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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 March 13, 2019

    How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

    How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

    Have you gotten into a rut before? Or are you in a rut right now?

    You know you’re in a rut when you run out of ideas and inspiration. I personally see a rut as a productivity vacuum. It might very well be a reason why you aren’t getting results. Even as you spend more time on your work, you can’t seem to get anything constructive done. While I’m normally productive, I get into occasional ruts (especially when I’ve been working back-to-back without rest). During those times, I can spend an entire day in front of the computer and get nothing done. It can be quite frustrating.

    Over time, I have tried and found several methods that are helpful to pull me out of a rut. If you experience ruts too, whether as a working professional, a writer, a blogger, a student or other work, you will find these useful. Here are 12 of my personal tips to get out of ruts:

    1. Work on the small tasks.

    When you are in a rut, tackle it by starting small. Clear away your smaller tasks which have been piling up. Reply to your emails, organize your documents, declutter your work space, and reply to private messages.

    Whenever I finish doing that, I generate a positive momentum which I bring forward to my work.

    2. Take a break from your work desk.

    Get yourself away from your desk and go take a walk. Go to the washroom, walk around the office, go out and get a snack.

    Your mind is too bogged down and needs some airing. Sometimes I get new ideas right after I walk away from my computer.

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    3. Upgrade yourself

    Take the down time to upgrade yourself. Go to a seminar. Read up on new materials (#7). Pick up a new language. Or any of the 42 ways here to improve yourself.

    The modern computer uses different typefaces because Steve Jobs dropped in on a calligraphy class back in college. How’s that for inspiration?

    4. Talk to a friend.

    Talk to someone and get your mind off work for a while.

    Talk about anything, from casual chatting to a deep conversation about something you really care about. You will be surprised at how the short encounter can be rejuvenating in its own way.

    5. Forget about trying to be perfect.

    If you are in a rut, the last thing you want to do is step on your own toes with perfectionist tendencies.

    Just start small. Do what you can, at your own pace. Let yourself make mistakes.

    Soon, a little trickle of inspiration will come. And then it’ll build up with more trickles. Before you know it, you have a whole stream of ideas.

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    6. Paint a vision to work towards.

    If you are continuously getting in a rut with your work, maybe there’s no vision inspiring you to move forward.

    Think about why you are doing this, and what you are doing it for. What is the end vision in mind?

    Make it as vivid as possible. Make sure it’s a vision that inspires you and use that to trigger you to action.

    7. Read a book (or blog).

    The things we read are like food to our brain. If you are out of ideas, it’s time to feed your brain with great materials.

    Here’s a list of 40 books you can start off with. Stock your browser with only the feeds of high quality blogs, such as Lifehack.org, DumbLittleMan, Seth Godin’s Blog, Tim Ferris’ Blog, Zen Habits or The Personal Excellence Blog.

    Check out the best selling books; those are generally packed with great wisdom.

    8. Have a quick nap.

    If you are at home, take a quick nap for about 20-30 minutes. This clears up your mind and gives you a quick boost. Nothing quite like starting off on a fresh start after catching up on sleep.

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    9. Remember why you are doing this.

    Sometimes we lose sight of why we do what we do, and after a while we become jaded. A quick refresher on why you even started on this project will help.

    What were you thinking when you thought of doing this? Retrace your thoughts back to that moment. Recall why you are doing this. Then reconnect with your muse.

    10. Find some competition.

    Nothing quite like healthy competition to spur us forward. If you are out of ideas, then check up on what people are doing in your space.

    Colleagues at work, competitors in the industry, competitors’ products and websites, networking conventions.. you get the drill.

    11. Go exercise.

    Since you are not making headway at work, might as well spend the time shaping yourself up.

    Sometimes we work so much that we neglect our health and fitness. Go jog, swim, cycle, whichever exercise you prefer.

    As you improve your physical health, your mental health will improve, too. The different facets of ourselves are all interlinked.

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    Here’re 15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It).

    12. Take a good break.

    Ruts are usually signs that you have been working too long and too hard. It’s time to get a break.

    Beyond the quick tips above, arrange for a 1-day or 2-days of break from your work. Don’t check your (work) emails or do anything work-related. Relax and do your favorite activities. You will return to your work recharged and ready to start.

    Contrary to popular belief, the world will not end from taking a break from your work. In fact, you will be much more ready to make an impact after proper rest. My best ideas and inspiration always hit me whenever I’m away from my work.

    Take a look at this to learn the importance of rest: The Importance of Scheduling Downtime

    More Resources About Getting out of a Rut

    Featured photo credit: Joshua Earle via unsplash.com

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