How to manage stress before you experience burnout. Do you know your early warning signs of stress?
Stress. We all experience it, and we have all suffered the effects from too much stress at one time or another. Our bodies adapt to stress if it occurs infrequently, but over time, stress can add up and cause problems.
Often we do not even notice that we are under stress until it's too late. Headaches, stomach problems, back aches, muscle pain, fatigue, irritability, difficulty concentrating, poor memory.... sound familiar? These are some of the symptoms of stress overload.
Here is how to recognize and manage stress before burnout occurs. - Become familiar with early warning signs. Take note of your symptoms of stress overload. Now notice when these symptoms first begin. Notice that slight headache and take action before it becomes a migraine. Better yet, take note of your clenched jaws and intervene before the headache begins.
- Make a brief log that includes the following information:
thoughts and feelings experienced
physical symptoms (in the moment and afterward)
response to the event / action taken
- Regular relaxation. Did you know that practicing relaxation on a regular basis actually REVERSES the harmful effects of stress? Even if you do not feel any different at the time, you will experience the benefits of relaxation.
What is burnout? This is the point where stress becomes a problem. Physical and emotional reserves are exhausted, and it feels like there are no resources left to cope. Symptoms such as exhaustion, fatigue, sleep problems, and illness start to occur.
How to prevent overload: - Deal with stress symptoms early, and handle the causes of stress soon after they occur. Develop healthy coping skills to manage stress.
- Since stress is a physical response, it needs a physical release. Exercise is essential to allow your body to get rid of the stress hormones and tension that accompany the stress response. Even a little bit of exercise is sufficient to reduce the physical symptoms of stress. Walk around the block, go up a flight of stairs, etc.
- Learn more about relaxation techniques and find the ones that are effective for you. Train yourself to relax, and you will soon become skilled in controlling some of your body’s physical responses that are usually automatic.
- Use relaxation to calm yourself in the moment of stress and prevent the stress response from escalating.
- Use relaxation on a regular basis to counteract the harmful effects of stress. Do relaxation exercises whether or not you feel stressed at the time. This will improve your health and increase your resistance to stress.
- Take care of yourself physically and emotionally every day; you will have better resistance to stress and be healthier.
- It is very difficult to cope once burnout has occurred. By dealing with stress regularly (and early) it is possible to prevent burnout. It is similar to an overworked muscle – it is easier to recover if the exercise is stopped before an injury occurs. A tired muscle will probably feel better within a few days, but an injured muscle may take months to rehabilitate. Your physical and emotional states are the same way. Manage stress before you reach stress overload.
How to recognize stress early: - Know the common signs of stress - Become attuned to your body. How? Paying attention over a period of time – try a few days or a week, even – to the states of your mood, energy, physical and emotional state.
- Increase your awareness of the causes of stress for you. Know when there are things that need to be dealt with.
- Take note of your symptoms of stress. As you become more in tune with your body and more aware of your own stress symptoms, you can learn to identify the symptoms right away when they start to occur.
What if I have reached burnout? How can I deal with this? - The same strategies that are effective for prevention are beneficial to recover from stress overload.
- Remember: exercise, healthy coping strategies, and relaxation.
- Take very good care of yourself physically – eat well, establish a sleep routine and try to get proper sleep (though when in a state of burnout this can be difficult), maintain good hygiene, do relaxation techniques, etc.
- Care for yourself emotionally – socialize, do things you enjoy, participate in hobbies, be kind to yourself, calm your mind with relaxation strategies, etc.
- Get support. Friends, family, professionals, support groups, and other kinds of support can help you to recover from stress overload. You will probably recover more quickly and have more lasting results with support than by working through stress overload alone.
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