Whether or not you love your job, school or relations; everything comes with a set of responsibilities. We have all felt overwhelmed at certain points in our lives. We all know the feeling of “exhaustion” or being at the brink of “burnout”. I will never forget the look on the faces of some parents (I probably look the same way on certain days) dropping off their kids to day-care: A child in hand, one in the stroller and the weight of work and life on their shoulders. They look like their heads will explode! But, they are still there, every day, day after day, always (almost) on time, always beaming when their child kisses them good-bye. Despite the stress, they keep going–the definition of resilience.
This observation led me to look into stress and how to handle it.
Stress is defined as the psychological result of conditions in an individual’s environment that are significantly more taxing than the coping resources available to him or her. We might get particularly vulnerable if there is considerable threat perceived as the consequence of inadequate handling of problems. Let’s consider an example: Work is getting busier, life is getting in the way and catching up seems impossible! The last straw? Your boss reminds you that the deadline for the project which your next bonus depends on is due tomorrow!! The result? You guessed it – STRESS!!
“Stress”, per-se is not a disorder, however, excessive stress can have psychological repercussions ranging from exhaustion and burnout to as severe as post-traumatic stress disorder, depending on the context and extent.
Burnout is a progressively developed condition resulting from the use of ineffective coping strategies with which professionals try to protect themselves from work-related stress situations. There are three main components of Burnout- exhaustion, cynicism and inefficiency.
Exhaustion is the feeling of not being able to offer any more of oneself at work; cynicism represents a distant attitude towards work, those served by it and colleagues; inefficacy is the feeling of not performing tasks adequately. Burnout reflects a lack of harmony between the employee and his/her workplace ,
Burnout leads to negative emotions and behaviors towards work and may lead to negativity towards coworkers and an individual’s professional role . It has been said that some internal states, such as guilt, cause a predisposition to suffering from burnout .
Excessive stress can lead to a number of physical ailments including hypertension, hyperlipidemia (and resulting cardiovascular disease), diabetes, irritable bowel syndrome, asthma, pain, depression, and anxiety.
As an opposite to burnout, engagement has been described by the dimensions of ‘vigor’, ‘dedication’ and ‘absorption’, reflecting a positive and fulfilling work-related state of mind, in which workers show a great deal of energy, participation, and a sense of ability to cope with workplace requirements .
Coping, is defined as cognitive and behavioral efforts to manage stress. There are many different ways people cope.
Some not so helpful (or downright harmful) ways to cope include:
- Procrastination is a common way we deal with stress. It’s nothing else but avoidance of anxiety. Guess what, when the day comes closer, the problem has snowballed and now you really are in trouble!
- Using drugs and alcohol to cope with stress. Needless to say, this is not only avoiding the problem at hand, but adding a ton more to the list!
Now let’s go over some tried and tested positive ways to deal with stress:
- Cognitive Techniques: Thinking differently about the stress or reframing the problem into more manageable problems is an effective way to cope with stress e.g., someone going through work related stress might say “It is a very difficult time at work but the last time I was facing similar stress, I persevered and my boss pointed out how impressive my efforts were. I can do it again!”
- Behavioral Techniques: Proactively dealing with the problem e.g. breaking down what seems like an insurmountable task into smaller more achievable steps.
- Taking a breather: mindfulness, meditation and regulated breathing promote stress reduction and are well-established treatment modalities for anxiety symptoms.
- Psychotherapy: Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) and Mindfulness based therapies have been shown to be helpful in the management of excessive stress.
- Technology: Finally, web and mobile based modules for stress reduction have been shown to be beneficial. In particular, mobile based reminders for wellness and self-care are shown to be more effective.
As is evident from the above, you are not alone in feeling stressed out. If you are feeling exhausted or burnt out, help is available. Simple breathing techniques, meditation and making an effort to think differently are all effective techniques.
Key brings the above to you in a simple, intuitive and effective format. Stay tuned in to www.key.life to download the app as soon as available!