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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 23, 2019

    5 Steps To Move Out Of Stagnancy In Life

    5 Steps To Move Out Of Stagnancy In Life

    In the journey of growth, there are times when we grow and excel. We are endlessly driven and hyped up, motivated to get our goals.

    Then there are times when we stagnate. We feel uninspired and unmotivated. We keep procrastinating on our plans. More often than not, we get out of a rut, only to get back into another one.

    How do you know if you are stagnating? Here are some tell-tale signs:

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    • If you have been experiencing chronic procrastination on your goals
    • If you don’t ever feel like doing anything
    • If you keep turning to sleep, eating, games, mindless activities and entertainment for comfort
    • If you know you should be doing something, but yet you keep avoiding it
    • If you have not achieved anything new or significant now relative to 1 month, 2 months or 3 months ago
    • If you have a deep sense of feeling that you are living under your potential

    When we face stagnation in life, it’s a sign of deeper issues. Stagnation, just like procrastination, is a symptom of a problem. It’s easy to beat ourselves over it, but this approach is not going to help. Here, I will share 5 steps to help you move out of this stagnation. They won’t magically transform your life in 1 night (such changes are never permanent because the foundations are not built), but they will help you get the momentum going and help you get back on track.

    1. Realize You’re Not Alone

    Everyone stagnates at some point or another. You are not alone in this and more importantly, it’s normal. In fact, it’s amazing how many of my clients actually face the same predicament, even though all of them come from different walks of life, are of different ages, and have never crossed paths. Realizing you are not alone in this will make it much easier to deal with this period. By trying to “fight it”, you’re only fighting yourself. Accept this situation, acknowledge it, and tell yourself it’s okay. That way, you can then focus on the constructive steps that will really help you.

    2. Find What Inspires You

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    Stagnation comes because there isn’t anything that excites you enough to take action. If you don’t have a habit of setting goals, and instead just leave yourself to daily mundanes, it’s not surprising you are experiencing stagnation. What do you want to do if there are no limitations? If you can have whatever you want, what will it be? The answers to these questions will provide the fuel that will drive you forward.

    On the other hand, even if you are an experienced goal setter, there are times when the goals you set in the past lose their appeal now. It’s normal and it happens to me too. Sometimes we lose touch with our goals, since we are in a different emotional state compared to when we first set them. Sometimes our priorities change and we no longer want to work on those goals anymore. However, we don’t consciously realize this, and what happens is we procrastinate on our goals until it compounds into a serious problem. If that’s the case for you, it’s time to relook into your goals. There’s no point in pursuing goals that no longer inspire you. Trash away your old goals (or just put them aside) and ask yourself what you really want now. Then go for them.

    3. Give Yourself a Break

    When’s the last time you took a real break for yourself? 3 months? 6 months? 1 year? Never? Perhaps it’s time to take a time-out. Prolonged working can cause someone to become disillusioned as they lose sight of who they are and what they want.

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    Go take some extended leave from work. A few days at bare minimum; a few weeks or months will be great. Some of my ex-colleagues have quit their jobs and took months out to do some self-reflection. Of course, some of us might not have that luxury, so we can stick to a few weeks of leave. Go on a trip elsewhere and get away from your work and your life. Use this chance to get a renewed perspective of life. Think about your life purpose, what you want and what you want to create for your life in the future. These are big questions that require deep thinking over them. It’s not about finding the answers at one go, but about taking the first step to finding the answers.

    4. Shake up Your Routines

    Being in the same environment, doing the same things over and over again and meeting the same people can make us stagnant. This is especially if the people you spend the most time with are stagnant themselves.

    Change things around. Start with simple things, like taking a different route to work and eating something different for breakfast. Have your lunch with different colleagues, colleagues you never talked much with. Work in a different cubicle if your work has free and easy seating. Do something different than your usual for weekday evenings and weekends. Cultivate different habits, like exercising every day, listening to a new series of podcasts every morning to work, reading a book, etc (here’s 6 Proven Ways To Make New Habits Stick). The different contexts will give you different stimulus, which will trigger off different thoughts and actions in you.

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    When I’m in a state of stagnancy, I’ll get a sense of what’s making me stagnate. Sometimes it’s the environment I’m in, sometimes it’s the people I’ve been hanging out with, sometimes it’s my lifestyle. Most of the times it’s a combination of all these. Changing them up helps to stir myself out of the stagnant mode.

    5. Start with a Small Step

    Stagnation also comes from being frozen in fear. Maybe you do want this certain goal, but you aren’t taking action. Are you overwhelmed by the amount of work needed? Are you afraid you will make mistakes? Is the perfectionist in you taking over and paralyzing you?

    Let go of the belief that it has to be perfect. Such a belief is a bane, not a boon. It’s precisely from being open to mistakes and errors that you move forward. Break down what’s before you into very very small steps, then take those small steps, a little step at a time. I had a client who had been stagnating for a long period because he was afraid of failing. He didn’t want to make another move where he would make a mistake. However, not wanting to make a mistake has led him to do absolutely nothing for 2-3 years. On the other hand, by doing just something, you would already be making progress, whether it’s a mistake or not. Even if you make a supposed “mistake”,  you get feedback to do things differently in the next step. That’s something you would never have known if you never made a move.

    More to Help You Stay Motivated

    Here are some resources that will help you break out of your current phase:

    Featured photo credit: Anubhav Saxena via unsplash.com

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