Stress is a mental and emotional experience, accompanied by biochemical, physiological and behavioural changes. Stress isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
When we are stressed, we can become motivated and hyper-focused. We might have more energy too. All of this helps us when we have a deadline or need to study.
But when does stress become too much?
Burnout is a state of physical, emotional and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress.
Our bodies can only endure peak states of stress for so long and then they start to take their toll.
Not sure if you are suffering from burnout?
Don’t ignore the signs of burnout!
Burnout can manifest in various ways, and it’s essential to recognize the symptoms before they take a toll on your wellbeing. Here are a few signs to watch out for:
1️⃣ Lack of creativity: If you find yourself struggling to come up with new ideas or feeling uninspired, it could be a sign of burnout. Your creative spark needs nurturing!
2️⃣ Always tired or irritable: Feeling exhausted or constantly on edge? Emotional and physical fatigue are common signs of burnout. It’s crucial to prioritise self-care and recharge your energy.
3️⃣ Frequent complaining: When burnout sets in, negativity can become a constant companion. If you catch yourself frequently complaining or dwelling on the negative, it’s time to address the root cause.
4️⃣ Experiencing physical pains: Burnout doesn’t just affect your mental state; it can also take a toll on your body. Headaches, muscle tension, and other physical pains can be signals that you need to prioritise self-care.
Remember, burnout is not a sign of weakness but a signal that you need to recalibrate and prioritise your well-being. Take time to rest, engage in activities you enjoy, and seek support if needed.
Prevention of emotional burnout
This is the case when it is easier to prevent than to treat.
Today we’re going to look at the factors allowing us to stay resourceful. In other words, what helps us not to burn out.
▫️ Adequate sleep is the biological basis of our energy.
▫️ Our environment not only shapes us in many ways, it also determines our emotions. An eco-friendly, positive environment makes our lives brighter and kinder.
▫️ Planning and using time wisely prevents us from wasting energy on pointless tasks and expectations.
▫️ Communicating with nature is a natural source of regeneration of energy. Some people need a sea, others a dark forest.
▫️ Creativity allows us to harmonise our emotions and thoughts. Do what you feel like doing.
▫️ New experience. If life becomes a boring routine, we get as stale and dry as a flower without water.
New experiences not only allow our brains to shake off the dust of stagnation, but also refresh our relationships.
Personally, I love the idea of integrative medicine. To me, integrative medicine means doing what I’ve always done in my practice: Treating the whole patient. That’s why I work with my patients make lifestyle changes like optimizing diet and exercise to lower their cholesterol levels and high blood pressure before turning to pills.
It’s also why I question women about the stress in their lives when they come to see me for things like headaches, back pain, constipation and other digestive problems, insomnia and fatigue. And it’s why I take the time to show them that it’s often not the stress itself that’s making them sick, but how they manage it. Rather than writing a prescription for an anti-anxiety medication or a sleeping pill, I propose some of my favorite alternative methods of managing and relieving stress:
- Sip on herbal tea. The use of teas and tinctures to treat health conditions dates back thousands of years. I recommend calming teas like valerian or chamomile. Brew the tea, sit in a quiet, cozy spot, and just sip as you listen to the silence and feel your body unknot.
- Practice deep breathing. You probably don’t worry much about how you’re breathing (as long as you’re still breathing!), but too many women (and men) are shallow breathers. We don’t take the kind of deep, diaphragmatic breaths needed to trigger the relaxation response. So the next time you feel your shoulders tightening and your stomach clenching, stop whatever you’re doing and just take a few slow, deep breaths.
- Get a pet. Numerous studies find that playing, snuggling, even petting a dog or cat reduces levels of anxiety. Bet you never thought of your golden retriever as an alternative therapy before!
- Listen to some soft music. There’s a reason they play New Age music in spas: the soothing sounds of water falling or a gently strummed guitar enables relaxation. If you’re not into New Age, how about classical? In one study of 143 women undergoing breast biopsies, women who listened to classical music during the procedure reduced their levels of anxiety as much as women who took a prescription antianxiety medication. Another study found that music therapy reduced anxiety and improved sleep in a group of women at a domestic abuse shelter.
- Relax your muscles—one at a time. This is called progressive muscle relaxation. Start at your toes and tense and relax each muscle, systematically moving up your body. Many studies show this simple relaxation works wonders in reducing anxiety and stress hormones. One even found that women with breast cancer who practiced progressive Muscle relaxation were significantly less anxious, depressed and hostile than women who didn’t and had considerably less nausea and vomiting both before and after their chemotherapy.
- Meditate. Meditation is not about chanting; it is about being in the moment, which is much
more difficult to do than it sounds. Or, as one author put it, “The art of being serene and alert in the present moment, instead of constantly struggling to change or to become.” I recommend you take a class or join a meditation group to learn, and then practice, practice, practice.