Neurons at the base of the brain produce dopamine through a two-step process whereby it changes the amino acidtyrosine into another amino acid called L-dopa and then into dopamine.

Once produced, the brain initiates the release of dopamine, which contributes to many bodily functions, including movement, memory, pleasurable reward and motivation, behavior and cognition, attention, sleep and arousal, and mood. It regulates reward-related behavior that, from an evolutionary standpoint, is doing what we must to survive.

But an imbalance in dopamine levels can impact our health. High or low levels of dopamine are associated with diseases such as Parkinson’s disease, ADHD, and restless legs syndrome.

Generally, people with low dopamine levels may experience anxiety, difficulty sleeping, mood swings, and difficulty concentrating. In contrast, people with high dopamine levels may become aggressive, overly energized, and impulsive. They may give in to cravings such as junk food and engage in bad/addictive behavior like surfing the internet, compulsively scrolling social media, or playing video games. This behavior led Dr. Cameron Sepah, a California psychiatrist, to introduce the dopamine fast, or digital detox, encouraging people to take a healthy break from harmful stimuli.[1] The dopamine fast isn’t meant to lower dopamine levels but help people manage their addictive behaviors.

So how can we reset dopamine levels?

One of the most helpful things we can do to reset the brain’s dopamine levels is to reduce stress. In the workplace, that means giving the brain order.

When we’re overwhelmed with decision-making, the brain moves back and forth between the central executive network (CEN) and the default mode network (DMN). In neuroscience, the CEN maintains and manipulates information and is responsible for the decision-making and problem-solving that goes into goal-directed behavior. The DMN has the opposite effect and becomes active when we’re not paying attention to the outside world and instead focused on inward-directed thought.[2] Our minds may wander, and we may find ourselves operating on autopilot and mulling over everything we have to do rather than doing it. The back and forth is super exhausting for the brain. The brain likes order, and when we create an environment that lets us enter a flow state, we feel and perform at our best.

In a flow state, have just the right blend of detachment, clarity, engagement, and power. We enter a state of relaxed wakefulness with a heightened ability to perform, enhanced learning ability, intense concentration, and immersion in a task.

There are several focus tactics that we can use to support a state of flow, such as:

  • Simplify your goals: The brain likes to think in threes, so aim to have no more than three large goals per week and three smaller goals daily to set realistic expectations.
  • The “one thing” filter: In the moment, ask yourself what is the one thing that will make everything else easier to complete if you do it.
  • If you have trouble with “one thing,” then “eat the frog,” meaning you should pick the thing you are avoiding the most and get it done before you do any other tasks that day.
  • The 5-second rule: Since it can be very uncomfortable to start these tasks, start by counting backward – 5, 4, 3, 2, 1. This ritual activates the central executive network and is handy when the default mode is to freak out.
  • Batching: Avoid context switching by grouping similar tasks, so you concentrate on one type of activity at a time, improve efficiency, and reduce mental fatigue.
  • Time blocking: Allocate dedicated time blocks for your three goals.
  • Clear, tight deadlines: Establish well-defined and ambitious deadlines to promote concentration and minimize procrastination.
  • Reward yourself after completing small tasks: Have a timer set for 25 mins and then get up and do something else – anything your brain might have been wanting to do, for example, replying to an email.
  • Incremental training: Every time you do something, do a little better and a little more than you think you can – even if it’s just an extra 30 seconds.

We can also engage in activities that make you happy or relaxed, for example, exercise, practice mindfulness meditation, yoga, massage, playing with a pet, walking outdoors (sunlight exposure increases dopamine levels), or reading a book. Being able to obtain sufficient sleep and rest is also very important.

Food that is high in magnesium and tyrosine – the building blocks for dopamine production, such as chicken, almonds, apples, avocados, bananas, beets, chocolate, green leafy vegetables, green tea, lima beans, oatmeal, oranges, peas, sesame and pumpkin seeds, tomatoes, turmeric, watermelon, and wheat germ, can improve dopamine levels. “Taking nutritional supplements such as ashwagandha, Rhodiola, and Panax ginseng has been found to increase dopamine levels, promoting improved focus and energy while enhancing endurance and stamina. Other supplements that increase dopamine levels include curcumins, l-theanine, and L-tyrosine, which promote alertness, attention, and focus.” [3]

Re-Origin can Help You Avoid Burnout!

Modern life is stressful! We’re bombarded by stimuli and sometimes it can be all too much. That’s why re-origin developed a unique self-directed neuroplasticity program to help you implement new thoughts and behaviors to set a healthy reward system, help avoid stress, burnout, and improve your overall health. If you are interested in learning more, look through our program.

NEW BOX OUT

  • Over 50% of the world’s population are currently working, and 15% of working-age adults live with a mental disorder[4]
  • 40% of job turnover is due to stress & related conditions[5]
  • Turnover of just one employee can cost 1.5 to 2 times their salary[6]
  • About one million Americans miss work each day because of stress[7]
  • Healthcare expenditures are 46% greater for workers with high levels of stress[8]
  • 75 – 90% of all doctor visits are for stress-related ailments[9]
  • Globally, an estimated 12 billion working days are lost every year to depression and anxiety at a cost of US $1 trillion per year in lost productivity[10]

By

MSR

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