At Ease Soldier

Exceeding the demands of duty can inflame stress and increase your risk for burnout. Taking time to relax and regroup is not a luxury-it’s an essential part of a balanced life.It’s a contemporary cliché-the classic tale of the star performer who begins with a bang and ends with a fizzle, all that high energy and enthusiasm simply fading away.

Burnout, the feeling of being emotionally, physically and psychologically depleted, may pose a real risk, particularly to overachieving types with unrealistic goals, or people in the helping professions-medicine, teaching, social services etc.

Imbalance is usually at the heart of burnout. Sufferers typically make unreasonable investments of time, commitment and focus on career to the detriment of their personal lives and development. Problems on the job can exacerbate matters. A lack of autonomy or control, the inability to make decisions, an abusive boss or difficult colleagues, too much work and too many hours spent working or a tedious unvarying routine may all be contributing to the accumulation of harmful stress.

Disillusionment can be a precipitating factor.

There are other influences to consider as well.

“Stressors can be internal, for example, illness, poor diet, lack of sleep, smoking, excessive alcohol, etc. or external and environmental such as overcrowding, weather, noise. Social stressors include unemployment, financial worries, relationship breakdowns. Some stress can be generated by our negative self talk,” says Catherine Madigan, of Melbourne, Australia, a clinical psychologist specializing in the treatment of anxiety disorders.

Burnout can produce a wide array of symptoms, she explains.

Sleep disturbances-difficulty falling and staying asleep and feeling unrefreshed despite hours of rest-are common. Muscle tension is typical and frequently localized to the neck, shoulders and back. Uncharacteristic cynicism and bouts of impatience and irritability can signal burnout. Other symptoms include manifestations of anxiety-sweating, shaking, nausea, diarrhea, headaches, dizziness, lightheadedness, faintness, heart palpitations, chest pain, racing heartbeat and tingling in the extremities.

Feelings of disillusionment and despair, accompanied by a total absence of joy and humor, can contribute to a generalized sense of meaninglessness, the crushing hallmark of burnout.

It’s also not unusual for job performance to decline along with professional and personal relationships as sufferers withdraw emotionally and appear indifferent to family, friends and colleagues.

“If people do not engage in stress management they may find that they end up clinically depressed or developing an anxiety disorder such as panic attacks. They may also end up abusing drugs and alcohol,” comments Madigan.

Treatment requires recognition-it’s important to acknowledge that circumstances have conspired to overwhelm you-and time. You must be willing to acknowledge your complicity in burning out and establish new parameters establishing a proper balance between your work life and your personal life. Self-regulation is paramount.

Take steps to introduce a proper diet, adequate rest and recreation and exercise into your daily life. Turn off your cellphone. Stop compulsively checking email. Take time off. Limit social engagements unconnected to pleasure. Develop interests that will increase your experience of the natural world, which can be highly restorative.

Failure to acknowledge the debilitating effects of burnout may result in physical or mental breakdown, prolonged episodes of depression or even disease.

If You’re Feeling the Heat:

Some recommendations from Catherine Madigan for preventing or treating the symptoms of burnout:

  • Stress management is anti-burnout. Regular aerobic exercise is great for stress relief. Exercise can be as simple as a brisk 30-minute walk. Other options include: cycling, jogging, squash etc.
  • Avoid substances, which can increase anxiety, including caffeinated drinks such as tea, coffee and soda.
  • Stop smoking or cut back.
  • Alcohol is a depressant, lowers your “people mood” and can actually increase your feelings of anxiety within hours of having a drink.
  • Experiment with relaxation techniques such as slow breathing and progressive muscle relaxation.

Being fully engaged in all aspects of your life-and that includes time set aside to relax in a lounge chair and read a good book-will significantly reduce your risk of going down in flames.

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Stress Relievers

Stress management is an important practice that most people nowadays need to learn. With a fast paced working environment, people are constantly subjected to tremendous pressure that results in unpleasant levels of stress in their lives. You need to be able to cope quickly with the amount of stress that you have to deal with since it produces several negative effects on your health. Exercise is a great way to relieve stress and there are so many options out there that everyone can find an activity that they enjoy doing but will also de-stress the body and mind.

Stress and It’s Effects
First off, stress can cause your performance to drop because of your inability to focus on the tasks at hand. Stress can also affect your health and body. Oftentimes, stress can escalate into depression or anxiety. High blood pressure, poor eating habits and lack of rest caused by high stress can also lead to worse health conditions including heart disease.

Where to Start
If you’re working long hours and stressed about balancing work and family life, it may be difficult to even start an exercise program for stress relief. Start small. Taking 20-30 minutes out of your busy day to take a walk through the park can do wonders for your stress level. Walking for half an hour a day can help kick start your fitness. It’s also a great excuse to spend time with your family. Get everyone together for a walk after dinner or take the kids and the dog to the park for a good run.

Another good starting place is a local fitness company. There are many options here in San Jose with regard to fitness:  health clubs, yoga studios, pilates studios and of, course, your local San Jose boot camp company, lifeSport Fitness!  Choose what suits your fitness style and lifestyle best and make sure you do something that you enjoy so your more likely to stick with it. Even if you decide to work out on your own, book a consultation with a fitness trainer so they can show you the proper use of the equipment and help you set your goals.

Group classes may include anything from a relaxtion yoga class to a fast paced step class. Some clubs and fitness centers have started adding Zumba Fitness classes which incorporate latin dance and aerobics moves. Find what interests you and gets you moving.

How Does Exercise Help?
You may be wondering what all this exercise is going to do to benefit your stress levels. There are a number of reasons why physical activities reduce stress. The first is the chemicals released in the brain and body when you exert yourself through physical activity. Exercise can release endorphins and seratonin which boost our mood and make us feel happier. Exercise can also help reduce stress through improving confidence and body image. The healthier we are, the more confident we become. Confidence helps us take control of our lives and in turn reduce our stress levels.

Giving yourself 30 minutes to an hour to exercise, play a sport or do a class a few times a week is also a great way to unwind and destress. Doing something for yourself can help take your mind off the stresses in life. It’s also an opportunity to concentrate on something other than work. Clearing your head of the things that are clogging your brain and causing stress can help you regroup your thoughts.

It may seem that you don’t have time to fit exercise into your busy schedule but there’s always time to do even a short activity to get your body moving and your heart pumping. Even five minutes of deep breathing at your work desk is better than nothing!

Exercise is so important for our physical health — but it’s also good for our mental health.

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