“Burn Out” by Jan Verest
When Your Body Says No: Avoiding ‘Burnout’

We live in a society where the motto is “more, more, more!” We want more success, more money, more “things.” Family and friends rely on us. Businesses rely on us. And sometimes we just forget ourselves.

The continuous state of stress we push ourselves into, to prove to others that we are great and we can achieve amazing things, is not that great for our bodies. Our bodies can deal with a bit of stress once in a while, but the fact is, most of us deal with this every day of our lives.

We love perfection, and we love to work hard for it.

We have stress in our jobs. We want to do our best and maybe even get a raise or a promotion. We need to make more money because we have too many financial responsibilities: credit card bills, mortgage, a new car, school for the kids. We want to shop for new clothes and shoes every week, go on vacation a few times a year and go out to eat at fancy restaurants a lot. Those are big responsibilities.

QUIZ: How Stressed Are You?

If you live like that, your body could be stressed, whether you notice it or not. Then your body produces a lot of the stress hormone cortisol. Cortisol does many bad things to your body, and one of the worst is that it causes weight gain.

But there is another reason to really take time each day to unwind: Your body needs it to release the stress and avoid “burnout.” In this society, we need to keep going, there is more work to do each day and there is not much room for error or sickness on our part. There is just no time for it, and we need to keep going on and on.

Burnout sounds serious, and it is. Burnout is a disease of our modern times. It is around the corner for a lot of people and they don’t even know it. Some get it and they call it a “midlife crisis,” but young people in their 20s or 30s can have it, too. It can happen to anyone.

It is important to recognize the signs of an overstressed body. A lot of times there are small signs from your body that tell you, “Hey, you need to slow down, because I am not feeling well.”

MORE: Release the Built-Up Stress in Your Body

It can start with aches. Headache in the morning, difficulty sleeping, joint pain, stomach pain, difficult digestion, swollen glands, ringing ear, dizziness, feeling of vibrations throughout the body… it can even become panic attacks. When every sound or other sensations from outside are just too much and you want to get away from them, or when you feel overwhelmed a lot and feel like you can’t handle everything in a day. It is just too much. Maybe you are making mistakes or forgetting things.

Burnout can turn into depression. Normal things become difficult, whether physical actions like breathing or eating, driving a car or going out to dinner. Every person has different symptoms, but the basics are the same. It is all just too much.

Make sure you are not one of these people! When you start to feel different, whether due to returning physical pains or experiencing more emotional distress or anxiety, you need to see a doctor. Get a physical checkup and get your blood tested. Talk to a therapist. Because if you keep going, you might go over your limit.

MORE: How to Talk to Your Doctor About Your Stress

There is no medication for a burnout. It is a state of total exhaustion of your body and mind. The only things you can do are rest, sleep and try to relax. It’s difficult, but it is the only thing that helps.

Making sure your body is really capable of handling stress is probably the most important task you have each day. Besides breathing, nourishing your body with good food and exercising, you need to have fun and take it easy!

A few things you can do right away to relieve stress if you are in a burnout or feel like you are taking in too much stress: Get a handle on pressure and responsibilities. Organize. Prioritize. Do things to relax and have fun. Go on a trip somewhere nice. Spend time with loved ones. Get a massage. Take naps. Take moments away from your desk to do something else—walk and get a cup of tea. Don’t work on your computer too late at night and don’t play videogames or watch TV too late, either. (This disturbs your sleeping rhythm and hormones, which are important for a healthy body. Night is for unwinding and sleeping—that’s why it’s dark outside.)

MORE: 5 Ways to Slow Down and Enjoy Life

The faster you notice you are overstressed, the sooner you can work on making things better before you reach a burnout. If you get into a burnout, the process of getting back to health can be long. It can take months or even years to get back to functioning well. And again, in our society, there is no time for that. Think about the bills each month that need to be paid, the responsibilities you have. It is worth it to take a moment each day to make sure you stay healthy. In the end, this can prevent suffering from a burnout and get you on the road back to health.

You only have one body. Take care of it!

Love, Lonneke

This first chapter is to help you realize how bad stress can influence a person, and that it is important to recognize signs of burnout. Try to find a moment each day to unwind. In the following chapters I will give tips on what you can do to unwind, and how you can “organice your life” so a burnout does not happen. And if it does, what it takes to get a speedy recovery. Trust me, I know firsthand!

MORE: The Power of Deep Breathing