Tuesday, January 11, 2011

NEWS: Ways to Reduce Stress and Avoid Burnout

Refueling Your Engine: Strategies to Reduce Stress and Avoid Burnout
Published on January 10, 2011 @ Psychology Today

My last post, Running on Empty, described symptoms that, if present, suggest you might be on the road to burnout. If you found yourself identifying with a lot of those symptoms, it's normal to feel upset.

it's important to know the signs to look for, the warning lights that signal burnout.
  • Physical signs, such as chest pain, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, stomach pain, sleep problems, frequent headaches, chronic fatigue, gynecological problems, and/or increased illness.
  • Psychological signs, such as loss of enjoyment for activities once enjoyed; sadness; excessive anxiety or worry; panic attacks; feeling trapped without options for relief or escape; loss of motivation; loss of concentration; emotional hypersensitivity at seemingly inconsequential things; feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, or pessimism; and/or increasing feelings of irritability, frustration, or anger
  • Behavioral signs, such as skipping meals; little or no appetite or overeating; increase in alcohol or drug use; increased absenteeism; drop in productivity; many uncompleted projects despite long work hours; and/or isolative behaviors, such as wanting to be alone, closing doors to prevent others from access, being generally inaccessible, eating lunch alone, or being a poor team player
If you're not experiencing any of these problems, that's great news! But keep these warning signs in the back of your mind. Burnout is an insidious creature that creeps up on you when you're busy living your life.

But the important thing to keep in mind is that you are still the same person you were when you entered the race. Your drive, your enthusiasm, your passion, and your energy may have gotten buried under the weight of the stress you've been carrying around, but those qualities and all the other good ones are still inside you. You just need to find ways to reach inside and find the sparks that first ignited your engine so that you can climb back into the driver's seat and reenter the race.

Here are a few suggestions that can help you get back up to speed:

Don't Ignore Basic Maintenance

In the game of life, there are a few basic rules you must follow if you want to survive. Of course, as in any game, you can bend the rules, cheat a little. But in the end, whether you like it or not, if you want to live, you have to find a way to work these things into your life.

Rule 1. You have to sleep.
Rule 2. You have to eat.
Rule 3. You have to drink.
(Of course, breathing is in there, too. But if you're that far gone, you're probably not reading this blog.)

The problem is that high octane women tend to cheat--a lot-- in the basic maintenance game. Sure, you sleep, but probably not enough. You eat, but usually not very well. And you drink, but likely not enough of the right stuff (and, in some cases, maybe too much of the wrong stuff). In the end, though, you're only cheating yourself. The solution is simple: sleep as much as possible, don't skip meals, eat healthy, and drink a lot of water. You'll be amazed at how much better you'll feel once you start incorporating a healthy dose of all three into your routine.

Remember When ...

Busy schedules have an interesting way of making you forget the things that you once found relaxing. In fact, many high octane women have drifted so far away from anything resembling relaxation that they have a hard time remembering what they used to do to relax. My advice? Try harder! At some point in your life, even if you have to go way back, I'm sure you've done something that you found relaxing. Resurrect those memories and find ways to incorporate those things back into your life.

Just Say No

If you're like most high-achievers, you're probably used to doing everything you're asked to do and doing it well, but each time you add a new commitment or responsibility to your plate, you're adding stress into your life. So try something new. Resist the urge. Just say no.


Yeah, right! Who has time for it? You do actually. Exercise is a great stress reducer, and even if you can't find time for a complete exercise routine, you can still incorporate exercise into your daily routine. How? Take a brisk ten-minute walk during your lunch hour. Park your car far from your building so you have to walk more. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Want something a bit more creative? Keep light-weight dumbbells on the passenger seat of your car, and when you're stuck in traffic or stopped at a traffic light, do a quick arm workout while you're waiting. Do you work at a desk? Try rolling your wrists, ankles, neck, and shoulders while you're sitting there or stretch your muscles by turning your torso from side to side. Another good seated exercise is calf raises. So no more excuses. Get going!

Bring in the Positive, Throw Out the Negative

Positive people have a lot of energy, and their energy and enthusiasm tend to lift the spirits of those around them. Negative people tend to have the opposite effect; they drag you down. So a great way to reduce stress in your life is to hang out with as many positive people as possible and move out as many negative people as possible.

Inside and Outside the Box Stress Management Strategies

Of course, the "tried and the true" ways to manage stress include guided imagery, progressive muscle relaxation, deep breathing exercises, reframing negative thoughts into positive, meditation, yoga, warm baths, and massage. But if you're like many high octane women, traditional stress management strategies may not be your cup of tea. And that's okay. No one (other than you) should be defining what is relaxing. You need to find what works for you, and sometimes that requires thinking outside of the box.

In closing, the most important thing to remember is that while there are many ways to reduce stress, the key to effective stress management is rarely someone that tells you what to do to relax or how to find "balance." The key is discovering your own "program," one that works for you and your lifestyle, and making the commitment to incorporate it into your life. Once you do, you'll find yourself leaving the dangerous track--the one that leads to burnout--and crossing over to a safer and healthier road where you can rediscover your passion.