Dealing with Stress: How to Prevent Burnout

“Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation….”

Audre Lorde

Stress affects all of us at different times and in different ways. A small or moderate amount of stress from time to time can be a good thing—it can motivate us to stay focused and push through a new or difficult challenge. But when you experience a high amount of stress over a long period of time, you may end up dealing with burnout.

Burnout is a physical or mental collapse caused by stress, and creates a combination of mental, physical, and emotional exhaustion. This can happen when things at work, school, or in your personal life are out of balance and very stressful. The effects of burnout vary from person to person, but some include:

  • loss of motivation,
  • feelings of self-doubt, frustration, or exhaustion, and
  • a lack of enthusiasm for things you typically enjoy.

There are strategies you can use to prevent burnout, however, and one of them is called self-care. Self-care, or intentionally taking actions to maintain for your physical, emotional, and mental health, is an effective way to keep yourself healthy through tough times.

Practicing Self-Care

There is no one right way to practice self-care. Self-care may mean fitting in early morning exercise for one person or curling up with a mug of tea and a favorite book for another.  To figure out what your self-care practice might be, try writing a list of things that you do (or would like to do) that make you feel better, help relieve tension, or less stressed. If you’re stumped on what to write, consider these popular types of self-care:

  • Eating healthy foods every day, or making a fun home-cooked meal each week
  • Exercising daily, even if it’s for a short walk during lunchtime
  • Getting more or better quality sleep
  • Writing in a journal
  • Practicing meditation, yoga, or prayer
  • Spending quality time with friends and loved ones
  • Setting aside time for a favorite hobby or activity
  • Decreasing screen time on phones, computers, tablets, etc.

Once you have your list, break it down in to things that can be done in small blocks of time – like 15-30 minutes, an hour, a few hours, or a whole day. Keep this list somewhere where you’ll see it every day, and pick an activity that works for you that day.

Things to Keep In Mind

We are often so focused on taking care of those around us, and managing all of our responsibilities, that taking the time to practice self-care can feel strange at first. It can feel selfish or like you’re not being productive, especially since we’re taught from an early age to put the world in front of ourselves, and to always be working towards something.  This can make it hard to turn off the little voice that keeps telling you to push forward and take on more – especially for women who often feel pressure to put others’ needs ahead of their own.

The beauty of self-care is that it shifts your mindset so that taking care of you becomes as much of a priority as taking care of others. When you are healthy and whole mentally, physically, and emotionally, you are in a better position to tackle problems or help others. You might need some time to get used to practicing self-care, and that’s okay! When you are in touch with your own needs, living with them in mind can help you feel happier, more open to others, and more creative.

Want to read more about this topic? Take an in-depth look at self-care and learn how it can help you here. Don’t forget to leave a comment or story below!


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