Stress has been a big theme in both my life and Mark’s. In 2013 I was completely burned out and I had to quit studying for almost a year. And only a few years ago, Mark was almost burned out from not enjoying what he did anymore. After that, we tried our very best to avoid this pitfall by learning a lot about how stress works and what we can do to handle stressful situations better.
What exactly is stress?
Stress is mostly a physical reaction. When we are faced with a stressful situation, our body goes into ‘fight or flight (or freeze)’ mode. Our muscles get tense, the body may shut down certain functions and releases different hormones and chemicals like cortisol and adrenaline.
Long term effects
Being stressed for a long time can result in high blood pressure, insomnia, neck and back pain, digestion issues and palpitations.
Work-related stress can result in burn-out. Not good… Symptoms of burn-out can be exhaustion, frustration, sleeping issues, concentration and memory issues, and head- and stomachaches.
An alarming amount of people are dealing with these stress-related issues, resulting in a lot of sick days. It’s a full-blown epidemic at this point. We are definitely living in a Stress Society.
Where does all that stress come from?
There are several factors contributing to the risk of getting burned out. It can develop from an imbalance between job demands like working overtime and high pressure to perform and resources like autonomy and social support.
Additionally, certain personality traits can increase your risk of burn-out. The Five-Factor Model (Big 5 Personality Traits) scores people on five descriptors: openness, extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, and neuroticism. People who score high on neuroticism have a higher risk of developing burnout. Also, burn-out is more common amongst people who are very committed to their jobs, have low self-esteem and who tend to blame the things they experience on external factors.
The Upside of Stress
However, stress isn’t per definition a bad thing. It also helps us survive by preparing us to face the challenge we’re up against. Stress in itself doesn’t have to be bad for us. It all comes down to how we view and experience it. This amazing TED talk by Kelly McGonigal radically changed our views on stress:
So, what can you do to start handling stress in a more constructive way?
Change your mindset
Start believing that stress isn’t harmful, but is actually your body trying to help you. Whenever I start to feel tense, I convince myself that that’s a good thing. I tell myself that I can handle the challenge and that my body is helping me focus and thrive.
Turn off your phone/laptop after work
If your work/obligations are stressing you out, make sure to disconnect and focus on relaxing. Recharge your battery. You don’t have to take care of everything right away and whatever it is, it can probably wait without the world ending.
Spend time with loved ones
Social support is an important energy resource that can help you have a better balance between your job demands and resources. Having a good talk with a relative or good friend also helps reduces stress.
Do something active
Go for a walk in nature (a walk around the city doesn’t have the same beneficial effects as going on walks in nature), do some yoga or go for a work-out. All of these are proven methods to reduce stress.
We’d love to know what you do to reduce stress and recharge. Please leave a comment if you have any good tips for us.
Remember, sometimes doing the best you can is enough. Take care.
Maud & Mark