Stress seems to be everywhere these days. Just look at the recent US Presidential inauguration. There are people stressed out about Donald Trump winning. There are people stressed out because they feel like President Trump isn’t being given a fair chance. There are even people who are stressed out because so many people are stressed out.
I can vouch that moments of stress can feel terrible. Stress, however, is not the same as burning out.
So why do some people have the ability to stay busy and thrive in stress without burning out, while others have to stop what they’re doing to stay healthy? The secret, it seems, is in how each person copes with stress.
There’s a stress reduction method that I like to use when I feel the exhaustion, mental fatigue, and other symptoms that indicate burnout is about to arrive. It’s been adapted from TCI’s “I ESCAPE” model.
I – Isolate from the situation. I take myself out of the situation that is causing me to not be able to implement a coping skill. By removing myself from the stressful triggers, it becomes easier to implement a coping skill that is meaningful (such as working in my art journal) instead of destructive (such as taking advantage of the bottle of scotch that’s next to my computer).
E – Examine feelings. Thoughts lead to feelings. This means thoughts which can trigger stress can often lead to negative feelings, such as anger. I always need to look at how I’m feeling so that I can implement a correct coping strategy. It also helps to take a few deep breaths at this point so that the stress or negative feelings are unable to spiral out of control.
S – Summarize the incident. There is a specific reason why I begin to feel stressed out to the point of being overwhelmed. In this step, I look back at what just happened to determine what happened so I know why the feelings of burnout are trying to show up.
C – Connect it. Feelings lead to behaviors. Behaviors lead to actions. By connecting the dots from start to finish, I get to know myself better because I can learn how I tend to react to stressful stimuli. With this knowledge, I can then begin being proactive against future incidents that could lead to burnout.
A – Alternative actions. Instead of feeling stressed out, I look for alternative feelings that may also be present. If I can find positive feelings and then focus on those, it becomes much easier to stay productive.
P – Practice every day. Learning how to identify these positive feelings is only the first step in the process toward defeating burnout for good. I practice identifying these feelings every day during my time in meditation. That way, if something difficult occurs during my day, my mind can react on instinct and pull out the information that I need to know.
E – Enter back into your routine. Once I’ve been able to identify thoughts, feelings, triggers, and everything else that occurs before, during, and after a stressful incident, it becomes possible to reevaluate my personal perspective. I can see where I reacted appropriately and where, perhaps, my reactions were inappropriate. Then I can get back into my routine, confident in my knowledge of myself.
Coping with the feelings of stress is how we avoid burning out. If you can implement an effective coping strategy for the times when you encounter stress, you’ll be able to stay busy without worrying about burnout.
How do you take care of yourself to avoid burnout?