BURNOUT: Stress Management for Burnout

August 17, 2016


If you are burnt out, it means that stress has gotten the best of you.  As you have seen, stress to your body can come in all forms - not enough sleep, poor diet, food intolerances or sensitivities, toxic exposure, and more.  However, now it is time to talk about stress related to the everyday pressures you face at home and at work. 


Although you can control your sleep and diet for example, it can sometimes be more challenging to control the stresses associated with your personal and work life.  It is key to remember that it is not realistic to eliminate stress entirely.  The only way to do that might be to lock yourself up in your house with no outside contact at all, but then you would suffer other negative health effects emotionally and cognitively. 


One of the ways to face stress is to remember the very wise Serenity Prayer:  "God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference." 


There are always things that you are not going to be able to change, and that are going to be out of your control.  Knowing and accepting this, is one way to reduce your stress load substantially.  


So instead of thinking about stress as something you need to eliminate, because this is not entirely possible, think about it as managing your stress load and reducing it wherever possible. 


In what follows, are some ways to manage your stress levels when you are suffering from burnout.  By following these techniques, you can begin to heal and feel better. 


  • Change the things you can


    For example, if you are under a lot of stress due to financial problems, your stress will not go away until you deal with the causes of your stress.  It may be time to meet with a credit counsellor, who can help you regain control of your finances.


    If your job is causing you a great deal of stress, change what you can.  For example, if you are bombarded by constant interruptions making it difficult to concentrate and get your work done, you may need to close your door for a period of the day to get some uninterrupted work done.  If you have tried everything, and there is no way to improve the situation, it may be time to look for a new job.  Keep in mind, though, that the grass is not always greener on the other side so it is best to do everything you can before making a job change, as change also requires more demand from your body.  You need to weigh everything out, and determine whether staying where you are will cause you more harm in the long term than making a change. 


  • Thinking

    Some people have busy minds.  They are always thinking.  This mental chatter is a stress in and of itself.  You need to learn to turn your mind off, and this is where meditation can be helpful.  There are classes you can take that teach you how to meditate.  You need to keep in mind that there are different types of meditation, and you will want to find out that works the best for you. 


    However, another thing that can add to your stress load is the kind of thinking that you do.  For example, are your thoughts mostly positive or are they negative?


    Positive thoughts can build you up, and do not cause the same level of stress as negative ones do.  Negative self-talk is also associated with worsening of anxiety, which further depletes your body's ability to cope. 


    Reading daily positive affirmations can help to keep your mind healthy and positive. 


  • Learning to say no (even to good things)


    Many people with burnout are Type A personalities (or Type A Behavior Pattern), the type who tend to be competitive and always faced with time pressures. 


    If you are this type of person, you often take on more responsibilities, because you feel that you need to be involved to make sure that the job gets done correctly.  However, this also causes more stress for you. 


    However, you need to learn to say "no" to things.  You need to realize that things will not fall apart if you do not have your hands in everything.  Sometimes, this also means saying "no" to good things.  For example, you may be asked to attend a speaking engagement that you know you could contribute a lot of your expertise.  However, you need to take a step back, and evaluate how it fits into the grand scheme of what you are trying to accomplish.  Some requests that come your way may be good ones, but they may derail you of your path, causing you increased stress in the long run. 


  • Laughing


    Laughing, brought about by a good sense of humor, is important in helping you heal.  It can improve your mood, further reducing stress. 


  • Relationships


    Related to laughter, you want to have friends who make you laugh and are a positive influence in your life. 


    One of the biggest drains on your energy is negative people in your life.  You can identify them by the way they make you feel after you have spent time with them. For example, you may feel even more drained, annoyed, frustrated, or like you can never meet their expectations. 

    You need to spend time around positive people, those who lift you up.  In saying this, you need to be positive too.  After all, positive people do not want to spend all their time with someone who is whining and negative, as it begins to make them feel negative as well. 


    If possible, let the person know that you may need time alone or away from him when he starts to be negative.  Often, the person does not even know that he is negative, as they are often caught up in long-term habits and patterns. 


    With other people that you do not know as well, you may have to limit time with them.  For example, if it is a co-worker, limit time to that at work and nothing else.  When at work, get away from the negative person whenever possible at breaks, etc.  Although it can appear rude, sometimes having your IPod and ear buds handy for breaks and lunch times, can be one way to avoid listening to this negative person. 


  • Decrease tension in muscles


    Stress management also includes incorporating techniques that make your body feel better.  This translates into your mind feeling better too.  Here are some ways to do this, and things to keep in mind:


    * Exercise


    Exercise is a known stress reliever.  However, if you are suffering from extreme fatigue due to burnout, one of the worst things you can do is to stress your body more by doing intense physical exercise.  Instead, if you are at this point, it is advised that you do walking (at a normal pace, not a fast pace).  By doing intense weight lifting or cardiovascular exercise, you are just going to add more stress to your body and your adrenal glands. 


    Over time, as your body heals, you can begin to add more intense exercise into your routine again, but you need to make sure you monitor how you feel afterwards.  If you feel more tired after exercising, you are probably exercising too much or doing activity that is too intense. 


    * Massage therapy


    There are a number of different massage techniques, with different movements, pressures, and techniques.  Some use hot stones.  It is wise to find a qualified, licensed practitioner who can use a technique that meets your needs so it is a good idea to ask the massage therapist for details before you book the appointment.  For example, perhaps you enjoy a relaxation massage that leaves you feeling recharged.  Other people prefer a deep tissue massage that works out the knots in their muscles, and may even leave them feeling sore for a few days afterwards.  You may need a combination of the two, opting for one kind of massage one time and having another kind the next time. 


    * Yoga

    Yoga can help your body recover from burnout by helping you cope with daily stresses.  Yoga allows you to give your body a rest, by turning off your "fight or flight" reaction (sympathetic system) and allowing your relaxation system (parasympathetic) to kick in. 


    Before doing yoga, always speak to a qualified practitioner as there are some poses that you may not be able to do depending on your physical condition (menstruation, pregnancy, blood pressure issues, joint problems, etc). 


    Examples of yoga poses or asanas to promote the relaxation response include the Sukhasana (Easy Pose) where you are sitting cross legged.  A good variation of this pose is the forwards bend, where you then lower your head and trunk towards the floor or a chair seat.  This can be calming and relaxing. 


    Other relaxing poses to consider include the Savasana (Corpse Pose), and the Viparita Karani (Legs-up-the-wall Pose)


    * Deep breathing


    Perhaps you have heard that you should take deep breaths when you start to get upset over something.  This is good advice. 


    When you are under stress (and even when you are not), the tendency is to take shallow breaths.  However, if you can learn to recognize this and remember to take slow, deep breaths that come from your diaphragm instead, you can actually stimulate the relaxation response and turn your parasympathetic system on in your body. 


    Do this whenever you need to during the day.  It can also be very useful to do when you are in bed to help you relax to prepare for sleep.    


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