Modern life is extremely demanding. More people that ever before are being stressed beyond their limits. We are working exceptionally long hours and putting extreme pressure on ourselves to succeed in all areas of our lives. Between work and family, there’s very little time left for self-care; and many of us are so physically and mentally exhausted that we are very close to burning out.

What Does Burnout Look Like?

Often, people don’t realize they are burning out until their family doctor tells them to take it easy, or they’re rushed to the ER in the middle of the night for a stress induced medical emergency. And because burnout happens gradually, it’s really easy to miss the signs.

In the initial stages, burnout simply feels like fatigue and lack of energy. You feel a sense of dread whenever you think about all the things you must get done before the end of the day. Then you start having trouble falling asleep and staying asleep no matter how tired you are. This affects your memory and concentration, which makes it even harder to get work done. Soon after, the physical symptoms of burnout such as chest pains, gastrointestinal problems, shortness of breath, headaches and heart palpitations kick in.

The Health Costs of Burnout

Stress triggers the release of adrenaline and cortisol in the body. Adrenaline increases your heart rate and blood pressure giving you the energy boost you need to fight or flee from the stressful situation. Cortisol, on the other hand, increases your blood glucose.

Constant stress means that your adrenaline and cortisol levels are always high. This interferes with your immune system as well as normal bodily functions such as digestion and sleep. Eventually, adrenal insufficiency sets in and the body starts having trouble producing cortisol.

Extreme stress can also alter the physical structure of your brain, causing it to shrink and age faster. This makes your brain even more vulnerable to nerve damage.

Stop Burnout in its Tracks!

We have all experienced one or two symptoms of burnout at some point in our lives. But, how do we stop the process and ensure we don’t lose our precious gray matter?

  • Creative outlets

Having a creative outlet outside of your work is a great way to relieve stress and stay motivated. There’s something about doing what you love that produces a calming and healing effect in the body. Your outlet can be anything from a DIY project to baking as long as it’s something you love to do.

  • Take better care of yourself

Eating healthy foods and exercising helps reduce the physical effects of stress on your health and gives you a much needed energy boost. It may seem like extra work on top of your already overloaded schedule but you’ll be able to do more without burning out.

  • Ask for support

When you feel yourself burning out, you might be tempted to withdraw and start avoiding people. Sadly, this is possibly the worst thing you could do.

The best thing you can do is to ask for support at work and home. Trying to do everything yourself might help you feel in control but it’s the express lane to burn out.

We are also constantly surrounded with “you can do it” messages, making it difficult to slow down without feeling like a slacker or failure. However, if you can find a creative outlet, take better care of yourself and ask for support when you need it, you can do more without burning out and be a lot happier along the way.

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