By Dr. Andrea Pennington, Integrative Physician, TEDx speaker, bestselling author of I Love You, Me, and host of the The Stress & Burnout Recovery Survival Guide live masterclass series on

Health on Female First

Health on Female First

How does stress affect the brain, immune system and hormones? Why are you at risk for burnout? Read on Dr. Andrea Pennington’s advice to see what you can do to get aligned again...

According to Taoist philosophy and Chinese medical practice, one can and should become master of their whole life to enjoy optimal wellbeing of body, mind, spirit, environment and relationships. We can do this by living in harmony with the natural energy of Life. In Eastern philosophy, there is a life force energy, ‘qi’ in Chinese, ‘ki’ in Japanese, also called Prana in Hindu traditions. This vital energy flows through the sky, the earth, our bodies and our minds naturally. Where this energy flows, life flourishes. When this life force energy flows harmoniously through all of our body’s channels, called meridians, we can remain healthy and vital for a long life, and we can quickly recover from illness, injury, shock or trauma. The Chinese have documented this natural ability thousands of years, and now is the time for you to master it as well.

In my own experience, not honoring my body’s energy rhythm and flow caused me to struggle with terrible muscle stiffness and neck tension, insomnia and irritability and and anxiety — all due to Wood Energy imbalances (I took the Five Institute’s Vitality Test to know my energy types better and I recommend it!)

By taking a closer look at my Energy imprint, my old habits and past disappointments I became conscious of patterns in my body, mind and environment that regularly preceded irritable and stormy moods. This helped me learn how to prevent problems from occurring by anticipating the possibility of overextending myself and judiciously taking on only what I could reasonably handle with adequate self-care time. I also became better at heeding the warning signs of an impending breakdown my body gave me.

When we accept and embrace who we are, forgive our past mistakes and commit to living authentically in tune with the natural flow of energy, we can recover from breakdowns, burnout and breakups as well as bounce back from disease and devastation. Most importantly, we can reclaim our lives and move into a whole new paradigm of existence.

Our vital life force energy can become stuck or sluggish as a result of not living in harmony with our natural energy flow.

For example, not eating healthy food, drinking too much alcohol, or engaging in unhealthy behaviours, relationships and even careers can cause our energy to become depleted or stagnant. When this happens, we experience disease and burnouts. We may become sick, tired or depressed and devoid of joy or passion.

If you feel overstressed or on the verge of burnout, take it seriously. Only you can tell if you are stretching, growing, and fully embracing your authentic self, or overworking yourself. There is no external judge and jury. You are accountable to you and you alone. Take it seriously, as if your life depends on it. Because it does!

There are a few things you can ask yourself to establish a starting point before changing your life. Each week evaluate yourself to determine how well you’re living in accordance with your values. Check in and ask yourself:

  • Am I doing my best to express my authentic self? (Or am I hiding on the sidelines, not expressing my opinions or not being actively involved in life?)
  • Am I focused on my future vision and major growth areas for the year? (Or am I distracted by, or entangled in other people’s goals and visions?)
  • Am I consciously and boldly taking action toward my dreams? (Or am I mindlessly watching streaming TV series, scrolling through social media posts, or being “busy" with chores?)

You need to be aware of what is burning you out before you can stop the energy depleting effects of stress on your body and brain.

Then, embrace self-care as a way of life. Rather than letting the outside world dictate how we feel and instead of permitting our energy to rise and fall based on our circumstances, we can proactively manage them to our advantage. Being accountable for your life means making a commitment to create and maintain a self-care routine that includes eating a balanced nutritional mix of whole, un- processed, plant-based foods, drinking plenty of filtered water and

less caffeinated or alcoholic beverages, moving your body regularly (whether through organized fitness programs such as yoga, Pilates, etc., or by walking, hiking, swimming or climbing in nature). Make it your business to get 7-9 hours of sleep most nights of the week, practice meditation and deep breathing regularly. Maintain healthy boundaries by saying ‘No’ when you need to and limit your exposure to toxic substances, people and environments.

This basic self-care must become your way of life for the rest of your life. Tune into my self-care class to learn how a stressful lifestyle leads to elevated hormones and how they impact the brain and body. You will understand your personal risk factors for burnout and chronic disease, and also discover how to reduce negative effects of stress and cortisol and the easiest, safest ways to decrease your risk of burnout.

*Parts of this text were taken from I Love You, Me, available on Amazon and RealSelf.Love and

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