Burnout and Stress

Burnout and Stress

What is stress? What are stress symptoms?
Stress has a function. It makes you create adrenaline and cortisol which gices your body a boost and makes it get into action. In fact, in a fraction of a second, the body is ready to fight or flee. This ancient old system is driven by the oldest part of your brain, the so called reptile brain. This reptile brain is in charge of all your body’s autonomous and semi-autonomous functions like breathing, heartbeat, digestion. When this reptile brain registers danger, it triggers the autonomic nervous system to get into stress mode, to fight or flee. This ancient old system is great for the jungle where you might need to run from a lion or a tiger, but in modern day this system is overreacting.  This system does not know work related dress, being rushed in traffic or deadlines – it registers them all as some level of danger. It knows only danger or no danger. It is also said: Fight & Flight / Rest & Digest. As soon as the danger has passed, your brain needs to receive the signals that everything is OK again and the body can return to the rest&digest state. The problem is that many people remain in stress mode for too long due to high work pressure or other reasons, or worse, because their body has taken this as the new norm as it got so used to it. This is an unhealthy condition which leads to stress complaints, fatigue, burnout and even disease. Your performance will drop considerably; you become tired and have trouble thinking. Many people do not realize that they are still in stress mode, after dinner time or even later! Their heart rate is still high because of something that happened in the afternoon.

What happens in stress?
– increased heart rate (in case of prolonged stress it can be difficult to lower) – increase pupils – dilate bronchi – dry mouth – production of adrenaline – production of cortisol – increase in blood pressure – your muscles are tensing – your digestion slows down – less blood and oxygen is supplied to the neo-cortex, your thinking brain.
Technically the body decreases blood supply to those things you do not require when you fight or flee, and that includes the rational thinking faculty, we call that cognitive inhibition.
Using heart coherence techniques you can prepare for a stressful event so that you better handle yourself during those dreadful situation, you can even apply heart coherence during the stressful event and you can use it to quickly recover from it.

What is a burnout?
A burnout is a process and therefore has several phases. There are stress complaints when you can no longer adjust to the stressor (which gives some stress). For example, when stress lasts too long. In case of a burnout you perform below average and you can no longer afford to go to work – you’re all burned-out. Privately things might still go well. You might still have energy to do sports or your favorite hobby, but the moment you even think of work the stress kicks in.
In some cases a person has two jobs and might be burned out in one, and still perform fine at the other. This type of burnout is work related burnout, or career burnout.
In more severe cases there is no energy anymore for anything, work nor private.

Who is at risk for a burnout?
“It is often the conscientious, enthusiastic and perfectionist employees who are more likely to suffer from burnout, you have to be able to ‘burn’ for your work to be able to burnout. Sometimes there is disappointment in high-minded ideals.”

What are the signs of a burnout?
Loss of motivation, change in attitude towards colleagues, customers / patients / clients / guests. Decrease of achievements and results, which may cause you to doubt your own competencies.
Colleagues  may notices you’re withdrawn, no longer going to company organized outings while you did in the past. Complain about the organization while you did not do that before. A lot of short-term absenteeism, underachieving or avoiding responsabilities, while you did not do that before.

What are the causes of stress and burnout?
A number of important causes of burnout at a glance:
– Working pressure: The biggest cause is work pressure. More and more things have to be done in less and less time
– No challenge: you can not use your talents (most ‘flow moments’ are likely to be at work where you (and others) are happy with a performance), little change in work, little personal contact
– Mentally strenuous work: emotionally demanding work or work that requires very high concentration.
– Autonomy: not having the freedom to make adjustments to dose stress.
– Being unemployed: The lack of social contact, not being able to use talents, lacking structure support, lacking social success / participation and prestige.
– Meaningfulness: Not seeing, or seeing too little result of your work, the impression that your work is not considered important. Success can give a huge kick – make sure it happens now and then!
– Disbalance work and private life: When both partners have a job, there is often little time for each other – intimate relationships require a lot of care and maintenance. Friendships also require maintenance.
– Bad management: arbitrariness, impulsive decisions and incompetence of bosses can cause a lot of stress. Support from a committed and respected boss is very important.
– Transition stress: Reorganisations, downsizing and closures. Major disappointments when being passed for that long awaited promotion or discarded.
– Trauma stress: When something has happened at work and you suddenly realize that this could have happened to you.