Stress and Burnout

» Posted in Family Life, Marriage and Relationships, Mental Health, Personal Growth | 0 comments

stress

I have to confess that I’ve been struggling with guilt over the last few weeks because I’ve let some of my responsibilities slide.  You’ve ever had days like that – a blur of busyness so intense you can hardly think straight?

Like a drumbeat in my head, go, go go – the taskmaster in my head that doesn’t seem to let up.  There’s always more to do.  And because that darn people pleaser in me has a hard time saying no, I pile more and more responsibilities on my plate.  So I end up feeling like no matter how hard I work, things keep slipping between the cracks.  And I can’t keep up.  You ever feel that way?

How about these symptoms:

  • sleepless nights tossing and turning
  • feeling tired but wired, unable to relax
  • no time to exercise and no energy to even try
  • eating on the run and binging on junkfood or caffeine to keep going
  • brain feeling fuzzy, memory lapses becoming more frequent
  • ruminating thoughts that don’t seem to stop
  • irritable mood and a joyless spirit
  • emotional numbness and/or mood swings
  • anxiety or depression symptoms
  • unexplained physical symptoms
  • frequent colds, allergy symptoms or recurring illnesses

If you’re experiencing some or most of these symptoms, beware:  you may be well on the way to suffering from adrenal fatigue, a common result of unrelenting stress and a unhealthy lifestyle.  In case you’re still not sure, try taking this quiz.

Got your attention yet?

Stress is now becoming one of the number one killers in North America today.  We all know that, I think.  We’ve certainly all heard the warnings and likely most of us know at least one person who died prematurely due to stress-related diseases.  Many of us are now living at an unsustainable pace but we don’t know how to stop.

The vast number of people who are experiencing adrenal fatigue but do nothing about it is astounding.  Every day, I meet people who are stressed out but figure that they have no choice but to live under the tyranny of stress in their lives.  Sure life is out of control, but what can they do?

I have kids as young as 6 coming into my office suffering from stress symptoms.  Families suffer, marriages break down and kids fail out of school because of stress.  Corporations lose billions of dollars each year due to stress-related illnesses.  It costs all of us. And yet, many people still express surprise when I tell them that they’re suffering from adrenal fatigue.

And they definitely don’t have the motivation to do the hard work of repairing their bodies, minds and emotions. They just want me to fix their spouses, or their kids or help them cope with their toxic work situation.  They don’t have time to change their lifestyle or slow down.  Because they don’t realize how serious this is.  And how deadly.

OK, so I can preach it but I have to admit it’s hard to practice it.  Me – I’m a recovering burn-out victim.  Years of living beyond what my body was designed to endure, carrying the weight of the world on my shoulders.  I still struggle today to manage my stress. But what I’ve learned is this:

You MUST fix your sleep and nutrition.  If your body isn’t getting the proper fuel, it will break down.  Don’t ignore this!  (I speak more about this in a previous blog). One of the smartest things I ever did was consult a naturopathic doctor who specialized in adrenal fatigue.  She helped me get my sleep and nutrition back on track, as well as my hormonal system.  No, naturopaths are not quacks – they can be a fantastic part of your health care team because they look at the underlying causes of disease, not just an isolated set of symptoms.   They combine modern science with functional medicine to help your body heal itself.

You have to learn to say NO.  Remember, when you say no to someone or something, you’re saying YES to yourself and your health.  I did that for myself recently, on the encouragement of a friend.  I was feeling guilty for not blogging over the last few weeks and she gently reminded me that it was okay to say no to this task.  She encouraged me to listen to my body and rest, rather than drive myself crazy trying to fulfill all my “shoulds”.  Think about all the things you tell yourself that you “should” do, and ask yourself what is really driving you.  Really, the world won’t fall apart if you choose to set that task aside.

Take the time to identify your values and priorities and choose to live by them.  Another great thing I did for myself was meet with a life coach,  who helped me understand what was truly important to me and what I needed to cut out from my life. Focus on what’s vital in your life and let go of the less important things.  What are your top 4 or 5 values?  What are you carrying or doing in your life that isn’t consistent with your values?  You will note how draining and negative those activities or situations will be. When you make decisions now, filter them through your values and priorities before deciding whether you will take something on.

Be ruthless in creating a daily schedule that is sustainable for you, and then stick to it. And do it backwards to the way you would normally do it.  FIRST, schedule in regular times of things that fill your tank: rest, exercise, fun and relaxation, time with family or friends, leisure activities.  THEN fill in what’s left of your schedule with your tasks.  If your schedule gets too busy or you’re too tired, drop your tasks first, NOT your times of rest and self-care.  Those should remain non-negotiable.

Surround yourself with people who fill your tank.  Find people who will cheer you on, believe in you, help you laugh – people who are a POSITIVE influence in your life.  Invest in these life-giving relationships and make them a priority.  We are all wired to be in relationship.  Connection is life.  Don’t get so busy that you let your friendships slide.  If you’re married, nurture your marriage – and if your marriage is broken, invest the energy to re-build and make some healthy changes in this vital relationship.  Any toxic relationships in your life?  Consider whether you need to let them go, set better boundaries or work to reconcile.  And get help if you need it!  YOU are worth it!

Learn to do nothing.  When was the last time you did nothing other than putter around?  Put your feet up?  Our mind and bodies need down time on a regular basis – time to do nothing but just rest.  Many people come into my office and tell me they can’t relax.  Their bodies are so geared towards adrenaline-driven activities that they don’t know how to slow down.  They literally can’t shut down their minds and they feel jittery and anxious if they are still.  Does that sound like you?  If this is you, I urge you – get some help before it’s too late!  Otherwise you’re heading down a road that will only lead to big problems.

Practice the art of savouringSee life as a gift, and chose to be thankful and notice the good.  I speak a lot more about this in a previous blog so I would encourage you to review it and choose savouring as a lifelong perspective.  Research clearly shows the power of focusing on the good things in our life, and hey, isn’t that Biblical?  “Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies.” (Philippians 4:8, 9 MSG)

Lastly, but most important of all:  Cultivate your spiritual life.  You were created to be in close communion with your Father.  Spend time with God, resting in him, seeking him out.  Listen to what he has to say to you.  Hear your Father’s heart for you as his beloved.  Learn to find God everywhere – in the scriptures, in the hug from a friend, in the sunset, or in the smile from your baby.  He is the source of your joy, peace and love.  Trust me, you were created to be most fulfilled and content with God at the centre of your life.

Listen to what God has to say to you:

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” (Matthew 11:28-30 MSG)

 

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