Updated: Oct 12
I was spurred into writing this article after chatting with a good friend and client as she described her stress burn out that happens every 6 months or so, and perhaps you can relate in your own way?
My friend found approximately twice a year her energy was simply zapped and she was left feeling listless, tired and physically and mentally drained. She usually ended up having to take 2 – 3 days to completely rest, and had no choice but to cut herself off from her busy schedule and family life and focus on her own needs, which was usually just quiet time, rest and sleep.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with this. She did what she had to, to recover from complete exhaustion. What interested me about this, was that when asked her if she could feel it coming on, or if there were any early warning signs, she said she did, but felt she couldn’t stop at the time, so just ignored it and pushed on.
This isn’t an unusual behavior, we often hold the belief that we can manage, despite the tiredness, or believe we should keep going because there is so much to do, and we are the only ones who can do it.
My friend acted in the best way she could when she reached the burn out phase. But as she admitted, there were signs along the way that she needed to rest more. And it’s for each of us to determine in our own life, is it better to take a little time each week, or even each day for our own self care? Or do we wait until burn out forces us to stop and rest?
Is the prevention better than the cure? In my opinion yes!
When it comes to regular self care, it will always be the better option.
Our own self care comes in many forms, it might be meditation, yoga or some sort of fitness or maybe even just reading a good book for 10 minutes at a time that seems a luxury. It might be taking a long bath, a quiet walk, listening to music or something else entirely. When we listen to what our mind and body truly need and honour it, we reduce the likelihood of reaching the burn out phase.
But it's not just physical actions that make self care important, it's also the emotional ones, or even cognitive ones, such as changing our routine or priorities for more balance in life.
Self care can be saying no, when you need to, forgiving yourself and even accepting help when it's offered.
Its worth understanding that Stress is a normal physical response to events that make you feel threatened or upset your balance in some way.
When you sense danger, whether it’s real or imagined, the body's defences kick into high gear in a rapid, automatic process known as the “fight-or-flight-or-freeze” reaction, or the stress response.
The stress response is the body’s way of protecting you and when working properly, it helps you stay focused, energetic, and alert.
In emergency situations, stress can save your life, it might give you extra strength to defend yourself, for example, or spur you to slam on the brakes to avoid an accident.
The stress response also helps you rise to meet challenges. Stress is what keeps you on your toes during a presentation at work, sharpens your concentration and drives you to study for an exam when you'd rather be watching TV.
But beyond a certain point, stress stops being helpful and starts causing major damage to your health, your mood, your productivity, your relationships, and your quality of life.
There may be times when you feel the stress in your life is out of your control, but you can always control the way you respond. Managing stress is all about taking charge!
Taking charge of your thoughts, your emotions, your schedule, your environment, and the way you deal with problems. Stress management involves changing the stressful situation when you can, changing your reaction when you can’t, taking care of yourself, and making time for rest and relaxation.
Think of it like this, we look after our teeth by brushing them with tooth paste twice a day, we might change our hair style several times a year to freshen it up. But what about our mind? It also needs maintenance to keep us ticking over in a positive way.
When do you give your thoughts, feelings and emotions the care, love and attention they need so that they too can be maintained?
However you choose to look after yourself, (and I say choose, because it absolutely is a choice and the responsibility is down to you) it’s worth taking time to recognise when it’s time to take action and look after yourself a little more. Waiting for burn out to happen causes unnecessary damage to our health, so it’s worth knowing what your early warning signs of stress and be prepared.
Below is an exert from my Stress Less workshop handout and it covers just some of the different kind of symptoms that people may experience.
It's likely you can relate to a variety of symptoms, and this list is certainly not exhaustive! You might even have something you want me to add to the list and you can get in touch.
But whether you feel stuck in your thoughts with many Cognitive Symptoms, or find yourself over emotional, perhaps physically unwell or catch yourself acting differently with changes in your behaviour, recognize that these early warning signs are your bodies way of asking you to take some time out now. So please be kind to yourself, look after yourself to the best of your abilities, and enjoy the life you have right now.
Love & Light Jennifer x
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