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My experience with burnout: a modern-day epidemic

Written by Kristy Emmett | Wednesday, 13 September 2023

burnout wellness

I was 25 years old when I first developed burnout. I was working as a Registered Nurse in a busy public hospital, experiencing ongoing high levels of stress, heavy workloads, and shift work. As a young woman with perfectionistic traits, I became acutely familiar with pushing myself to my limits, always saying yes, and not asking for help enough. I thought I could do it all, and in my busyness, I learnt to ignore the alarm bells from my body.

I remember the day so vividly when I woke up one morning and tried to get out of bed, finding myself struck by a considerable weakness in my muscles and a profuse drain of all energy. Standing and walking a mere few steps left me dizzy, weak, and breathless, and I felt as though my body was 100 years old. In this moment I knew something was very wrong with my health. The months that followed were marred by extreme exhaustion, a loss of my menstrual cycle, my hair falling out, and digestive issues. I needed to reduce my hours at work and was transferred to a ward without night shifts. I desperately sought doctors’ advice to uncover the answers to my symptoms, all to no avail. It was explained to me that my tests were “normal” and nothing could be found, which was a stark contrast to how I felt.

Frustrated and exasperated by the lack of answers to my health concerns, I eventually sought the assistance of natural health practitioners who were my saving grace. Through functional testing via a salivary adrenal hormone panel, it was uncovered that my cortisol levels were extremely low, indicating that my adrenal glands were under functioning. Our adrenal glands produce our stress hormones, cortisol and adrenaline, which are vital hormones in managing our stress responses. My adrenal glands were exhausted, from years of high work stress and poor nutrition.

Burnout is fast becoming a 21st century epidemic, due to increasing work, financial, and societal demands. The pressures and stressors of navigating through extremely challenging times during the pandemic have also contributed to greater feelings of burnout.

Burnout unfortunately has not been recognised as a medical condition, but rather as an occupational phenomenon in the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11) (1). Burnout is characterised by 3 main signs and symptoms:

  • Feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion.
  • Mental fatigue, feelings of negativity or cynicism.
  • Reduced professional efficacy.

Natural health practitioners have an important role is identifying and treating individuals who may be experiencing adrenal fatigue or burnout, who otherwise may slip through the medical system without answers. Supporting adrenal gland function and providing nervous system support are essential in the management of burnout, alongside finding an optimal work-life balance to promote recovery and prevent reoccurrence.

Despite the challenges that I have faced with my bouts of burnout, the lessons that I have gained are immense, which has led me down a new career trajectory of becoming a Clinical Nutritionist, of which I am eternally grateful for.

Interested in Nutrition and Natural Health?

Explore our Bachelor of Health Science (Nutritional and Dietetic Medicine) and our Bachelor of Health Science (Naturopathy) and set the pace towards a happier, healthier you.


1) World Health Organization. (2019). Burn-out an "occupational phenomenon": International Classification of Diseases.

Kristy Emmett

Kristy Emmett is a qualified Clinical Nutritionist (BHSc in Nutritional & Dietetic Medicine) with a passion for holistic health and using food as medicine. Her special interests include hormonal health, gut health, and autoimmune disease.

With an extensive background working as a Registered Nurse combined with a strong desire to understand health and healing on a deeper level, Kristy pursued further studies in Clinical Nutrition at Endeavour.

She believes that true health comes from balancing our body, mind, and spirit, and honouring the laws of nature. She is proud to guide her clients along their own unique paths to wellness, drawing upon her experience in both allopathic and complementary health modalities.

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