“Stress is the trash of modern life – we all generate it but if you don’t dispose of it properly, it will pile up and overtake your life.” – Danzae Pace
In today’s world, stress is automatically considered to be a bad thing, but not all stress is bad stress. Think about those adrenalin-fuelled moments in life when the body’s stress response actually gives you a motivational boost. Whether it’s psyching yourself up to give a speech, take part in a competitive event, or throw yourself off a high platform in your first ever bungee jump, the stress reaction, also known as the fight-or-flight reaction, can give you the extra something you need to get the job done, making it good stress.
Good stress has a temporary effect on your body, elevating your natural survival instincts to ensure you’re super-alert and ready for anything. In prehistoric times, the stress reaction was vital for survival when faced with threats that could be life-threatening, but even in today’s saber-toothed-tiger-free world, your body responds to perceived threats in the same way – giving you what you need to fight for survival or run for your life. However, just as repeated physical stress can lead to injuries, repeated mental stress can lead to good stress becoming bad stress.
Prolonged periods of stress can lead to a state of physical and mental exhaustion known as burnout. When you’re in this state, you begin to feel overwhelmed, and things that may normally have been considered a challenge now become a threat. You begin to live in a constant state of readiness to fight or take flight, and this is where good stress becomes bad as the effects are no longer temporary.
Possible symptoms of burnout include anxiety, difficulty concentrating, feeling overwhelmed by responsibilities, loss of purpose, frustration, fatigue, and reduced performance or productivity. If burnout goes unchecked, it can lead to increasing cynicism, emotional numbness, and a general “what’s the point?” outlook on life.
Recovering from Burnout
Burnout is often associated with workplace stress, but it can manifest in any area of life where prolonged stress is turning challenges into threats. If any of the above symptoms resonate with you, try taking the following steps:
- Find the why: What’s causing stress in your life? Try keeping a stress diary in which you record the situations in daily life that are creating symptoms you’re struggling to deal with. Once you’ve identified the sources, you can begin to look for ways to remove yourself from them.
- Reassess your goals: What is it you want from life? What do you value most? What is the point of it all for you? If what you’re currently doing isn’t taking you in the direction you want to go, you’re in a constant battle that will lead to on-going stress.
- Learn how to think positively: Have you slipped into negative thinking? If you’ve lost sight of everything (or anything) that’s positive in your life, your negative thinking will keep you trapped in a negative cycle of negative thoughts, negative actions, and negative outcomes, leading to further negative thoughts… To break the cycle, you need to find the why, and then reassess your goals to find something positive to focus your thoughts on, or, to quote Gossip Girl, “Sometimes you need to step outside get some air and remind yourself who you are and where you want to be.”
Don MacNaughton is a High-Performance Coach and has worked tirelessly to help clients achieve success in the world of sport and business over the past 15 years. The next, highly popular, NLP Diploma and Life Coaching Certificate course starts in September 2019. Click here for more information or to sign up.