Learn how to handle stress and burnout from a licensed therapist…
No one is immune to the pressures of life. Whether you are self-employed, work for a company, trying to balance family responsibilities alongside your job, or are juggling a busy household, there are times when you will feel like your energy levels are depleted. When this happens, it’s important to remember that burnout is not an indication of weakness but rather an early warning sign that something in your life needs to change. Even if you feel like nothing helps, there are quite a few strategies for dealing with burnout.
What is Burnout?
BURNOUT has been defined in a number of ways. The most common definition is the state of physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion resulting from the excessively high amounts of emotional, mental, or physical effort needed to perform your daily activities.
Burnout is real, and it can be a major issue. Burnout is most often associated with peoples’ jobs, but it can happen to anyone, regardless of their job title. There are many signs that a person might be at a point of burnout; these signs include: feeling less energized than usual, lacking motivation, not enjoying activities or things that used to make them happy, feelings of resentment, and/or having feelings of isolation.
There are many things that can be done to help a person break out of a burnout. However, the three most impactful changes to address burnout are: making changes in your daily routine, improving sleep, and using breathing as a mindfulness tool. Let’s talk about these.
1 – Changes to your daily routine
The two most impactful changes are exercise and sleep. Exercise is highly recommended, as it can decrease the amount of time you spend in your head due to the release of endorphins, which will help you relax and have a better focus. With better focus, we have the opportunity to more objectively center ourselves on what is really important at that moment, hour, day…
- Actually taking your breaks between meetings, calls, or kids activities. 5-minute walk, stretch, or some jumping jacks.
- Chair exercises aren’t just for the aged, try three exercises, 10x each- work-up to repeating the exercise 3x’s.
- Try a yoga pose.
2 – Sleep
We all know the consequences of not getting enough sleep: it can lead to poor performance, more stress, and increased irritability. There is a common misconception that we need less sleep as we age, but that may not be true. We actually still need the recommended 7-9 hours. Recent research indicates that lack of sleep has been associated with a number of acute and chronic diseases such as Covid, diabetes, obesity, and increased stress. Many people don’t get enough sleep at night because they are busy with work, their kids, their spouse, and friends. But that’s just one reason. The big problem is that, at times, it might seem like you have no time to sleep in. The good news: getting enough sleep will help you ease out of burnout and into fulfillment.
Here are a few tips from the National Sleep Foundation to help improve your quality of sleep:
- Start by establishing a regular bedtime (remember when you got yelled at to get to bed so you’d be rested in the morning?)
- Set up a bedtime routine with activities such as reading, stretching, and showering.
- Lose the screen time 1 hour before bed. Blue light disrupts our brain and tricks it into thinking it is daylight; this is especially problematic when it comes to bedtime. (If you can’t do an hour, start with just 15 minutes).
- Finally, keep a notebook next to your bed. If you can’t turn your brain off, write it down, and then reassure yourself, you can return to it.
Learn to do deep breathing and not hold your breath during stressful situations (not those shallow, panicked ones we naturally have when we’re feeling burned out). When you hold your breath, your body is not getting the oxygen it needs to stay calm during stressful situations.
Here are two breathing techniques to use when you notice burnout or stress:
- Diaphragmatic breathing is an exercise that can help relieve stress. Diaphragmatic breathing involves the diaphragm contraction, a muscle in the stomach wall. This helps trigger a reflex that sends signals to both the brain and lungs to increase the rate and depth of breathing.
- Box breathing is a way to deal with stress. It can be used as a self-soothing technique and focused concentration to distract from the stressor(s). There are many benefits of box breathing however, one of the most important is that it regulates the breath and lowers the heart rate. Lowering one’s heart rate can be very beneficial in reducing stress levels because anxiety is often associated with rapid breathing.
Follow these steps for easy breathing exercises:
Step 1: Breathe in counting to four slowly. Feel the air enter your lungs.
Step 2: Hold your breath for 4 seconds; try not to inhale or exhale for 4 seconds.
Step 3: Exhale for 4 seconds.
Step 4: Pause and hold your breath for 4 seconds.
Repeat the above steps until you feel calmer.
It’s OK to Ask for Help with Stress & Burnout
It is important to know when to get mental health support, so if you notice burnout and you have tried to address it alone but have not seen the desired changes, it might be the best time to get help. If you are struggling with any other mental health symptoms, it’s also essential to seek treatment early. As the old saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
As is the case with so many mental health related issues, counseling for burnout can make a huge difference. And if you are experiencing burnout, you don’t have to face it alone. Feel free to call or email us at our Scottsdale counseling center, so we can talk about ways to help you get back to feeling like your old self again.