Dear reader, if you ever find yourself hiking through the woods and a rustling in the trees urges your curiosity to pluck from the chest of your memories the old myth of Big Foot, and your hiking buddy tells you the creature isn’t real, your friend has a fair chance of being right.
At least until Big Foot greets you in the flesh. By then, you’ll have more important matters to debate like “HOW THE FOOK DO WE GET OUT OF HERE?!?!?”
But if someone tells you that your stress and your burnout are only figments of your imagination, then I urge you to take caution when regarding their words as truth. Stress and burnout are two very real things.
Although ‘Lighten up,’ ‘Chill,’ or ‘Relax’ are words of advice wrapped in good intentions, most of the time, it’s like emptying the ocean one pail of water at a time—I appreciate the effort, but it’s just not going to work.
Now you’re curious. How can you deal with stress and burnout?
First, let’s draw a line between the two—they’re not the same. But one thing can lead to another.
The Tweedledum and Tweedledee of Stress
I’m going to hazard a guess and say that you’re well-acquainted with stress. But I bet you didn’t know there was such a thing as “good stress” and “bad stress.” (I only just found out too.) Before we talk about our friend, Missus Good Stress, let’s talk about the other Miss Stress.
Under the umbrella of “bad stress,” we have acute stress and chronic stress. Acute stress is what most people refer to when they say they’re stressed out. Human beings cycle through acute stress multiple times in a day.
It’s the stress you might feel when a lizard lands on your head or if your professor decides to throw a pop quiz and you realize you shouldn’t have spent last night binge-watching Shadow and Bone (not pointing fingers here?).
A perceived threat, also know as stressor, triggers the stress response cycle, which is a biological reaction of your body to the stressor.
Your stressors can range from mild to severe, like spilling coffee on your blouse or racing to meet a deadline. This type of stress only lasts until the cycle is complete and the perceived threat or stressor is dealt with.
Acute stress isn’t necessarily bad for you. The human body was designed to handle short-term stress. In fact, we need stress to survive.
Going back to Big Foot, I’m guessing nine out of ten people will run away when greeted by the creature. That’s because Big Foot is the perceived threat that triggers your fight or flight response. Your entire system is focused on keeping you alive, and when you do outrun the 15-feet-tall beast, the stress cycle will be complete, and suddenly life is more precious than ever.
Then we have chronic stress or long-term stress. This type of stress makes us feel like pulling our hair out and can cause serious health problems to the person experiencing it.
Prolonged and frequent exposure to stressors, either at work or home, can contribute to long-term stress. When your body is experiencing chronic stress, it can’t activate its relaxation response, which means that your body is stuck in the stress response cycle.
What About The Good Missus Stress
Good stress, or as psychologists call it, eustress, is the kind of stress that’s beneficial to you.
It’s triggered when you’re faced with a challenge, watching a horror movie, competing as a Mathlete, or when you’re out on a first date.
Eustress rouses feelings of motivation and excitement. Without it, we might as well be a sack of potatoes. At best, we’d feel dull and bored, while it would lead to depression in more serious cases.
In other words, we need some stress in our lives. We need that drive, that motivation, that excitement.
Now, don’t get me wrong. The terms “good stress” and “bad stress” suggest a fixed delineation, but that’s not always the case. Good stress can turn into bad stress, and vice versa. The key is being in tune with your body and not pushing it to the point of abuse.
People who avoid stress or remain stagnant in their comfort zones often find themselves wanting in the basic components that’d help them handle the things life throws.
Stanford University professor and health nutritionist, Kelly McGonigal, hit the bull’s eye when she said, “while excess stress can take a toll on you, the very things that cause it are often the same things that make life rewarding and full.”
Rule of thumb: Balance. Too much of something can be a bad thing.
Why Does Burnout Exist and What Can You Do About It?
What is burnout? Herbert Freudenberger’s definition of burnout is the “state of mental and physical exhaustion caused by one’s professional life.”
Burnout used to be confined in the fine print as a potential occupational hazard. Five decades later, the scope of burnout has extended its reach beyond the professional realm and clawed its way into our personal lives.
A lot of things can cause burnout—lack of social support, over-committing at work, school, or with family and friends, and failure to create a work-life balance, to name a few.
Burnout patterns tend to differ between men and women. In men, the early signs of burnout show up as depersonalization or emotional separation from the work. While in women, burnout manifests as emotional exhaustion.
The way people experience burnout is unique to the person. Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all solution to burnout. Luckily, there is no one-size-fits-all solution to burnout.
How can you effectively deal with burnout? Keep reading.
Burnout In a Nutshell. ?
As far as this article is concerned, let’s say burnout, in a nutshell, is being emotionally exhausted from doing too much, clashing with the feeling of still not doing enough despite it.
As these contrasting realities battle inside you, the kettle goes off, your room is a mess, there’s work to be done, and it starts to rain outside! But you don’t explode just yet.
Dr. Emily Nagoski highlighted in her interview the difference between the thing that causes your stress (stressors) and your stress.
Nowadays, the behaviors that deal with your stressors are no longer the same behaviors that deal with your stress.
Our mind is preoccupied with work, the future, and the bills that don’t pay themselves. These are chronic stressors that linger in the recesses of our minds.
By and by, it all piles up, you start to lose sleep, and every little thing bothers you. Eventually, holding on to those stressful feelings will drain you of your life. Burnout sets in.
Evidence-Based Solutions Coming In Hot
Have you ever felt like a ball of energy was swelling inside of you, and no matter how many times you tried to “relax” and do self-care, it never worked? It’s not your fault.
How can it work if your body, physiologically, is still in a state of stress?
What you need are concrete ways of completing the stress response cycle. Here are evidence-based practices that you can try:
- Physical Activity. Sprint for 30 seconds, do jumping jacks, or take a walk. According to health coach Amy Rodquist-Kodet, since stress is a physical thing, physical activity plays a crucial role in ending the cycle. Walks are therapeutic, are they not?
- LOL, ROFL, LMAO your way out of the cycle. Laughter is the best medicine, as the old saying goes. If you can laugh with someone and find joy, especially in the absurd, you’ll be fine. Go through the fullness of your emotions, and you’ll find there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.
- Get your daily dose of hugs. Human beings need 4 hugs a day for survival, 8 hugs a day for maintenance, and 12 hugs a day for growth. Just in case hugs are running low in the market, a 20-second hug will do just fine. (P.s you can hug your pets too.)
- Creativity. If you have a creative hobby or an interest in creating art, whatever it may be, do it. It helps, trust me.
- Breathing exercises. Try the 4-7-8 breathing technique. Note: If the pattern doesn’t work for you, try modifying it a bit and see if your body falls into the rhythm. The idea is to communicate to your physical body that it is in a safe space.
I hope you found these helpful. If you want to delve into the details of the information presented here, click on the hyperlinked texts inside the article.
Oh, and before you go, this is my final advice: Don’t wait for the balloon to explode. Deal with the stress the moment you feel that it’s there. Our body knows what’s going on way before our mind catches up, so learn to listen to it.
To all you beautiful dudettes reading this blog, the challenge for you now is creating personal solutions based on what you know. See you next week, dear reader!