How to prevent or cure burnout

A few of my clients have been in touch, feeling quite anxious.

They have been trying to keep their businesses running, at the same time as juggling children’s schooling, running their homes, and working from home.

In some cases this was happening before the current lockdown.

Sometimes the added pressure of having a house full of people, all the time, is creating more stress.

Anything with ongoing demands and unmeetable expectations can lead to burnout.

There are three components of burnout:

  1. Depersonalisation – where you separate yourself emotionally from your work, instead of being invested in it and feeling like it’s meaningful
  2. Decreased sense of accomplishment – where you work harder and harder and feel like you’re not making any difference
  3. Emotional exhaustion

Most often, men experience depersonalisation and women experience emotional exhaustion.

One of the easiest ways to deal with burnout (or prevent it) is to complete the stress cycle.

There is a difference between the stressor – the thing that is causing the stress (unmeetable goals and expectations) and the stress itself.

Stress is physical response of the body to threat – real or imagined. When your mind thinks that you’re being threatened, every part of your body thinks you might die and responds with fight, flight or freeze.

The thing is, in the times our bodies were designed for (think of hunters in the savannah), when the danger was over, they would walk back to the village, celebrate their hunt and then settle down for the night.

There’s a beginning, middle and end to the stress cycle.

Most of us today are experiencing stress for extended periods of time.

Our bodies don’t know when to turn off the stress hormones.

There is no end.

So, digging around the internet in the name of research, I found that there’s plenty of evidence to say that if you can complete the stress cycle, you can turn off or turn down the stress hormones.

How do you do that?

When you have finished the immediate thing that’s stressing you out, do something different with your body.

So, if you’ve driven home after work, get out of the car and before you go inside, go for a walk. Or go to a dance class.

If you’ve been supervising your teenager’s schoolwork all day while dealing with customers and getting deadlines met, set a finish time. When the time arrives, go and do something physical.

Turn up your favourite music and sing out loud. Dance around the house.

When you’ve finished a smaller task, get up and walk around the block. Get a glass of water.

By doing something physically different to what you’ve been doing, you’re signalling to your body that the stressful thing has ended.

You’re also giving your mind a break, your body some movement and your brain some extra oxygen.

Try it.

Let me know if that was helpful.