7 Ways to Manage Your Stress Levels and Avoid Burnout
Stress puts you at risk of burnout
As busy people we have a lot on our plates. High stress levels have become normal in our lives and a bit of stress helps us perform, but experiencing stress for a longer period of time is a risk for our wellbeing.
What is the difference between Stress and Burnout?
There is a lot of misunderstanding about stress. Let me clarify what stress is and when it starts to become a risk for your wellbeing. We all have a stress system in our bodies. It has an active and a passive part and it is connected to our nervous system and that again is connected to other systems in our bodies.
When we need energy, our body activates different parts in our body to give the muscles and brain energy to be able to function. We do not even notice that. This changes again when we are relaxing. That can either be by doing Yin Yoga, going for a slow walk, or lying down for a nap. While we are doing this, the body is doing restoration work and we feel rested again afterwards.
People talk about suffering from stress when they feel that they have a stress reaction. This is when we have that feeling of anxiety, nervousness, or feeling tense while you are experiencing a daily event where you feel rushed. Like when we run late in the morning for work, we have to give a presentation to a group or we are facing a deadline at work. The symptoms you are experiencing in that moment is a stress reaction. In that moment your body helps you to perform during that moment with the built in stress system.
Our stress levels are not being built by stressful events, but by the lack of restoration moments. The body needs more energy during a stressful moment, thus we need to rest more after a stressful event. The problem nowadays is that we are not taking deliberate time to rest. Being overactive is the reason why many people are currently suffering from chronic stress.
We have to realize that our bodies have not evolved that much in the last 10,000 years. The stress system was made for survival, to be able to fight or flight from an immediate danger. Once we are “safe”, we become calm again. The physiology returns to normal levels and we recover from our efforts.
Our bodies behave the same as 10,000 years ago, but the world around us changed. Without even noticing it, we are receiving so many stimuli, both positive and negative, which can cause us to become stressed throughout the day.
We live in a time where everybody is overly busy because the demands are very different now than 30 years ago. Our lifestyle has changed, and not always for the good. The key is to balance our active state and our restorative state.
Athletes train to perform and they build in rest to be able to perform. The times we live in are challenging and we have to actively build in time for ourselves to rest and recharge. When we skip recharge time and are only in the Go, Go, Go! mode; sooner or later we start to experience burnout symptoms.
At the moment there are 1 million people suffering from burnout in the Dutch workforce and I believe that it is because we need to stop, pause and breath. We need to be brave enough to set boundaries, listen more to what our bodies say and less to our minds and choose for recharge moments to be able to “survive” the modern jungle.
7 ways to prevent burnout
- Start slow, end slow: This is a mantra I use when I feel that I have asked too much of my body. This means that you take your time to start and end your day without being in a rush.
- Create a system for your recurring daily activities: There are certain things that are always the same in your weekday. See if you can create systems to organise them. For example, I have a system for having clean clothes. That saves me time in the morning so that I don’t have to look for my children’s socks at the last minute, with the risk of running late for school and my work.
- Build in breaks during the day: Plan a break of 5 minutes every 90 minutes, where you actively give yourself the opportunity to recharge. Here you can do breathing exercises or have a walk around.
- Plan periods during your day without being interrupted by people, social media or your phone. When you have less interruptions and you attend to one thing at the time, you are much more productive and you do not activate your stress system that much.
- Have a daily walk outside: Doing mild exercise that activates the nervous system and takes care of the recovery activities needed to feel recharged.
- Spend less time on screens: In the last years we are using our smartphones and tablets more. Yes, I know, it is so nice to binge watch the latest series on Netflix, but it is not relaxing for your body. It actually activates it. When you wish to close your day slowly, read a fiction book to end your day.
- Listen to the signals of your body: We are wired to be in our heads, and our head dictates to do more, to be active. But our body has infinite wisdom and tells you what it needs. You only need to give it space to talk to you. Sitting still with your eyes closed and paying attention to your breathing for 5 minutes a day can help you get to know yourself just a bit better and give your body what it needs.
In case you have any questions feel free to reach out to me. Especially if you suspect that you are suffering from burnout symptoms or you are in burnout. I always start with a stress test to see where you are in the stress spectrum and offer customised 1 to 1 guidance to recover from the burnout symptoms.
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Eva Visser Plaza is a holistic coach; helping busy, ambitious, international women to create a life and career with purpose and wellbeing so that they can become natural authentic leaders and contribute positively to our current changing world.
She helps women transform from the burnout state to creating a life and career that feels nourishing, aligned and authentic. For more information about what she does you can go here: www.evaauthenticliving.com
Eva lives in Amsterdam with her partner and two children and has created a simple, quiet life and when she is not working, she spends her time with her family, loves to run in nature, and write and reads.
Her motto is: Simplify your life to enjoy it!