Currently, a quarter of all employees in Australia view their jobs as the number one source of stress in their lives. Research reveals that long term stress can damage your health in irreversible ways and if neglected it can result in burnout.
Burnout takes a heavy toll on workplaces and the individuals within them. It is characterised by feeling exhausted and overwhelmed, to taking frequent sick days or simply struggling to get out of bed in the morning. Unfortunately, these warning signs are often ignored by those affected until the burnout syndrome has fully developed.
But high-pressure workdays, long commutes and the pressure of raising kids are all everyday stresses that are not likely to change. Which is why it is more important than ever to build resilience.
The good thing about resilience is it’s a skill. And like any skill, you can learn resilience with practice.
Here are 6 ways you can stop stress and burnout through the use of resilience.
Take time to rest
When talking about stress and building resilience, it is important to understand what stress is – and what it isn’t. Stress is essentially a wave of hormones released to prime humans for performance. Back in the caveman days, it helped protect us from predators by triggering our fight or flight response. But stress can tip from useful to negative when there is continuous stress without rest or relaxation.
Many of us now work in an always-on, constantly connected, high demand work culture. Like many people, you may believe that the key to success at work is going above and beyond the demands of your role. By taking on extra commitments or working long hours.
You must slow things down and take the time to disconnect. Start by taking some time off work. Enjoy a long weekend or drop to a four day week when you are experiencing feelings of stress. And, taking time off does not always need to be a big event, it could be as simple as setting boundaries around what is time for work and what is time for yourself.
Have a Confidant
Life is meant to be shared in the good times – and the bad. Discussing stressful situations with someone who can validate your feelings – whether or not they are personally experiencing the same issues – will help you process how you are feeling and restore your equilibrium.
Having a trusted confidant to assist you in regaining control of these rattled feelings, will mean you are able to think more logically and be capable of viewing the situation from a less exaggerated – or distorted- perspective.
The physical benefits of exercise are long understood, with health professionals encouraging us to be active every day for at least thirty minutes. But exercise is equally as important for our mental fitness. Being active promotes the release of feel-good chemicals in your brain, like serotonin and endorphins. It also helps you sleep better so you can rest fully at night and feel more energised for the day ahead.
Being active requires discipline and can be challenging when you are feeling burnt out. You may need to seek some external motivation to keep you moving, such as a pet, a sports team or a spouse.
Breathing is central to life. It is no wonder humankind noted it’s value in not only survival but to the function of the body and mind. The Tao religion of China calls this energy qi and in Hinduism, it is called prana (a key concept of yoga).
In more modern times, the act of simply breathing with purpose may be the lowest common denominator to calming the body and mind. If you are feeling stressed or panicked and need to calm yourself, you can use your breath as a focal point or a metronome to distract your mind from negative thoughts.
One technique is to use a regular breathing tool called the ‘five breaths of transition’ when adjusting from one environment to another – such as leaving the car and entering your home environment.
It can be easy to get swept up in the fast lane and forget to stop and appreciate everything you have. But people who practice gratitude regularly by taking time to reflect upon things they are thankful for will experience more positive emotions, better sleep and feel more expressions of compassion and kindness.
But gratitude is not only about being thankful for positive experiences. Sometimes thinking about negative or difficult situations – such as feeling burnt out – can help clarify what you are thankful for.
To practice gratitude every day, you can start by writing out three things that you are grateful for. It doesn’t need to always be the ‘big’ things, there is nothing too small to be thankful for.
Perhaps the most difficult part of building resilience is the endeavour to try and think positively. The thing with positive thinking is you cannot pretend a bad situation away by just having warm and fuzzy thoughts.
This quality of resilience does not mean suppressing the fact that we feel burnt out – rather, it is about being able to pause, process what is happening and use positivity as a buffer against stress. By taking a positive stance at work, you will be able to more easily adapt to adversity and also hold on to a sense of control over the situation.
Often the first reaction to stress and burnout is to blame others, the system, the weather or the culture. If things were different, there wouldn’t be any stress… says the dreamer. In reality, things are much more complex. But when you start using resilience in the workplace you can move forward when things are tough by taking little steps at a time.