4 Signs Stress is Leading to Burnout

If the title of this blog caught your attention, you’re most likely stressed and congratulations, you’re normal! But when does stress become unhealthy and how can it be kept under control?

According to Dr. Alan Shelton, M.D., in his book Transforming Burnout, feeling a loss of energy for one’s work or profession… followed by a sense of being used up or depleted… is a sure sign of burnout, and stress is its major contributing factor.  Many people are stressed at work because of impending deadlines or a heavy work load, among other reasons.  Under tight budgets, do the companies we work for have an obligation to help keep our stress levels under control?  If you ask me, they definitely do!  Encouraging people to be physically active during work hours and providing healthy food options in the cafeteria, vending machines and during meetings, are a huge plus.  Companies can do much more as well.

Here are the signs your stressed and headed for burnout – but wait, there are answers too!  Learn what you can do to help yourself!  Just as much as I believe your company has an obligation to you, you have an obligation to yourself and your health.

The information below can be attributed to the HuffPost Healthy Living article, 4 Red Flags That You’re Headed for Burnout, on October 25, 2013, and are a product of meQuilibrium – the new digital coaching system for stress, which helps both individuals and corporations achieve measurable results in stress management and wellness.  

1. You can’t strike a balance. 
First, realize that the idea that you should be in perfect balance is unrealistic and undesirable. I prefer to use the term “balance” as a verb, not a noun, something you continue to do to manage the ups and downs of your life. At meQuilibrium, we refer to these as “lifts” (the things that buffer you) and “drags” (those that make your stress worse). The goal isn’t to eliminate the drags, but to bolster them.
Try this: seek out lifts. When you feel yourself being dragged down by obligations and worry, you haven’t “failed” at balance — you just need to counter the drags with more lifts. Talk with a friend (instead of canceling to do more work). Go for a long walk at lunch instead of sitting and staring at the screen. Spend a little more quality time with your partner before rushing off to reply to emails after dinner. Watch dopey cat videos until you laugh at something — anything.
2. You’re angry. Often. 
What is your signature emotion these days? If it’s irritated, frustrated, anxious or angry, then you have reason to be concerned. While at first you think that you’re only that way because everyone else is (fill in the blank!), the fact is, your emotional response says more about you than them. And running hot that long can take its toll — on your mood of course, but also your health and stress levels. (Read more on how to break your anger habit.)
Try this: do a gut check. Next time you feel a negative emotion boiling up and over like an unwatched pot, check yourself: What caused this? Was it overdue project? Or the idea that you don’t have the resources you need? Was it the comment from your spouse? Or do you feel unsupported by him? Emotions don’t just arise on their own without forewarning — they are more often than not triggered by a thought. Trace that thought to its roots and you expose the fear — which will loosen its grip on you. (Learn more about the connection between thinking and stress.)
3. You’re fighting — with everyone. Or worse: you’ve stopped fighting. 
Conflict is both a contributor to stress and the cause of it. Where are you locked in conflict? Maybe you’re not throwing things, but it’s there — the brusque or exasperated tone of emails, simple miscommunications arousing defenses. Fighting is the outgrowth of a negative emotion (see above), and not only will it derail your day, but also creates an ever-widening rift when left unaddressed. What you don’t want to do is get to the point where you have totally and completely withdrawn, a sure sign of burnout.
Try this: stay connected. If you’re fighting, believe it or not, it’s a good thing — far better than when you’re not fighting anymore. That dead zone of total disconnection can be devastating, so instead of making jabs and furthering the friction, try to fight productively. Don’t push back defensively, but invite and encourage communication about the issues at hand. In order for this to work, you must not out to prove the other wrong, but open to hearing where you’ve fallen short, too.
4. You’re bone-tired and uninspired. 
This is the hallmark of burnout behavior — and you can see it coming a mile away. You hit the snooze button six times. Your days seem flat and airless. You’re just bone-tired and can’t remember being excited by anything. The very thing you’re passionate about — whether it’s your work, your kids, your hobby — ceases to stir you.
Try this: don’t just sleep — rest. While you need sleep to recuperate, you also need rest, meaning fully conscious, not passed out. Depending on how bad things have gotten, you may need a mini leave of absence to restore yourself. You do that by reconnecting to what matters most, by giving yourself quiet — away from the mind-numbing chaos and distractions. Of course, if you’re not able to function normally (get up, go about a regular day), consult your doctor. Recognize that you are capable of revitalizing and returning to your normal energetic self. But you do it by taking your foot off the gas, not pushing harder.
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