What stresses one person may seem normal to another. Everyone interacts and reacts to stressors differently. Sometimes the yellow smiley sponge ball isn’t the answer to all your problems. Let’s take a look at what stress and burnout is, how to identify it and deal with it.
What is stress?
Stress is defined as the reactions (both physical and psychological) your body produces in response to changes, experiences or challenges known as stressors. Responses to stressors help your body adjust to new and challenging situations. Every human experiences some amount of stress throughout their life and can be positive if it is handled the right way. It can either keep you alert, motivated and even help you work harder towards something or you may be unable to cope and it can become a problem especially when it hinders your day to day life.
What is burnout?
Burnout is a type of exhaustion that is typically associated with feeling burdened, emotionally drained or overwhelmed by something, especially work related. It results due to excessive and continuous, emotional, physical, and mental stress. If work related issues and stress are not aptly addressed, you will find it hard to keep up with life’s incessant demands which is a sure shot way to feel burnt out.
How to recognise stress —
Every person has a built-in stress response called the “fight-or-flight response”. Your “fight or flight response: helps you face and overcome stressful situations. The body’s autonomic nervous system controls your heart rate, breathing, vision changes, blood pressure and other factors which are indicators of your “fight or flight response” being activated. However, if you’re dealing with long term or chronic stress, your body tends to develop physical and psychological symptoms to alert you of the stress in your life. The negative effects of burnout can permeate into every area of life including your personal and social life. Burnout can also cause long-term changes to your body that make you susceptible to illnesses. Due to its many and awful consequences, dealing with stress positively at any level is very important to avoid a burnout.
Stress can be identified by emotional and mental symptoms like — anxiety, irritability, nervousness, depression, panic attacks, extreme sadness, manic behaviour and even isolation.
Physical symptoms of stress include — Aches and pains in your muscles and joints, chest pain, breathlessness, feeling like your heart is racing or beating out of your chest, exhaustion, trouble sleeping, headaches and migraines, dizziness, spikes or dips in blood pressure, jaw clenching, grinding of your teeth, stomach or digestive issues, low sex drive and an overall weakened immune system.
The difference between stress and burnout
– Burnout is the cause of unaddressed and prolonged stress.
– Stress is related to ‘too much’ whereas burnout is characterised by ‘not enough’. – – Stress demands too much of your physical and mental capabilities. Most of the time stressed out people often feel that if they can just get everything under control, they’ll feel better. Burnt out people on the other hand means feeling empty or devoid. No motivation, mentally drained and beyond caring about anything.
– Excessive stress feels like you’re drowning in responsibilities and commitments and burnout is a sense of being all dried up and bankrupted of any and all motivation. People experiencing burnout often don’t see any glimmer of hope or chance of positive change.
– While you are usually aware of being under a lot of stress and can identify it, you don’t always notice burnout when it happens.
A few strategies for stress relief and avoiding burnout before it’s too late
Stress can be internal and external. There are tons of ways to help relieve stress and its important to find what works for you. Remember that every single person faces trauma and deals with stress at some point in their life and they do not define you. Instead, the way you deal with these adversities says a lot about who you are. Below are a few ways to come out of your stress cocoon and be a free butterfly.
- Recognise and watchout for the warning signs of burnout: So, the first key is recognising those signs. If you’re anxious, you’ll notice that you’re not breathing all the way down to the pit of your stomach, you’re breathing higher up in your chest. You’ll notice you’re more reactive and things will fluster you or you might be more irritated, you might be more emotional or want to cry out of frustration. These are tiny red flags showing you that you are stressed. These feelings are important signals that give us information about ourselves. Stress and anxiety can become problematic if they go unnoticed or unmanaged for a long time or build up to overwhelming and uncontrollable levels. It is very important to stay vigilant when it comes to these little warning signs because that’s going to be the deciding factor of you burning out or not.
- Be proactive: It is paramount to acknowledge and accept your emotions during difficult times because it will equip you to deal with it efficiently. If a problem seems too big to tackle, break them down into manageable pieces. For example, if you mess up a task and there is no way to rectify it, instead of moping around the house about what could have been, work on what can be and focus on not making the same mistake. Taking initiative and control of your life will remind you that you can get through stressful times in your life as well. That there is a rainbow after every storm. Once you get into the habit of recognising your stress and proactively managing it, no stress will seem too big to tackle. Setting healthy boundaries, recognising your limits, knowing that you can not control everything can make a huge difference in your life.
- Take care of yourself: Whether it’s exercising when you feel stressed or a long, hot bath. Do something to take care of yourself. Selfcare is a very popular term used nowadays and rightly so. It is so important to care for yourself. We tend to be the hardest on ourselves but at the end of each day it is important to take a moment to think about what you’ve accomplished, not about what you haven’t. Self care is an effective and popular practice to improve mental health and build resilience because stress is just as much a physical as it is an emotional response.
- Set goals: Set goals for your day, week and month. Knowing what you need to do will give you a sense of control. Having realistic and lofty goals are both very important. The realistic goals are easily attainable and instil you with a sense of accomplishment and the lofty goals help you strive towards something and be ambitious. Focus of tasks that can be achieved and you will figure out ways to achieve the unachievable,
- Practice mindfulness: Spiritual practices like prayer, yoga, meditation, sound baths, mindful journaling, yoga are beneficial when it comes to effectively managing and dealing with stress. You can build connections with yourself, develop or restore your sense of hope and resilience. When you journal, meditate or pray you should remind yourself of what you are grateful for even if there are negative things going on in your life. Practising positive mindfulness will give you a sense of calmness to deal with whatever comes your way.
- Learn to say no: A lot of us find it hard to say no, especially when it comes to people close to you or your higher ups at work. But it is important to know that too much responsibility can leave you overwhelmed, overworked and on a fast track to being burnt out. Reducing your stress by learning to say no and taking control of the situation is a great skill to acquire. Say no to things that will unnecessarily tip you over edge. Your sanity is more important than anything else.
- Talk to a trusted friend or family member: Talking to a friend, family member or trusted confidant can do wonders for relieving stress. They can also be a great source of support and offer useful advice. Sometimes all you need is to vent or talk through your feelings to feel rejuvenated.
- Seek professional help: Sometimes help from a professional may be the answer. Consider talking to a counsellor, psychologist or social worker who you can work with to identify the source of your stress and develop strategies to better manage it. Psychologists and therapists have a range of tools and approaches at their disposal to help you manage stress and develop an appropriate strategy for moving forward. It is important to get professional help if you feel like you are unable to function, especially if it is interfering with your daily life.
- Accept change: Change is the only constant in life. The sooner we accept that change is a part of life, the better. All of us love to set goals for ourselves, to keep pushing and striving to achieve more, however it is important to be flexible and know that change is inevitable. Certain goals or ideals may no longer be attainable because of situations that may arise along the course of your life and that’s okay. Accepting circumstances that cannot be changed and focusing on circumstances that can be changed will help you avoid the ravages of stress.
- Be positive: It’s easier said than done especially when life isn’t going your way. An optimistic outlook can empower you to expect that good things will happen to you. Try to visualise and manifest what you want and do whatever you can to make it happen. Embrace healthy thoughts. Do not focus on the negative because how you think plays a significant part in how you feel and how resilient you are when faced with obstacles. The less attention you pay to it, the better.
- Learn from your past: Your past experiences are some of the best teachers you can have. Looking back at the past can help you avoid making the same mistakes and dealing with problems and difficult situations the same way. You may discover how you can respond differently and more effectively to new difficult situations. Remember to not be hard on yourself and to learn from your past and positively manage your stress.
- Look for opportunities to discover yourself: Just like a lotus, people often grow in murky waters. Dealing with hardship, struggle or a tragic situation with a great deal of stress, helps you grow and discover things about yourself. The way you deal with stress shows you a lot about the person you are and even discover things about yourself that you were unaware of.
- Be resilient: Build your resilience to stress by taking care of your physical and emotional health. Eat all the right foods and take care of yourself. Empower yourself to face whatever it is that life throws your way.
- Develop a sense of control: Once you get into the habit of recognising your stress and proactively managing it, recognising your strengths and limits, dealing with stress becomes much easier and manageable. Everything in life can not be controlled but embracing the uncontrollable can be a healthy choice for yourself and can make a big difference.
- Adopting a stress-friendly lifestyle: It’s all about balance and incorporating stress-management into your daily life. Take breaks, block off time for yourself, do things that make you happy, address your feelings and deal with it instead of bottling it up or exercise. Habits stick best when they’re things we feel authentically aligned with, so do what works for you not what society and people tell you to do.
In Short — The problem in addressing stress is that the early warning signs aren’t always clear to us and most of the time it’s a bit too late in the game the damage is already done. Like a ninja, stress strikes you when you least expect it. That is why it is important to be aware of potential stressors in your life. Once you do identify the causes of stress in your life, it is imperative to take time out and consciously recognise the symptoms of your stress. This will help you pinpoint specific triggers in your life, which can be tackled head on or avoided in the future. Setting a game plan and utilising all the tools and methods at your disposal to fight off stress will help you live a better and stress free life.