After the stress we have collectively experienced since March of 2020, stress levels are at an all-time high. And the increase in chronic illness that has resulted is a warning sign that stress is out of control. Most people have become so accustomed to having high levels of stress that they are no longer aware that their stress has become chronic. And most people do not understand the health complications that come with chronic stress. Extended periods of chronic stress can lead to a laundry list of chronic symptoms. One that many people face at least once in their lifetime is burnout.
Stress is often given a bad rap. But by itself, stress is not always a bad thing. It is a normal and natural reaction of the body to events or situations whether real, or perceived. When facing a life-threatening situation, the stress response can help to save your life. For example, if you were to face a criminal in a dark alley, the stress response helps you to either fight or run away. Stress can also be beneficial in certain everyday situations as well. If you are giving a presentation, speech or performance, it is stress that can help you to be focused and alert. Exercising also creates a stress response in the body. But as we all know, exercise is ultimately beneficial for the body.
So, stress does serve a purpose. And everyone deals with these types of normal stress from time to time. But when stress is high for longer periods of time, the effects will begin to be manifested as health problems in the body.
If left unchecked, chronic stress can lead you to burnout.
Burnout is a state of chronic stress that can lead to:
- Feeling physically, mentally and emotionally exhausted
- A sense of detachment from your life and the people and things that are important to you
- General negative attitude
- Disinterest in social events
- Trouble focusing and concentrating
- Neglecting your own needs/not taking care of yourself
- Beliefs or values that you held lose their importance
- Difficulty maintaining healthy habits like eating right and exercising
- Feeling like you are never doing enough
- Losing your temper easily
- Being more prone to colds and flu and having trouble getting well after having one.
- Lack of productivity
- Digestive problems
- Low libido or loss of interest in sex
- Being in denial about being stressed and burnt out!
The problem with chronic stress and the resulting burnout is that it doesn’t just happen overnight. It builds gradually until you are consumed by it. And it will ultimately impact not only your health, but your quality of life as well.
Being chronically stressed doesn’t have to be a life sentence, but you must take some initiative to begin reducing the level of stress in your life. Until that happens, you will remain burnt out and overwhelmed.
What can you do to begin healing from burnout?
Take some time to check in with yourself
Take some time to just sit down, close your eyes for a few moments and check in with your body. How are you really feeling? Do you have any nagging symptoms that you’ve accepted as “normal”? Those symptoms are NOT normal. So perhaps it’s time to be honest with yourself about changes that need to take place in your lifestyle so that you can begin to reclaim your health. Take a look at the areas where stress is highest in your life. Where can you make changes to reduce the stress in those areas?
If you are a type A personality and used to overdoing it, it is important for you to set boundaries for yourself and with others. This is even more important while you are healing. Maybe you’re tempted to bring work home with you. Don’t! If you work from home, set specific times that you will work and then don’t check work email or do any work-related activities outside of those times. Place limits on the things that you do that are time wasters, such as mindless scrolling on social media.
Learn that it’s okay to say “no”!
If you are a “yes” person it can be hard to say no. But it’s important to limit how many extra obligations and projects you must do, while your body is healing. It can be easy to say “yes” to things that you don’t really want to do because of guilt or a sense of obligation. But that quickly leads to additional stress. Give yourself permission to say no. And be willing to release any of the guilt that comes up when you do.
This can be tough, especially if you are a type A personality. But sometimes you have to just let go and allow someone else to relieve some of your stress by helping complete tasks for you. Take a look at your to-do list each day. What tasks aren’t necessary? And which tasks can be handed off to someone else to complete? You do not have to do it all! So enlist the help of co-workers, family members or friends to help when you really need it!
Many people are so accustomed to being busy constantly that they have forgotten how to relax. Going for a walk out in nature, taking an Epsom salt bath, meditating, deep breathing, or writing in a journal are just a few things that can be done to relax and decompress. These types of activities need to be done more regularly to reduce chronic stress levels so that you can heal from burnout.
While you are recovering from burnout, it is best to avoid high intensity workouts, which create more stress in the body. Gentle exercise such as walking, yoga and tai chi can help you to move your body, while also helping to reduce stress.
Get regular sleep
Do what you can to support getting at least 7-9 hours of sleep a night. Avoid using technology right before bed as the blue light can affect melatonin production and keep you awake. Make sure your bedroom is set up for sleep. Use room darkening shades or curtains to keep the room dark. And make sure the temperature is at a comfortable level for sleep. A room that is too warm can keep you tossing and turning all night.
Do technology fasts regularly
We are connected 24/7, but sometimes it is good to unplug, turn off the television, shut off the computer and put away your phone! Being so connected creates significant overstimulation which contributes to stress and burnout. Social media and the news can be very negative and can contribute even more! Don’t reach for your phone first thing when you wake up. And find a day each week when you can stay away from your phone, computer, television and other tech gadgets for at least a few hours.
If you are stressed it is easy to want to grab fast food or junk food to get a quick boost. Unfortunately, that boost doesn’t last, and these foods don’t contain the nutrients that your body needs to heal. Eating whole, healthy foods can help your body to have the nutritional tools that it needs to help bring you out of burnout and feel better!
If you are doing these things and still struggling, you may want to consider working with an FDNThrive Coach. Chronic stress can cause serious hormonal imbalances and you may need some additional support to help restore proper function throughout your body. Our coaches use cutting edge, functional lab testing to see where stress has impacted your body. And they can design a custom holistic program to help you overcome burnout more quickly!
It is important to take the steps to correct burn out. If you don’t, your health will continue to decline, and you will face a future filled with chronic illness. Are you ready to take the first step?