Stress and burnout: very frequently those two go hand in hand. If you are constantly exposed to a lot of stress that will eventually lead you to burnout. But will it? Burnout only seems like an unavoidable consequence of stress, yet it is not always the case. What is crucial is not how much stress there is in your life, but rather how good you are at managing this stress.
There are several steps or attention points which can significantly improve your stress-managing abilities. To begin with,
- Whatever it is – don’t add to it! Stressful situations occur. Unpleasant emotions, difficult conversations, weight of responsibility, things going wrong, you name it! If you start adding your frustration or even worse – your regrets – to all that, you are only enhancing the level of stress. Easier said than done; I know. What you can do to make it easier on yourself is something I am telling everybody all the time: write it down! (I even wrote a separate article on that topic – click here) Things look easier on paper, trust me.
- Say “no” to what you don’t need in your life. It can be too much of unnecessary or useless information (mainly political and/or gossip information here…), too much of emotional input from some people (yes, some people have a tendency to just “flood” you with their negative emotions, but you are not a dustbin, are you?), just too much of… whatever! Everything is OK in moderation.
- Related to the previous point, and actually in order to be able to do the previous point, you need to know yourself and your limits. This is where it all starts. There was an interesting study by Kandi Wiens and Annie McKee about medical professionals. What the researchers discovered was that even medical professionals constantly exposed to extreme level of stress are able to deal with it without burnout if they have a high level of self-awareness.
- What also helps is a bit of an outside view on your own situation. (Once again – write, write, write!) For whatever mess you find yourself in, ask a question if that is a real existential threat or just a problem that needs to be solved in this or that way? And then the buddhist approach: if it can be solved – why worry? if it can’t be solved – why worry?
- Furthermore (and this is of course a buzzword nowadays) – mindfulness. Try being aware, being in the moment, just pausing. From time to time stop and ask yourself a question: “How am I doing?” Just try to feel your body, your mind, your emotions. Which emotions am I feeling? What do I see, smell, touch now? It can be as silly as – How does this sandwich taste? (Did you actually ever try mindfully eating your sandwich, trying to decipher the taste combination, feeling the crunchiness of bread and a salad leaf?…). What does this have to do with managing stress? Mindfulness trains resilience. That’s something confirmed on numerous counts. But even if you’re sceptical, don’t knock it until you’ve tried it!
- And finally, never ever wait until your internal energy is drained! Replenish it as soon as you get to your “socket”, whatever that “socket” might be. You might want to read about how to do it in one of my older articles – I’ve got the power: My 5 main secrets to staying energetic
To conclude: know thyself, protect thyself, don’t be the source of your own stress, be mindful, solve problems when they appear and take care of your internal energy.
In that way even with lots of stress you will escape burnout.