Burnout is becoming rampant. Whether we work inside or outside of the home, many of us are familiar with the feeling that we are carrying the burden of the world on our shoulders.
Indicators of burnout include:
- Chronic fatigue, frustration, and exhaustion: a deadening of the heart and giving way to resignation and despair.
- A sense of diminished effectiveness: a gnawing sense of futility about work, or about life in general.
- Unproductive feelings of anger and resentment toward the people we care about.
- An absence of inspiration and enthusiasm, joy and spontaneity.
The condition of burnout is not irreversible. As with any symptom or disease, burnout is an indicator of an energy imbalance in our life. It is an appeal from within to make changes toward living in a more balanced and fulfilling manner. If we choose not to listen to our body’s messages, our condition is likely to progress towards the cellular changes of organic disease (for example, a heart heavy with regret becomes a heart attack).
So how do we fight this growing epidemic? There are several steps to preventing and overcoming burnout. The good news is that there is at least one thing we can do, right now, that is convenient and best of all, free.
Combat stress directly
Among the greatest causes of burnout is stress. Stress is the term used to describe the wear and tear on our bodies in reaction to everyday tension and pressure. It is almost disheartening to learn that almost 90% of all health problems are related to stress (American Institute of Stress). And yet, it is not the events or the situations that do the harm; it is the way we respond to them. To go deeper, it is how we feel about the events that determine whether we are stressed or not. Think of it like catching a cold; not everyone exposed gets the sniffles. Whether or not we get sick does not lie within the virus itself, but rather within our immune system’s response to the virus.
Positive emotions-like appreciation, care and love-not only feel good but are good for us. They create synchronization in the heart’s rhythms and in the nervous system. Other bodily systems then link up to this natural cadence. This synchronization (scientists call this coherence) leads to mental clarity, creativity and increased ability to solve problems and handling stressful situations. This leads to an easy, free, and even portable way to combat the deleterious effects of stress with no membership fees required.
There are several relaxation techniques out there, like meditation, mantra and prayer. Those help alleviate stress in the moment, but they do not help retrain the human stress response to a healthier, more productive function. To do that, try The Quick Coherence® Technique described below. It was developed by HeartMath (www.heartmath.com, Boulder Creek, California) and is based on over 17 years of scientific research on the psychophysiology of stress, emotions, and the interactions between the heart and brain. This technique is used widely in the US military, among Fortune 500 companies and major US hospitals in an effort to improve resiliency, reduce employee turnover and increase productivity all while reducing stress.
The Quick Coherence® Technique
Step One: Heart Focus
Focus your attention on the area around your heart.
Step Two: Heart Focused breathing
Maintaining your heart focus, and while breathing, imagine that your breath is flowing out through the heart area. Breathe casually, but maybe a little deeper than normal.
Step Three: Heart Feeling
Recall a positive feeling and make a sincere attempt to relive that feeling. Maybe it’s a beloved pet, or a favorite vacation memory, just try to steep in a feeling of gratitude, joy or appreciation.
Doing this for 1 minute per day several times per week has been proven to interrupt the stress response. Within 2 weeks, most of us will be see the following changes: more calm, less reactive, more alert, better focus, less anxiety, more peace, more positive attitudes and better sleep. With practice, we also find that we have more choices and options-even in the midst of challenging situations.
Taking control of our stress is a necessary first step in avoiding the far-reaching consequences of personal and professional burnout.
The truth is, in today’s high-paced environment, we find that our traditional structures are failing. Schools, government and our healthcare systems are struggling under the weight on their shoulders. And while it is imperative that we each take personal action and responsibility for our own well-being, it is comforting to know that many of the answers lie within ourselves.