Friday, March 4, 2011

The Difference Between Stress & Burnout - And Tips On Prevention!

Since I named this blog "Avoiding Working Mom Burnout", I thought it was a bit overdue that I actually talk about burnout and what it is.  So far, the majority of my posts have been about the chronicles of motherhood, marriage, relationships and women's issues. 

I think we use the term "burnout" very loosely in today's day and age - I catch myself saying "OMG, I'm so burnt out" quite often (maybe more so on Fridays).  I definitely have some weeks where I'm way more tired than others and everything seems to take a little more effort.  This is one of those weeks (maybe because of last weekend's getaway to Ottawa which was all play, no rest).  We all have those days where the juggling act of the modern woman's life becomes overwhelming and we feel overloaded.  Perhaps even unappreciated?  But what does it really mean?  Am I just tired from my totally hectic schedule?  Am I stressed out?  Or am I really burnt out?

According to the Helpguide organization, stress and burnout are two different things.  Here's how they compare the two:

"Burnout may be the result of unrelenting stress, but it isn’t the same as too much stress. Stress, by and large, involves too much: too many pressures that demand too much of you physically and psychologically. Stressed people can still imagine, though, that if they can just get everything under control, they’ll feel better.
Burnout, on the other hand, is about not enough. Being burned out means feeling empty, devoid of motivation, and beyond caring. People experiencing burnout often don’t see any hope of positive change in their situations."

Well that clears things up.  I guess being stressed doesn't seem so bad compared to be being burnt out!  I'll have to change my lingo a little bit.  I can go into details about what causes burnout or stress, but I feel they're pretty self-explanatory - job, lifestyle, etc.    More importantly what can we do to prevent burnout (and also reduce stress)?  I'm including below what the article suggested (since I'm no expert in this field - I'm in marketing), but then I will have something to say... so read on!


Burnout prevention tips

  • Start the day with a relaxing ritual. Rather jumping out of bed as soon as you wake up, spend at least fifteen minutes meditating, writing in your journal, doing gentle stretches, or reading something that inspires you.
  • Adopt healthy eating, exercising, and sleeping habits. When you eat right, engage in regular physical activity, and get plenty of rest, you have the energy and resilience to deal with life’s hassles and demands. 
  • Set boundaries. Don’t overextend yourself. Learn how to say “no” to requests on your time. If you find this difficult, remind yourself that saying “no” allows you to say “yes” to the things that you truly want to do.
  • Take a daily break from technology. Set a time each day when you completely disconnect. Put away your laptop, turn off your phone, and stop checking email.
  • Nourish your creative side. Creativity is a powerful antidote to burnout. Try something new, start a fun project, or resume a favorite hobby. Choose activities that have nothing to do with work.
  • Learn how to manage stress. When you’re on the road to burnout, you may feel helpless. But you have a lot more control over stress than you may think. Learning how to manage stress can help you regain your balance.
PLEASE!  I look at this list and say WTF?!?!?! Soooo not realistic - there is no way any of that is happening in my crazy life.  Let's just see how these can apply if I were to try...
  • Instead of waking up at 5am, I'll wake up at 4:45am and sit cross-legged on my floor and meditate for 15 minutes - no way. 
  • We all know about the exercise, eating well and getting enough sleep thing... no comment.  I do the best I can with those as it is, but it's often easier said than done. 
  • What can I say no to?  To my kids who want their breakfast?  To the groceries that need to be purchased?  To my boss about that important project with a tight deadline?  Ya, not happening. 
  • OK, the break from technology - I can do that... when I'm sleeping. 
  • The creative project... so the point before says "say no" to demands on your time but now you have to find more time to come up with a new hobby?  Not happening. 
  • And the last one... weren't all the above supposed to help you manage the stress????  Because this one certainly didn't tell me how to do it! 
Their list is CRAP!

So seriously now, how do you avoid burnout?  Well, as I said, I'm in marketing and all I can tell you is what makes sense to me...
  • Try to simplify your life wherever you can
  • Plan as much as you can - this eliminates thinking for many things so you can just do
  • Organize as much as you can - although I'm still always looking for things in my house- much simpler when I lived alone LOL
  • Ask for help when you can't do it all (bringing in some past blog post content here)
  • Delegate!
  • Enjoy at least some of the moments in each day without letting them all pass you by (i.e. live in the present and not just for the future)
  • Incorporate some things that you find relaxing and enjoyable wherever and whenever you can (trade massages with your spouse/partner, take a hot bath at the end of the day, listen to music, etc)
  • Find a few moments a day just for you.  For example, I don't take long lunches - I just eat and go back to work or sometimes just eat at my desk - but I do stretch for 10 minutes somewhere in the day - I just stand up next to my desk and do it.  It re-energizes me and makes me feel good that I'm doing something healthy for my body.
Of course I can throw the exercise, eat healthy and get enough sleep thing in - but like I said, we all know that already.  Just do what makes sense for you.  Take the suggestions that work for your life and then find some of your own.  Although we all feel stressed and overwhelmed at times, nobody is living your life but you, so only you know what will make sense to help you manage in your own way.  If you feel you really can't manage, then perhaps it's time to seek some professional help.

P.S. If you have any good tips of your own, let me know!

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