How to Prevent Stress Overload & Burn-out

How to Prevent Stress Overload & Burn-out

As promised, this is the follow-on article to "Stress - the Silent Killer".

Prevention is better than cure. This is totally true when it comes to avoiding "burn-out" due to stress over-load. If you help to manage your stress levels you will be doing your over-all health a huge favour.

Here are some ways to help reduce the effects of stress, and feel stronger and more balanced within yourself:

  • Circadian rhythm alignment - create good daily habits that align with the natural rhythms of nature, particularly sleeping habits, as these have a big impact on the production of the hormone melatonin, which supports healthy mood and wellbeing.
  • Meditation - this gets included in my recommendations so often. Why? Because it is so good for enhancing total well-being. Meditation also helps improve your awareness so that you are more likely to notice that you are stressed and can therefore take steps to reduce your stress levels.
  • Exercise - is helpful for releasing stress and reducing the effects of over-production of stress hormones. When you are stressed, the body is in fight or flight mode (as discussed in Stress - the Silent Killer). If no physical activity is actually undertaken when in this mode, more body fat can be stored, particularly abdominal fat (which is detrimental to good health), because the extra glucose made available to the body via glycogenolysis by the liver during stress response, is not actually being used as an energy source for fight or flight, as is the innate physical intention of this process. Therefore, if regular exercise is done it assists with utilisation of glucose and clearance of stress hormones, and it also improves the production of "feel-good" hormones such as dopamine and serotonin.
  • Take time out for relaxation - some people like the adrenalin that high stress triggers, sometimes even to the point of finding it hard to be able to relax. Finding that balance between the right amount of positive stress and relaxation (see the Stress Curve Graph), is a crucial factor in mitigating the long-term adverse effects of stress.
  • Time management - this can help in preventing stressful situations from occurring. For example, if you know you have to be somewhere at a certain time, or have a work deadline to meet, or an assignment to complete, don't leave it to "the last minute" because it will inevitably create stress. A favourite saying I often use is "preparation is the key to success", not only success in doing a job well but also doing it in an un-stressed manner.
  • Don't sweat the small stuff - try not to overly concern yourself with things that are really quite trivial and just not worth getting annoyed at. Add a little bit of non-chalantness into your approach if you feel yourself getting stressed about the smallest of things; just take a moment to internally ask yourself - "does it really matter in the big scheme of things". More often than not you'll find that the answer is "no", especially if you broaden your perspective of the big scheme of things to a universal perspective.
  • Learn to say "no" - some people really find it hard to say no to things, whether it be out of kindness, an achievement orientated mindset, egoic recognition, self-gratification, or just over-enthusiasm But, if you learn to say no sometimes when you have already "got enough on your plate", you will be doing yourself a huge favour just by lightening your load a little.
  • Avoid over-indulgence of stimulants - during times of high stress or an increased need to perform, people often turn to coffee to help them get into top gear. You may feel that coffee is your little helper when it comes to achieving things, and yes, undeniably it can get you up and rolling if you are lethargic because it triggers a shift into sympathetic nervous system mode (fight or flight mode), but to do this on an on-going daily basis is similar to being stressed on a long term basis, that is, it stimulates overactivation of the sympathetic nervous system, which can deplete you of vitality and energy, rendering your desire for coffee as a pick-me-up to become even greater, sometimes to the point of addiction whereby you feel you cannot function well without it. 
  • Eat a healthy wholefood, sugar-free diet - when you are stressed there can be a greater tendency to reach for sweet simple carbohydrate foods to satisfy the greater energy needs of being in sympathetic nervous system mode, and for convenience, trying to get that instant quick energy fix (a bit like the use of coffee), but this type of eating can also lead to extreme lows in energy after the quick initial energy high abates. This can create perpetuation of this style of eating, basically just getting simple carbohydrates into yourself in order to get out of the energy slump - creating a real energy roller-coaster effect within the body. This can lead to diseases such as obesity and diabetes. It is also important to increase your intake of foods rich in vitamin CB vitamins and magnesium during times of stress. These nutrients not only assist the body's ability to deal with stress and support the adrenal glands, but a diet high in sugar, stimulants and alcohol (some people tend to turn to alcohol more when they are stressed) can deplete you of these valuable nutrients.
  • Utilise adaptogens - these help the body to maintain equilibrium and optimal function, therefore they are highly beneficial for helping you to adapt to what could potentially be a stressful situation that gets blown out of proportion due to poor coping mechanisms which in turn can be due to a lack of all of the aforementioned good lifestyle and dietary habits.
  • Connect with nature - connecting with nature is such a powerful way of de-stressing. Nature helps bring you into the present moment and connects you with the beautifully awesome juxtaposition of motility and stillness all in one... being in nature in a fully conscious, aware state really is a beautiful, highly beneficial form of meditation. Becoming more aware whilst in nature allows you to notice that there are no problems in nature. Problems are only those which are conjured up in the over-active human mind.
Reducing negative stress in your life can be one of the most beneficial things you can do to enhance your total well-being and sense of stability and grounded-ness, enabling you to be so much better equipped to deal with the ups and downs of life more easily. Find the "middle road" (the balance) in your life and your long-term health and happiness will be all the better for it.

A little bit of positive stress can keep you motivated, improve performance and stimulate enthusiasm, whereas too much stress, or negative stress, can be enough to totally de-rail you when you least expect it, especially if there has been multiple consecutive stressful situations or chronic long-term stress.

Remember, stress is like the elephant in the room, unless you become aware of its presence and adapt accordingly, it will inevitably squash you!!!

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