Stress. We all experience life’s ups and downs, yet there comes a time when life packs a punch that never seems to end. Burnout is a result of chronic stress and can be identified when mounting stress and responsibilities take a serious toll on your body and brain. Fatigue is a big indicator, and an overall loss in productivity and clarity. While I don’t have a Ph.D. in psychology, I have obtained several gold stars in the stress arena over the last 10 years: relocations, bankruptcy, multiple health problems, death of dear family members, job loss, steps from homelessness and my husband being rear-ended by a distracted driver. Add on the regular stress of life like child-rearing, work, housekeeping, purchasing/selling homes and maintaining relationships and I have officially been appointed, Elizabeth, the Queen of Chronic Stress.
Known as a fight-or-flight response, your heart rate increases, senses are heightened, and a rush of adrenaline occurs throughout the body during stress. Next, a hormone called cortisol takes over to beef up the parts of the body that need to cope with the pressure (like glucose in the blood for immediate energy and muscle repair or to suppress unnecessary functions like the digestive system). After the stress is over, the body is hardwired to return to normal cortisol levels.
However, what if the stress never ends?
Prolonged stress means the body is flooded with cortisol all the time and eventually, the body can’t take it anymore. Hence, burnout – or hypocortisolism. This crash of cortisol production translates to exhaustion, digestive problems, overall numbness, memory problems, lack of creativity and a host of other possible symptoms including anxiety and depression.
So, what’s a girl to do?
Remember, there is always time for a lifestyle change like exercising and eating healthy and tapping into your spiritual self. Right now, you’re simply focusing on survival and repairing your broken being. Little steps, my friends.
Here are five easy remedies to help with burnout:
1. Go to bed early for at least a week. No binge watching "Stranger Things" on Netflix until 2 a.m. – go to bed.
2. Set some boundaries. Start saying no to all those extra tasks on your list. You can still be a wonderful person and decline requests. In fact, put on paper all the things you need to do and look at it with scrutiny, crossing off all the items that do not need immediate attention. Announce to close friends and family that you are overwhelmed and you need their help – which could be as easy as no text messages after 8 p.m.
3. Pray before you get out of bed in the morning. It doesn’t matter if you believe in a higher power or not, a little self-reflection before your feet hit the ground for the day works wonders for morale. However, don’t get caught up in your to-do list, instead, make a mental gratitude list for things in your life that you’re thankful for – and breathe.
4. Don’t try anything new for the moment. Your brain needs some recovery time. Reaching burnout stage is not the time to remodel your kitchen or go on a crazy house cleaning binge. All you need right now is stability.
5. Find a healthy coping mechanism. I’m an emotional eater, it doesn’t matter if I’m happy or stressed. This proves to be a problem when I can’t zip up my pants. No need for a massage (although if your budget allows for a spa appointment, go for it), start with breathing. Retreat to a quiet place and just breathe. Inhale for five seconds and exhale for five seconds. Need something to do with your hands? Coloring and knitting are known to have a magnificent de-stressing effect.
Have you experienced burnout? If so, how do you de-stress?
Smitten with domestic life but not to the point of unhealthy obsession, “The Modern Domestic Woman” author and St. Charles resident, Elizabeth Rago, is a freelance writer. You can visit her blog at thecircularhome.com or connect with Rago on Facebook at facebook.com/TheModernDomesticWoman. Feedback can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.