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Long time no see, everyone! I haven’t written a new blogpost for over two months. That’s the longest I’ve ever gone without writing new content for My Passion Projects since I started it. The reason I haven’t been writing is simple: I’ve been too busy. As some of you might know, I’ve suffered from burn-out in the past. Stress is something I struggle with a lot and even though I have all the tools I need to deal with it in a constructive manner, I still mess up sometimes. In this post, I’ll tell you a bit more about stress and share some of the tools I use to deal with it.
Stress has been a big theme in my life for the past few years. In 2013 I was completely burned out and I had to quit studying for almost a year. After that, I tried my very best to avoid this pitfall by learning a lot about how stress works and what I can do to handle stressful situations better.
What 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. 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 things, 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 a 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) is used to score people on five descriptors: openness, extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, and neuroticism. People who score high on neuroticism have a higher risk of developing burn-out. 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
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 my views on stress:
Kelly has also written a very helpful book on the matter. If you’d like to read more about it, you can get it here.
So, what can you do to start handling stress better?
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 are proven methods to reduce stress.
I’d love to know what you do to reduce stress and recharge. Please leave a comment if you have any good tips for us.
Before I go, please remember that we all go through rough patches and that you are not alone. Don’t force things. You don’t have to do anything at once. You are doing the best you can and that’s enough. Take care of yourself for there’s nothing more important than your health.
With much love,