The Burnout Epidemic: Strategies for Balancing Stress and Success

How many times have you or someone you know uttered the words, “Argh, I’m so burnt out?”

In our fast-paced society, stress is often worn as a badge of honour.

While we typically associate burnout with work, its reach extends far beyond the office walls – to caregivers, single parents and those navigating high life demands.

Stress, in moderation, can be a motivator, pushing us into our peak performance zone. However, when stress becomes overwhelming, it leads to exhaustion, health issues and ultimately, burnout. This isn’t a mental illness, but rather a state characterised by exhaustion, cynicism and reduced effectiveness – fuelled by working too hard for too long.

The term burnout was first coined by psychologist, Herbert Freudenberge, in 1974, but feelings that would be associated with burnout date back to Shakespeare and even the Old Testament.

Professions like healthcare, social work, teaching, emergency services and high-pressure corporate environments are breeding grounds for burnout. Those who go above and beyond, juggling demanding schedules with little control, are particularly vulnerable. Coupled with a perfectionist streak or a history of achievement-driven upbringing, the risk intensifies.

Recognising the signs of burnout is crucial: increased irritability like snapping at the kids or your partner, sleep disturbances, digestive issues, substance use, or a pervasive sense of overwhelm. These symptoms signal a need to pause and reflect on life’s priorities. Learning to say ‘no’ – especially challenging for women conditioned to please – becomes essential for self preservation.

The path to resilience begins with consistent self-care practices. As a health coach, I see the cycle of people becoming 'too busy' to exercise. They begin to sleep poorly which makes them tired the next day. Being tired means they have no energy to exercise and make bad food choices. Our bodies naturally crave sugar and carbs when we do not sleep enough. And so, the slow decline of health begins. Prioritising these basics of eating well, exercising regularly and aiming for at least seven hours sleep builds a natural resilience to stress. Adding in a stress-busting tool like journaling, meditation, seeing a friend or walking in nature will also do wonders.

Finally, achieving balance means setting boundaries around your time. Whether it’s refraining from after-hours emails or, if finances allow taking time off work, carving out time to recharge is non-negotiable. We often feel like we can’t possibly take time off because there is too much to do, but you’d be surprised how even a walk around the park at lunch can reduce our stress levels.

Remember, preventing burnout isn’t a luxury – it’s an investment in your health and happiness.

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