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  • Burnout ~ What is happening? Part 2

    Well hello everyone!

    Welcome back to this series on burnout!  Today we will be discussing the neuroscience behind burnout.  Let’s learn how the brain is impacted by burnout.

    The brain is the hardware and the mind is the software.  When the hardware takes a hit the software doesn’t function.  That is the same with burnout.  

    Your brain!

    There are two structures in the brain that are affected per the research, the amygdala and the medial prefrontal cortex.  What do those two things do again?  In a nutshell, the amygdala is the emotional response system for fear, anxiety, aggression and other emotions.  The medial prefrontal cortex is responsible for reasoning, controlling impulses, and controls our behavior so we can make long term plans and decisions.  The amygdala is quick to react while the prefrontal cortex is slower.  The amygdala is your alarm system while the prefrontal cortex helps you in the thinking process.  Those two areas are interconnected.  The logic part of your brain needs to make a decision when the amygdala is activated.  Is this safe?  Is this a real threat?  Remember your brain cannot tell if it’s a real or perceived threat.  It takes time for the brain to recall a memory to determine if any given situation is safe or not.  There’s an entire process in a nutshell.  

    Research conducted by the Association for Psychological Science reported findings on two different control groups. The burnout control group per fMRI scans showed those individuals had enlarged amygdalas.  What does that mean?  An enlarged amygdala means overactive.  Overactive means your alarm response system is going off more often than not.  It’s kind of like you’re on high alert all the time.  Additionally, all the other brain systems that are meant to help counteract that overactivity are weakened so you are not able to effectively disengage from the alarm that is going off in your brain.  You become a bit slower in your processing.

    When I’ve taught burnout groups in the past, I’ve talked about hyper vigilance and this is from that overactive amygdala.  So the question is can we recover from burnout and the overactive enlarged amygdala?  The answer is yes.  You can recover but you have to work on that burnout situation.  You can change your brain but if you stay in that burnout recovery may be more difficult.  I’m not saying quit your job because I know that might not be the answer, but I am saying learning skills will be key.  And that is a talk for next time.

    Until next time!

    I got you!

    I’m your Integrative Performance Coach!