How to deal with stress and avoid burnout

How to deal with stress and avoid burnout

Published on 30th March, 2021 at 05:22 pm

Not dealing with your stress levels comes with consequences. Here’s how to avoid burnout and get your life back into balance.

Everyone deals with varying levels of stress on a fairly regular basis. Some people deal with it every day! Not all stress, however, is negative. It’s the bad variety – distress – that can be cause for concern.

“Stress is a normal part of life, and without it we would not be able to function,” explains Luzelle Fish, counsellor and life coach at holistic wellness centre, Integration House. “But bad stress, such as working or living in a toxic environment or constantly trying to please a demanding manager, can lead to chronic stress. This, in turn, can lead to a condition known as burnout, which can have a negative impact on your physical and mental wellbeing.”

What is burnout?

Not too long ago, burnout was just a corporate buzzword. But, in 2019, the World Health Organization (WHO) classified it as a legitimate syndrome brought on by ongoing workplace stress. Fish agrees and adds that “extended periods of excessive stress can lead to feelings of apathy, detachment, pessimism and feeling mentally and physically drained.”

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It’s not just temporary feelings of discomfort that you need to worry about. Acute, long-term stress can lead to mental illness, such as depression, anxiety or substance abuse, as well as physical conditions, such as inflammation in the circulatory system, hypertension and heart problems. This is why it’s so important to get your stress levels under control.

The psychology of burnout

Many people feel that if they aren’t burned out, they aren’t doing enough, indicating a close link to perfectionism. “Young employees often start out wanting to prove themselves and work long hours, but perfection is an unattainable goal,” says Fish. “When this eventually starts to take its toll, they often do not know how to work differently or put boundaries in place.” The good news is that there is now more awareness regarding the importance of employees’ mental wellbeing. “Many big companies subscribe to wellness programmes that grant employees and their dependents access to free resources, such as counselling and health checks, as well as legal and financial assistance.”

Identifying and treating burnout

Unlike signs of stress, which tend to dissipate after a stressful event, the effects of burnout are more severe and last longer. Common symptoms include:
● Little to no motivation
● Pessimistic attitude
● Extreme mental, physical and emotional exhaustion
● Loss of purpose and feelings of hopelessness or emptiness
● Inability to meet obligations

If you, or anyone you know, is experiencing these symptoms, seeking help is crucial. “Burnout is a serious condition, and, in most cases, professional assistance is needed for a full recovery,” explains Fish. Support your burned-out loved ones by:
● Asking them how they would like to be supported
● Listening without judging or hijacking the conversation
● Encouraging your friend to get help from a professional
● Not taking it on yourself to fix the problem

Stress-busting tips

When it comes to avoiding burnout, it’s all about prevention. Here are Fish’s top tips for keeping your stress levels under control.
1. Take regular short breaks during the day, even if just for two minutes. “Get up if you have been sitting for a long time and do a couple of stretches to get your blood flowing.”
2. Controlled breathing exercises can help to move your brain out of an anxious survival state. “Take a couple of deep breaths through your nose and breathe slowly through your mouth.”
3. Avoid multitasking and focus on one thing at a time. “Get difficult tasks done first thing in the morning. Time-blocking will also help with time management.”
4. Your brain consumes a lot of energy and needs to be refuelled regularly. “Keep some nuts, seeds and other healthy snacks at your desk.”
5. Go easy on yourself. “Develop positive self-talk that is more compassionate and less self-critical.”
6. Make time for your nearest and dearest. “Fostering deep connections with loved ones, friends and family will provide you with a solid support network.”
7. Make time for physical activity, which has brain-boosting benefits. “Prioritise some sort of movement that you enjoy, such as dancing, yoga, gym or a brisk walk.”

Are you nearing burnout and need the assistance of a medical professional? As a Sanlam Reality member (excluding Reality Access for Fedhealth), you have access to a 24-hour counselling and a medical hotline with your Trauma, Assault & HIV Assist benefit. Call 0860 00 7325 to get help today.

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