“Stress, anxiety, and burn-out, I know you all too well. This is territory no woman or man wants to go and yet your sand is covered with footprints of those that walk your shores. I was here and explored your land and was fortunate to find a way back to my home. Your call whispers in my ear from time to time but sorry this is a place I do not want to visit anymore.” Leanne Giavedoni
“In 2013, The Perceived Stress rate reported by Statistics Canada was an average of 23% of people 15 years or older. Since 2003, females were more likely than males to report that most days were ‘quite a bit’ or ‘extremely stressful’. In 2013, the rate for females was 24.6%, while for males the rate was 21.3%. Daily stress rates were highest in the core working ages (35 to 54), peaking at about 30% in the 35 to 44 and 45 to 54 age groups. People in these age groups are most likely to be managing multiple responsibilities with their career and family.” 1
A Canadian Survey on Mood & Anxiety Disorders in 2014 showed that “an estimated 3 million Canadians (11.6%) aged 18 years or older reported that they had a mood and/or anxiety disorder” with “more than a quarter (27%) reported that their disorder(s) affected their life “quite a bit” or “extremely” in the previous 12 months.” 2
Life is full of situations that can be stressful. There are certain life’s experiences you cannot change and you must learn how to deal with. But there are other things that bring about stress that are of your own creation. Stress can become anxiety when the stress factors are not imminent but become a constant worry, create apprehension or uneasiness about what is to come. Stress & anxiety can lead to depression. Signs of depression include feelings of hopelessness, feelings of worthlessness, and thoughts of suicide or desire to die, and a decreased ability or desire to do daily activities.
Burn out is the sum of all of the above. Someone does not wake up one day with these symptoms, but rather, has gradually gotten to this point. Others signs of burn out are chronic fatigue, poor sleep, lack of appetite, irritability, feeling a lack of accomplishment and the body getting run down with physical illnesses. In our competitive, achievement focused society, burnout has become a reality for more and more people and at younger ages. “Burnout is one of those road hazards in life that high-achievers really should be keeping a close eye out for, but sadly-often because of their “I can do everything” personalities-they rarely see it coming. Because high-achievers are often so passionate about what they do, they tend to ignore the fact that they’re working exceptionally long hours, taking on exceedingly heavy workloads, and putting enormous pressure on themselves to excel-all of which make them ripe for burnout.” 3
All too often people find themselves in this world. You don’t plan it and certainly don’t expect it, but you find yourself there. How do you escape? For those that have not arrived yet, heed these warnings.
Heal your past
Previous experiences are stored in your subconscious as memories. With the memory there is always an association or perspective that goes along with the previous experience. Any time you are experiencing a similar situation or the same feeling that was felt in the past, it triggers a response that recalls the memory and the perspective. It is the perspective that gets you into trouble. So, healing the past is all about changing the perspective or feeling that is anchored to the memory. The most common beliefs that you harbor from these past experiences are feelings of “I am not good enough”, “I failed”, and “I am alone”. The root of your stress can always be traced back to these types of feelings. Although you cannot change the past event or situation, you can change what you think, feel and believe about it.
Stop and consider for a moment the lengths you go to feel good enough? Are you easily able to say “no” or do you do everything for everyone? Do you try to fix everything and everyone? Do you go along with what others say to keep the peace? On the surface, these acts can look very noble but not if their motivation is from a place of lack or fear. Nothing good can be created on a foundation of lack or fear, it begins to crumple and fall apart. Resentment grows as you give more than you receive. The limitless boundaries become too much to carry and your stress grows until finally you end up anxious, or depressed on burn out island. The motivation is often fear of failing, being alone or not being good enough. The problem is that no matter what or how much you do, these feelings keep popping up. The first step is to heal these feelings, then you can set boundaries that are healthy. You can say yes when it is appropriate to do so. You can feel safe in saying no. You can voice your opinion with respect. You can help others because you feel inspired to give. You can create a schedule that is actually manageable.
Foster a relationship with yourself
You need to become your best friend. If you cannot rely on yourself, who can you truly rely on? The problem is with all that negative self-talk, you are not appearing like such a reliable candidate yourself. Sure, at times, there is a place for tough love, but chances are you have gone into abuse mode. If you spoke to other people half as negatively as you do yourself, you would surely have no friends! Imagine telling your friends that they are ugly, old looking, fat and meaning it. How cruel would that be? Imagine telling your best friend that she is stupid, or that she failed because her choices did not work out or that she is not accomplishing anything good. If you do speak to your friends that way, you need a smack and frankly might end up alone. The reality is, even the most negative people do not come right out and speak so derogatory to those around them. Yet, you think these thoughts about yourself all the time. If you know anything about the Law of Attraction you will realize that if you are thinking these things in your head (consciously or subconsciously) you will be attracting them into your reality. Along with healing your past comes learning to love yourself. You have to know yourself to be able to love yourself. Knowing yourself requires an open heart and an open mind. Letting go of judgment so that you can embrace all of you. This includes dealing with the “shadow” or dark side that is inherent in all humans.
The shadow is a concept explored by Karl Jung and described as “that hidden, repressed, for the most part inferior and guilt-laden personality whose ultimate ramifications reach back into the realm of our animal ancestors and so comprise the whole historical aspect of the unconscious” 4 Once you have embraced your shadow side, you can forego judgment and truly love yourself and others. When you let go of judgment you escape from all negativity. This is the surest way to remove feelings of stress and anxiety from your life.
“If you judge people, you have no time to love them.”~ Mother Teresa of Calcutta
The need to control arises from fear. The same fears we have already discussed, as well as, the infamous culprit called judgment, are at the root of the need to control. Don’t be fooled by the idea that you are just trying to help another or that you have their best interest at heart. If you follow the action to its source it will be rooted in fear and judgment. Our fear and judgment stems from a lack of understanding about the laws of nature. The more we come to understand about how the universe works and our relationship with it, we can find peace in surrendering the need for control. Fostering a relationship with yourself and an understanding of all that is, enables you to take this important step.
Of course, while you are taking the above steps, you need to fuel your body and mind. Eating healthy balanced nutrition, getting enough sleep, and moving your body are all part of helping manage stress and its adverse effects. Think of it like a gas tank in a car. In order for the car to run, it needs to have enough fuel. That is what food, sleep and exercise do for the body. But, what if you have a hole in the gas tank? That needs to be fixed or else the fuel is inefficient. Also, there are other parts of the car that need to be given regular maintenance. The hole and the maintenance are the things we have talked about: healing your past, setting boundaries, fostering a relationship with yourself, and surrendering control. If you fail to do these, your fuel will not be enough to keep your body and mind functioning at its optimal.