Anxious You’re Getting Burned Out? 4 Strategies To Reclaim Balance

burned out

Many people worry that they’re getting burned out. Too much work, too much life, too little self-care and burnout is around the corner.  But is burnout really what you think it is? For many people, the experience of being burned out is ultimately the result of a messy relationship between the fears that you might be burning out against poor management of day-to-day stress.

The bottom line for most of us is that we have stress. At times more stress than we like. Work, kids, finances, mental health, relationships… they can all weigh you down. But, perhaps instead of lingering in anxiety that you’re getting burned out, the smarter tactic is to investigate what you can do with your anxiety. One thing always in our control is to think of anxiety and stress as  warning signs sending you important messages.

According to Kelly McGonigal’s 2013 TedTalk, how you think about stress is actually more dangerous to your health than the stress itself. If you’re feeling anxious all the time or your thoughts are peppered with nagging worries, your energy is focused on the negative side of stress.

Thinking too much about the negative can be a big part of the problem.

The key to a healthier relationship with stress lies in thinking more positively about all it.  From there, remember your stress can’t hurt you if you pay attention to it, and use it for motivation to problem-solve when it reaches a peek.

But this can be hard to do, and

We feel burned out when stress for so long that it reaches a tipping point, from which it feels hard to come back.

So what can you do? You know you’re stressed. Does that mean burnout is around the corner? Not necessarily so. The solution to preventing burnout is to increase your awareness around how you’re managing stress so you don’t reach the edge.

If you’re anxious about getting burned out, consider these 4 strategies to dig out: 

 

1. Don’t Fight Your Stress

Stress is real. Denying that you’re overworked, tired, in need of some down time, in need of human touch, in need of a break won’t cause those feelings to go away. In fact, by denying that the feelings exist you’re actually giving them power because it takes energy to deny something that is really going on. We can’t just ignore it. If you do, the reaction to the stress will keep showing up, like a messenger, asking you to listen and change something in your life.

The key to managing stress is to look at it. What are you feeling overloaded about? What can you do to make more time for the needs that feel they’re not being met? Can you go to be earlier (even 30 minutes), could you prepare meals ahead of time so you’re less rushed? Could you ask someone to help you? The list of possibilities is endless once you start to consider them, the key is for you to say, “I hear my body/mind/heart and I am willing to try to do something different so the stress is less.”

 

2. Don’t Give Up

There is a lot to be said about “keeping going” even when you feel like quitting. The experience of overcoming a hurdle and teaching your body, mind and heart that you have the stamina to endure is akin to building a muscle. Bodybuilders around the world swear by the wisdom of stressing your muscles by lifting weights to create what’s called “muscular damage”. This is the literal tearing of the muscle so the body’s natural healing response can step in and become stronger.When you train your mind that the stress you endure daily is causing you to grow into a stronger, healthier version of yourself, stress can become something to learn from. In moderation, it’s literally pushing you to become a better version of yourself just as a muscle healing is growing stronger.The other thing to consider is that muscles can’t grow without undergoing muscular damage. The stress on the muscle is required to inspire the body’s natural immunity to kick in. It’s as if a part of the body doesn’t function until the stress is experienced. So the next time you feel like quitting because it’s too much, ask yourself what the stress is telling you? What is it inspiring in you that you may never have thought of before?

 

3. When You Think You Have Nothing More To Give, Stop Giving

In the same way that muscle tearing is required for growth, muscles cannot grow without rest. They need time off in-between workouts for the healing described above to take place. This is the body’s natural way of calling a “time out” and we all need them from time to time.If you’re feeling depleted, exhausted or simply worn out, the answer isn’t to do more. The answer is to listen to those feelings and work on carving out time to rest. To do less. To ask for help, delegate or simply say “no” to obligations or tasks that are not required. Everyone has to confront their personal boundaries eventually. You can’t do it all and when the sensation that you’re “at the edge” is looming, it’s your body/mind’s way of telling you to stop.The things to do now is to listen. Your stress is talking and very clearly telling you that a tipping point is near. Instead of falling into a panic, think positively about those feelings because they are giving you advanced warning that you need a break.

In those moments, consider doing the following: sleep more, eat healthier foods, drink less alcohol or caffeine, take breaks whenever you can, turn off technology, say no to unnecessary tasks, spend some time in nature (even a short walk can help) and ask your loved ones for help. Remember, you don’t have to do it all. You may need to manage getting everything done, but you don’t have to be the one to do it.

 

4. Your Thoughts Have Power- If You Believe You’re Incapable, You Will Be Incapable

There is nothing more powerful that the words running around in your head. If you grumble or talk negatively towards yourself about your performance, how you manage your life, relationships, finances or anything else that brings you concern, there is a direct correlation to what you believe about yourself and your capabilities. Scientifically speaking, when you experience stress, the belief that the stress is either positive or negative can actually affect certain parts of your DNA. Studies show that when the perception of stressful events are overwhelming negative, it can cause a shortening of a particular kind of DNA sequence that caps/protects the ends of your chromosomes.If you think of these sequences like the plastic caps on the end of your shoe laces, when the plastic is gone, the laces fray. This symbolic fraying has been correlated to experiences of perceived negative stress and the outcome is literally a shorter life. What’s important here is the word perceived. That should give you hope, because if you can reframe how you think about your stress, it can have less of an impact on your health. And that is a very good thing.

 

So whether you’re a died-in-the-wool believer in the scientific connection between the mind and the body or not, this research shows that there’s enough of a connection to give some serious consideration to reframing how you think about stress. In other words, finding a positive way to reframe your stress can help elongate your life.

Avoiding burnout requires new thinking about stress. When you find yourself feeling burned out, use your worry to zero in on your stress. What can you do to change your stressors, your relationship to stress, or your coping skills?

When you treat your anxiety like internal messengers waving a white flag, you can tap into its meaning and what you can do to build a stronger, and healthier, relationship with your life. It becomes harder to feel burned out as you reclaim balance and self care.

When we spend more time focusing on staying healthy instead of ignoring (or failing to take care of) the causes of our stress, we feel empowered, and less weighed down. And this is the best way to protect ourselves from burn out.

 

Looking for more help with balancing anxiety? Check out my book, Hack Your Anxiety, sign-up for my free mini-ecourse to help you hack anxiety’s most common challenges, or subscribe to my newsletter.

 

Alicia H. Clark, PsyD

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