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By Emma Attenborough-Sergeant Wellness Expert at GoVida - The Employee Wellbeing Platform

It’s International Stress Awareness Week, so what better time to look at keeping burnout at bay?

Whether you’re in charge of a company with a whole workforce to look after, or an integral part of a team with a boss to impress, your experience of stress is the same. We all fall prey to pressure, no matter what level we’re at; the important thing is to know when that stress is reaching unhealthy levels.

Isn’t all stress bad you ask? Actually, no. Stress, to a certain degree, can be good for you: it keeps you motivated, pushes you to succeed, and gives you that ‘buzz’ of determination and achievement. Without stress to keep us on our toes, how much would we ever really challenge ourselves? Chances are, we’d settle into our comfort zones and forget how much we’re actually capable of.

Stress only really becomes problematic when we don’t take time to recover from it.

The Vital Importance of Stress Recovery

If we get a bit scientific for a moment and look at our biological programming, the human body is designed to face stress, then rest and recover – before experiencing its next bout of stress. But with busy lives and ever-growing to-do lists, the (very important) recovery stage has become a little lost along the way. And it’s this cumulative effect that carries the potential for stress to stop us in our tracks.

So what can you do about it? Rest; recharge; recover.

A lot of us fall into the trap of thinking that by looking after ourselves, we’re being indulgent; that really isn’t the case at all. Whether we find our calm through rest, exercise, pampering, meditation, reading, or relaxing in the company of people who bring us joy, it’s crucial that we make time to prioritise anything that’s good for the body, mind and soul – week in, week out.

Without these essential moments to rest, recharge and recover, the ‘good’ stress (known as ‘eustress’) that’s keeping us on our toes starts to become problematic. And that’s when burnout can set in.

Tell-Tale Signs that You’re Heading for Burnout

Burnout, or chronic stress, is what happens when we don’t take time to recover from stress. When we live in a perpetual and prolonged state of stress, our risk of heart disease and hypertension increases, our immunity levels lower, and we become more likely to experience poor mental health.

So how do you know if you’re heading for burnout? Some of the most common signs and symptoms of burnout include:

  • Reduced performance at work
  • Inability to think creatively
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Insomnia, or sleeping too much
  • Extreme changes in mood
  • Exhaustion and fatigue
  • Feelings of cynicism
  • Overwhelm
  • Being frustrated or angry
  • Feeling emotional, or crying a lot  
  • Physical symptoms, such as constant headaches and stomach pains

If these signs seem familiar, it’s time to look after yourself – which, when you’re busy (and stressed) can feel like an impossible ask. But small practises can make a huge difference.

How to Reduce Stress and Avoid Burnout

We’ve already touched on the importance of making time in your week for the activities that bring you peace, joy, or increased energy. It’s really important to spend some time pinpointing those activities: pay attention to how certain hobbies – and people – make you feel; notice your emotions, wellbeing, and overall stress and happiness levels.

As well as noticing the things that give you the best opportunities to rest, recharge and recover, it’s also important to look at the sources of stress in your life. Stress is a very normal and natural part of our every day lives, but if too much stress is coming from one point, it may be necessary to make a few changes. Consider your work life, home life, relationships, and anything else that plays a big role in your week. Write down how all of these areas make you feel, being really honest with yourself. If something, or someone, is draining your reserves, cut back.

Work is a really common source of stress for a lot of people; again, this stress can be good for you – but if it’s getting too much, speak out. Whether you need wellbeing support, help with your workload, or a few days to fully recharge, talk to your line manager, HR team, or a supportive peer.

Making Positive, Proactive Change

If you’re an employer reading this, why not take International Stress Awareness Week as a chance to check in with your teams (and yourself) about their wellbeing, and make sure they’re getting the support they need. Stress management is crucial to performance (and happiness!), so it pays to make sure your people are thriving – not floundering. If you’re not sure where to start, GoVida’s employee wellbeing platform boasts some of the most impactful stress-management resources on the market. For a free trial, or to find out more, get in touch with our friendly team today.

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