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How to Avoid Burn Out: 10 Symptoms of Severe Stress

How to Avoid Burn Out: 10 Symptoms of Severe Stress

    Each individual has a unique tolerance level for how much physical and emotional stress they can endure before something starts to give. Far too often people ignore the warning signs that their stress levels are becoming unmanageable and it takes a crisis of some kind to get them to change.

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    The speeding ticket from God

    A couple of years ago I was rushing to work and made the split-second decision to keep going through a light when I knew very well that it was going to turn red. Moments later I was pulled over by an irate cop and on the receiving end of the full extent of his wrath along with a major ticket. As I waited for him to return to my car, I started to cry, not with frustration or self-pity but out of sheer relief that I hadn’t caused an accident.

    The irony of this story was that I was on my way to give a seminar about how to manage stress and avoid burnout. I felt so profoundly grateful that I had received a wake up call without hurting someone else in the process. It really seemed like an enormous blessing in disguise and ever since then I have referred to this occasion as the time I received a speeding ticket from God.

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    My wish for you is that you don’t wait until something goes wrong or until your health begins to suffer to pay attention.

    Watch for the symptoms

    Excessive stress manifests physically and emotionally in a variety of ways.  Here is a list of some common ones.

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    1. Change in appetite. Losing or gaining weight is often a clear indicator that things are getting out of hand. Food may lose it’s appeal, or if you are like many people, you may find yourself downing too many of what I like to call “consolation calories”. If you notice that you have a stress-activated sweet tooth, you may be seeking comfort. If it is more generalized over consumption, you maybe trying to stuff your feelings down along with the extra food.
    2. Drinking etc. Monitor your alcohol consumption, that goes for any drug of your choice – including the more subtle forms of escapism like excess TV watching.
    3. Sleep. Losing sleep or can’t get enough of it; either way you will notice that you are feeling tired all the time. Ironically, increased exercise will give you more energy and creating soothing bedtime routines may also help.
    4. Tolerance. One of the more unpleasant side-effects of your stress for those around you is a decreased level of patience. Notice if you find yourself snapping at people; for me how I react to drivers cutting me off is a great litmus test.
    5. Memory. Short term memory problems can also be an indicator of stress. Concentration can also be affected.
    6. Getting sick.  Stress has a direct effect on your immune system. More frequent colds can sometimes reveal that your body is taking notice before your mind.
    7. Clumsiness.  “Less Haste, More Speed.” I find that I become more clumsy and less coordinated when very stressed, although it’s hard to discern how much of this is due to rushing.
    8. Relationships.  For an instant reality check on your stress level, ask the people closest to you. They will be able to inform you whether you have been neglecting them and also whether they think you have been taking your stress out on them.
    9. Humor. How often are you laughing and smiling? If you can’t remember the last time, you have definitely been taking life too seriously for too long.
    10. Futility. A sense of hopelessness about what feels like endless burdens and a lack of purpose can also be clues.

    This list is just a starting point.

    Some of these may seem irrelevant or conversely, glaringly obvious. You might be able to come up with three of four more that I haven’t even mentioned right off the bat. You are the expert. The most important thing is that you start to become more conscious of how you are doing before you reach breaking point.

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    Start to develop your own list of red flags and warning signs, so you can take evasive action and avoid burning out.

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    Last Updated on July 8, 2020

    18 Benefits of Journaling That Will Change Your Life

    18 Benefits of Journaling That Will Change Your Life

    The act of writing in a journal often seems daunting or unnecessary to many people. Even authors who work on novels might shun the idea of daily diaries. What purpose does jotting down words on a regular basis do if not contributing to the next novel, play or song? I know from experience many benefits of journaling that I wish to share.

    1. Understand Yourself Better

    Though many people and even writers avoid keeping journals, I vow to do it more often. Not only do I desire to take up daily journaling but also I plan to do it with pen to paper.

    Some of the benefits I’ve found from my more active days include finding myself in the sense of understanding what matters to me and what I want out of life. I’ve been incredibly fortunate to find a spouse who is my best friend and advocate in raising children. I attribute this and much more to what I learned about myself in keeping journals for years.

    2. Keep Track of Small Changes

    I’ll admit that I never got very far with my guitar lessons, but in writing in a journal, I have seen the ability to track small changes like those that come when you practice anything.

    Those learning a musical instrument often fail to see the small improvements that come with regular practice. Writing won’t help you switch chords any faster, but it will help you to develop a better sense for language and grammar just by doing it.

    3. Become Aware of What Matters

    As you continue to write in a journal, following a stream-of-consciousness feel, you can look back on the topics that you chose to write about. Those issues and emotions that poured out of you will provide insight on to what matters most to you.

    You may not even realize that you’re job is depressing you or that you want to spend more time with your kids until you look over your thoughts that you weren’t really thinking about.

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    4. Boost Creativity

    The idea that the brain and its neural activity across hemispheres encourages learning also shows up in increased creativity. Just like with learning an instrument, your increased activity will inspire your thoughts to connect and reconnect in different ways.

    When I wrote in a journal, I often wrote poetry as well as just my thoughts as they came out. I started to hear poems more in my mind; so much so that I took to scrawling lines on napkins and finding metaphors in mundane activities.

    You really are what you do, so writing helps grow more than being a writer. Writing boosts the way you communicate and structure language, which really is a creative process.

    5. Represents Your Emotions in a Safe Environment

    A journal is as private as it gets. You can lock it in a safe or tuck it under a pillow and no one will accidentally share it on social media or have an opportunity to “leave a comment.”

    Write about your sorrow as much as your happiness and frustration and know that you don’t have to keep your emotions inside your body. You can put them on paper.

    6. Process Life Experiences

    When you take the time to look back over what you’ve written, be it a week or a year later, you will have the distance you need to more objectively interpret your raw feelings.

    Everything from losing a job to losing a loved one can emerge in a new light for a fresh perspective. Figuring out how the benefits of journaling affect your perspective on life will create connection and increase creativity.

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    7. Stress Relief

    In combining the exercise inherent in fine motor coordination that comes from the act of writing with the emotional release of self expression, those who maintain a journal relieve stress.

    Try it out. Go home and write about your day. Write about the traffic. Write about the coffee order the barista got wrong but you didn’t have time to change. See how you can physically purge some of that pent-up stress by putting it on paper.

    8. Provide Direction

    Though journaling is often conducted as an activity without much direction, it often provides direction.

    One of the biggest benefits of journaling is that your chaotic thoughts merge to show a direction in which to head. Asking the right questions is the only way to achieve the best solutions, so look to your journal to find your way toward your next goal.

    9. Solve Problems

    Just as in practicing math problems, we all get better at finding hidden solutions through the act of processing.

    Think of your next goal as X and solve your life problems by reading your journals as word problems. The benefit of journaling here is that you write, explore and process to recognize and then solve problems.

    When life is too in-your-face, you have to step back to see reality. Living in the moment allows us to write in the moment and use that expression to solve problems.

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    10. Find Relief From Fighting

    Solving your problems only comes after time to process, recognize and strategize. Just as in the benefit of journaling where relief comes from the act of writing, relief from fighting comes when you decide to “sit this one out” and communicate one-way.

    Fighting is only productive when the fighters care to communicate and find common ground. When the emotions are as high as the stress levels, writing will function as the best time out.

    11. Find Meaning in Life

    Journaling will show you why you are living, whether you are wallowing in things you wish to change or striving to make the changes. Your life will begin to take on new meaning and your own words will reveal the actions that got you where you are so that you can assess and pave a new path for your future.

    12. Allow Yourself to Focus

    Taking even a small amount of time out of every day will provide you with not only peace of mind but also increased focus. Taking a break to meditate in writing and journaling will sharpen your mental faculties.

    13. Sharpen Your Spirituality

    When we write, we allow all the energy and experiences to flow through us, which often provides further insight into our own spirituality. Even if your parents didn’t raise you to follow a specific religion, your thoughts will start to show you what you believe about the universe and your place in it.

    14. Let the Past Go

    I’ve mentioned a few examples where going back over your writing offers advice and direction, but the simply truth is that writing down our feelings can be the best way to let them go. We can choose to literally throw these pages away when they’re filled with negativity and hate.

    15. Allow Freedom

    Journaling is the perfect way to not only express yourself but to also experience the freedom of being who you are. Your books can stay private or you can publish them. Your freedom stems from your sense of self and your perception of your thoughts.

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    16. Enhance Your Career

    Again, the private act of pen-to-paper processing provides the benefits of journaling mentioned above, but you can also enhance your career when you take similar ideas and categorize, edit and publish them in an online blog.

    Your thoughts will often be personal and express emotions, but another benefit of journaling is uncovering fresh ideas about your work.

    17. Literally Explore Your Dreams

    All the benefits I’ve mentioned explore ideas, thoughts and emotions, which is also what our dreams and nightmares do. Through writing down your dreams from the previous night, you can enhance your creativity as well as connect some of the metaphorical dots from the rest of your journal.

    18. Catalog Your Life for Others

    No one wants to think about dying, but we all die. Leaving a journal will act as a way to reconnect with family and friends left behind. The ideas you wish to keep personal while you process the life you’re living will serve to rekindle and inspire those who loved you through the process.

    We consider our partners our life witnesses, but writing provides a tangible mark on the world.

    Now that you’ve learned all the benefits of journaling, it’s time to start writing a journal:

    Featured photo credit: Kelly Sikkema via unsplash.com

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