My family were telling me that I was stressed, but I didn’t believe I was.   I wasn’t falling in a heap or having a heart attack, I wasn’t bursting into tears. Yet it was my workplace that was getting the best of me and at home, the people I cared about, were getting the worst.

My family nickname was “Hurricane Mum”, I was impatient, irritable and always tired.  I’d unravel very, very quickly.

I started to realise that stress may well be an issue for me that I had ignored and that I could be on a path to Burnout. It was at this point I studied with the Stress Management Institute.

Burnout can manifest as

  • memory loss,
  • lack of interest,
  • less inspired by profession,
  • breakdown in relationships,
  • adrenal fatigue,
  • insomnia,
  • severely compromised immune system,
  • compassion fatigue,
  • lack of feeling or positivity,
  • exhaustion,
  • cognitive deterioration – concentration (e.g can’t read, only scan),
  • Breakdown: crying, unable to process.

Addicted to Stress

People will typically feel absolute exhaustion and depleted of all resource.   Other’s like me, may start out being addicted to stress. They are high achievers, perfectionists and may well feed of the buzz of adrenlanin that is triggered by the stress hormone, cortisol. They need constant stimulation.

I’m the sort of person that loves solving problems and finding solutions, so I want to be stimulated all the time. I like to put myself in those situations so I’m a bit of a stressed addict.

It means the benchmark of what is acceptable level of stress, moves.  Functioning with a constant high level of stress becomes the new normal.

When You Finally Snap – Somethings Got To Give

I remember reading a story about a Corporate CEO, working for a large corporation. The stakes were really high and he was just applauded for how he was able to drag this company through really, really difficult and stressful time.  It was considered quite remarkable for his ability  to hold everything together, navigating the complex stormy waters for this corporation. Not long after that he was arrested for violently attacking a taxi driver. He found himself in a position where he could let his guard down, the public face had the best of him, the taxi driver got what was left and by this stage, it was a thin thread.

When we reach Burnout, something will snap. It is usually our physical health or our mental health

What Triggers Your Stress

Being very clear on your stress triggers is key.   We each experience stress in different ways, what is stressful for one person is not stressful for another.   One of the four classifications, defined by Hans Selye is Overstress.  This is when we’re pushing ourselves beyond our limit. It’s okay to occasionally do that in short bursts. We’ve all done it when we’ve had to push ourselves to stay up late and get through something, forcing ourselves to do a presentation at work, we push ourselves beyond our limit. However, if we do that too often, then we’re having an overproduction of cortisol in our system.

Lack of Sleep

Another one is staying up too late, too often and not getting enough sleep. Sleep is incredibly important for our wellbeing. It’s only when we get REM sleep that our cells will regenerate.  Sleep is also vital for our brain to reset and offload.  Overstress will often cause diminished sleep.

Situational Stress and Compassion fatigue

If you are a working mother, or a person who is in a job where you are constantly available to people, or serving people, you can experience compassion fatigue.  Where you can no longer put out emotional energy to people around you and start to feel emotionally void.  This is one of the most common trait for those experiencing burnout

Preventing Burnout

Stress is accumulative. The cortisol hormone can slowly and gradually accumulate in our body, sometimes causing adrenal fatigue.  However, we can counteract this, by also pumping our system with feel good hormones that can slow down the production of cortisol.

Set an alarm on your phone or watch for when you need to stop work at night and stop the stimulus.  Incorporate walking, swimming and outdoor exercise into your weekly routine to trigger dopamines.  Another dopamine trigger is smiling.  Hugging, touching, kissing,  or just connecting with people and pets will trigger the production of oxytocin, the most powerful positive stress response hormone. Breathe deeply and yawn.  When you do this your diaphragm a is going to massage your Vegas nerve that sends signals to vital organs (as well as triggering dopamines).

Eliminate Blue Light.  Believe it or not, sunlight is naturally blue in colour temperature.  Our eyes are clever and adjust so we don’t differentiate it from other light.  Melatonin, the sleeping hormone, is only triggered when our eyes are no longer receiving blue light. Melatonin prepares our body for REM sleep. Mobile phones, bower puttons, TV’s, all emit blue light.  Experts recommend stopping all blue light at least two hours before bed.

Schedule health time into your calendar. Whether it be for regular health checks, gym or a massage. Make time for it in your schedule.

If you are concerned about your stress levels, book a time for a chat  click here.

Significant events in our life can cause great stress. Research has shown that the more events you have in your life, the more at risk you are of serious health issues.  Take this stress test to find out if you are at risk.

About the Author:

Barbara Clifford (The Time Tamer) is a Time Management Strategist & Stress Management Practitioner based in Alice Springs, Australia. She has spent over 20 years working in time precious and stressful industries such as film, hospitality and marketing. She has always had a burning passion for creating order and making sense of things. She is sought after like a beacon in a sea of chaos to provide professional development in the business environment through workshop training, coaching, mentoring, online training programs, webinars and as a guest speaker around Australia. Her professional experience has included contracts with small business, Not For Profits, Aboriginal Organisations, Media, Marketing, Aged Care, Universities, Health Services and Cruise Ships.