The unfortunate truth is that we exist in a world that’s built to magnify our problems and stress us out.
Social media trends leave us incessantly yearning for more. More success in our careers and family life, more friends, more flashy vacations to humbly brag about, more “toys” to play with… and all of it must come faster than you can say “instant gratification” while ALSO appearing to have been effortlessly attained.
The ease with which we can get information and learn about political turmoil, economic distress and depletion of earthly resources — all delivered with as much sensationalism as the current state of journalism can get away with also means that we’re quite literally carrying the problems of the world on our shoulders, in addition to our own.
The question has steadily shifted from whether or not you’re stressed out, to how much of that inevitable stress you can live with, and worse, how long until you are unable to cope with it altogether.
This is what is commonly referred to as burnout; physical and mental symptoms such as listlessness and exhaustion that present themselves as a result of prolonged exposure to the pressures of a highly stressful lifestyle.
According to the Harvard Business Review, “research shows that [burnout] leads to issues such as job dissatisfaction, absenteeism, inefficient decision making, and turnover, as well as health-related issues such as depression, heart disease, and even death.”
Now, more than ever, it has become imperative for us to anticipate and prepare for stress, or better yet, recognize it as a part of our day to day existence and structure our lives in a way that alleviates it before it becomes a threat to our productivity and general well-being.
In addition to making sure that you’re nourishing your body with the right foods and getting as much rest and relaxation as you need to recharge, here are a few more tactics you can employ.
Avoid duplication of efforts.
Most of us have some activities that we need to perform on a recurring basis. It pays to have a system in place that we can fall back on so that we do not have to go through the same process every time. This could be a weekly meal plan that you rely on, a handy list of frequently asked questions with their corresponding answers, or a to-do list that batches similar tasks together.
In addition to cutting down on the amount of mental energy you spend each time, it will give you a simple and dependable structure to follow in times of crisis.
Learn to set boundaries.
Setting boundaries requires that we know our limits and our weaknesses, and make the effort to adhere to them. That way, we don’t take on more work than we can successfully handle, or set unrealistic goals that are clearly beyond our reach.
Setting boundaries could mean saying no to unreasonable demands from our friends or family, allowing ourselves to take a break from work at the first sign of exhaustion instead of powering through with the help of caffeine, or limiting our exposure to social media and negative news. The point is to know your triggers and deal with them before they start to take a toll on your health.
Leverage the power of community.
Science has attributed the success of the human race throughout evolution to our ability to create and maintain communities, and even more recent research links longevity to the strength of one’s social circles.
Strive to build a community of like-minded individuals around you that you can lean on in times of need. Knowing that you don’t have to figure everything out on your own will lessen the burden you hold, and bring you closer to solutions through other people that have been through the same situations.
Free up your mind as much as you can.
Write down everything you consider important! From your goals to your plans and ideas worth exploring.
Save yourself from having to live through the mini heart attacks that come with forgetting to attend to important tasks or the mental strain that comes with trying to remember vital information at short notice. Pick a leaf out of Einstein’s playbook and “never commit to memory anything that you can easily look up.”
To crown it all, always remember that prevention is better than cure. Do not wait for the signs of stress to creep up before you start to include preventive and restorative measures in your life, because usually by the time you notice, it’s already too late!