Let’s define stress
Understanding where stress comes from is one of the first steps to learning how to reduce stress. Stress is essentially a survival mechanism built into our DNA. In general, in has a good purpose: it tells us when a situation is dangerous so that we can take protective action. The classic example is that if you encountered a bear in the woods, you would feel stressed! But that stress would help you, because it would motivate you to either run away from the bear, or fight the bear. This is known as the “fight or flight” response.
The problem is that our DNA doesn’t yet know that we are not living in the woods with bears, so our body interprets anything from being stuck in traffic to a deadline at work in the same way it interprets the danger from a bear. That’s not very good because it keeps us in a constant state of “fight or flight” and overtaxes our adrenal system.
So, in essence would could define stress as a state of mental or emotional strain that has physical consequences.
Stress symptoms include:
- Irritability or Moodiness
- Memory and Concentration Problems
- Poor Judgement
- Anxiety and Worry
- Physical Aches and Pains
- Stomach Problems
- Loss of Sex Drive
- Frequent Colds
- Feeling Overwhelmed
- Depression or Unhappiness
- Changes in Eating Habits
- Using Substances to Relax
- Procrastination or Avoidance of Tasks
Stress and Burnout
Left untreated, stress can develop into burnout, which is a more serious condition. One of the major differences between stress and burnout is that with stress you feel tense; with burnout, you feel disconnected. Burnout can include some of the same symptoms of stress, but also tends to include the following Burnout Symptoms:
- Feeling apathetic and cynical, particularly at work
- Lack of energy
- Feeling no satisfaction with work or life
- Feeling disillusioned about your job
- Frequent headaches or backaches
3 Tips for Stress Relief
To prevent burnout, it’s important to use some good stress management techniques at the first signs of stress. Here are 3 tips for stress relief:
1) Disconnect to change your perspective. Take a day (or more!) off from work. At one of my previous jobs, we used to call it a “mental health day”. On that day, turn of your phone and go do something that is immensely relaxing to you, be it a round of golf or a day at the spa.
2) Engage your body. Just as your body has the ability to create stress, it also has the ability to relive stress. Good examples of that are going for a run or workout at the gym, taking a yoga class, getting a massage.
3) Give up something. At the end of your “mental health day” resolve to give up one area of responsibility in your life. Give up one project, or decide that it’s OK if the house isn’t in perfect order, delegate something at work, etc.
By paying attention to the stress symptoms you might be experiencing, and taking steps to learn how to reduce stress, you are well on your way to preventing burnout!