A deadline is on your heels. You’re up late, up early, pumping through coffees and striding to the finish line. And you make it. Er, phew?
Granted, this situation isn’t dire when it only happens once or twice in a given month, but spin it on ‘repeat’ too often and you’ll start to feel depleted, maybe even agitated or down.
“Stress has the effect of acculturating [causing] loss of brain cells,” says Dr Craig Hassed author of Mindfulness for Life and resilience expert at Monash University’s Department of General Practice. “Stress also stimulates the brain’s amygdala and pre-frontal cortex. If you’re stressed all the time, the amygdala gets bigger and more reactive.”
Mental health organisation Reach Out explains that stress also stimulates the production of specific hormones. “When you experience stress, your whole nervous system reacts…. adrenaline and cortisol are released into your blood stream. These hormones speed up heart rate, breathing rate, blood pressure and metabolism.”
While this may help you make that deadline, in the long run it leads to burnout; a state of mental, physical and emotional exhaustion.
Try these techniques to keep stress under wraps and avoid hitting the bottom of your energy well.
1. Check in with yourself
Doug, a contributor to Reach Out’s personal stories forum, says that after experiencing chronic burnout, he began a habit of checking in on his own wellbeing.
“The most important thing I do,” he says, “is to take a moment, very regularly, to think about how I’m going and what’s affecting that.”
To do this, Doug concentrates on his body and mind. “I ask myself if I feel tired, what I’m thinking about, whether I’m hungry.” In addition to this, he journals and makes an effort to keep his life well-organised.
2. Form a winning morning ritual
Start the day as you intend to continue it.
Health and energy expert, as well as columnist for the Huffington Post, Oliver Gray advocates a morning routine that eliminates technology and maximises movement plus good nutrition.
Move for 20 minutes, he advises – it doesn’t matter how. Do some yoga at home, take a walk, cycle to work or do a 20-minute toning session at your gym.
Then, match a green tea with a high energy brekky. His favourite combination; porridge oats or amaranth pops with shelled hemp seeds, chia seeds, Goji berries, blueberries, cinnamon and almond milk.
3. Make space for joy
Redress the balance between work and, well, life – especially it’s more beautiful parts.
“Even if it is only once a week at first, create ways to spend some time each week doing something you genuinely enjoy, especially that which brings laughter back into your life,” says Life Coach Nancie Vito, who also writes for the Huffington Post.
“Maybe you really enjoy going to the beach, hiking a nature trail, having dinner with a significant other, catching up with your best friend on the telephone, or even going to the movies,” she writes.
“With our hectic schedules, it's easy to become so wrapped up in our obligations that we never look up. Make time for the things and people that leave you feeling joyful.”
Bonus burnout avoidance tips to try today
o Get your 8-hour sleep quota
o Stay hydrated throughout the day
o Take a power nap when you feel sapped
o Remember to stretch if you’re seated all day
o Cut back on caffeine if it’s leaving you nursing an afternoon slump
o Stay in touch with close friends
o Focus on a just a few ‘to-dos’ each day – single-task, don’t multi-task!