Rate of Burnout in the UK
Alarmingly, 79% of UK employees are experiencing some form of burnout, with 48% suffering from moderate to severe debilitating burnout, according to the O.C. Tanner’s Institute’s 2020 Global Culture report, looking at 20,000 leaders and employees across the world, including 2000 within the UK.
Frustratingly, most research is based on work burnout due to the cost implications for businesses and the economy, hence not many stats on burnout from other areas of life, such as parenthood, support givers etc, but this would be huge.
So what's the difference between Stress and Burnout?
As you can see Burnout occurs when Stress escalates and puts the body and mind into an extreme state.
Many of my clients arrive either in Burnout or teetering on the edge, bouncing between stress and burnout. This is exhausting physically, mentally and emotionally for them, leaving clients with a sense of failure, helplessness and often poorer health.
This is a horrible place to be - I have been there, and will never allow myself to go back to that old way.
In order to understand how to prevent Burnout and deal with stress, it is important to understand the difference between an Emotional Stressor and the Emotional Stress Response.
Basically, an Emotional Stress Response will still remain within an individual, where if left, can cause damage long term mentally, emotionally and physically, even if you have tackled and removed the Emotional Stressor (Emotional stress that causes the problem, feeling or challenge) from around you according to Dr Emily and Amelia Nagoski, from their book Burnout.
3 ways in which we can find ourselves within and Emotional Stress Response are as follows:-
- Chronic Stress, related to the build up of stress on the body, and no release
- Social Appropriateness, which occurs when we hold down our emotions in response to others inappropriate actions, words or behaviour, for our own safety or to prevent an escalation of a negative situation
- Sympathetic System kicks in by initiating the Fight or Flight Response to keep us safe
Hence if you find yourself in any of those situations, you know it’s time to be mindful of helping yourself get through the emotion within.
It is agreed professionally, that we need to seek external help to deal with emotions and stress as otherwise these patterns will keep repeating, which increases the number of Emotional Stress Responses that can get trapped within the physical body as well as affecting us mentally. After all, as Einstein said...
“You can’t use the same mind that created the problems, to fix the same problems,” Einstein
or to paraphrase,
“You can’t expect to fix your own mind, and subsequent behaviours and feelings, with your own mind”.
After listening to a very open and as always, interesting podcast with Brené Brown and her guests, twins, Dr. Emily and Dr. Amelia Nagoski on their new book covering research on how to deal with Burnout, I wanted to summarise their findings, as well as recommend you have a listen or read their book.
These inspiring women talk about the fact that all emotions have a start, middle and end. The problem is we often try and deal only with the Emotional Stressor, and so once this has been dealt with or removed, we expect that the feeling of the Emotional Stress Response, within the body, will disappear. However it doesn’t, so we can become stuck in the middle of that emotion and remain in it.
If we remain stuck in this Emotional Response and we are unable to complete the process to the end, this can have a real detrimental effect on our physical health and wellbeing, as it can affect us neurologically, within every cell in the body, for example:
- Plaques can form in our cardiovascular system, giving rise to Heart problems, strokes etc
- In the gut the upper Gastrointestinal Tract (GIT) slows down whilst the lower GIT speeds up, giving rise to Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).
- The Immune System is affected, so even when the stressor has gone, that’s when we become ill as the immune system goes into overdrive. This often happens when people go on holiday. Sound familiar?
- The Endocrine System can be hit, affecting our hormones, which in turn prevents our body functioning normally.
So how can we help ourselves? Well, there are 7 ways the Doctors have identified as really having a positive impact on us, by helping us move to the end of each Emotional Response, which are:-
Any movement is helpful, such as a brisk walk, jog, mad dancing, run, cycle, running on the spot, HIIT session, gym, even tensing all your muscles really tight and holding them and then releasing a few times can help remove the stress within the body.
Focusing on your breath and slowing it down, is well known to reduce your heart rate, blood pressure, adrenaline and cortisol levels. Whilst breathing the aim is to be mindful of what your body is doing and feeling every little change, as you slow you breath right down. I also recommend square breathing, which is a count of 4 as you breathe in, count of 4 as you hold, count of 4 as you breathe out and another count of 4 as you hold again. Then repeat.
Another way to work with your breath is following people like ‘Breathe with James’ on Instagram and do his sessions that are incredible. I highly recommend him to all my clients and love partaking in his sessions myself.
POSITIVE SOCIAL INTERACTION
Feeling connected with others by talking helps your mind and body relax and tells the body it’s safe and in a sense that you are ‘home’.
This isn’t fake laughter but deep, belly type of laughter, more info on this in my previous blog. As they say, laughter is the best medicine!
This is something I feel very strongly about, as a good hug releases the hormone Oxytocin that has so many health benefits, as well as make us feel connected and safe. For more information on the power of Hugs and Oxytocin, please visit my blog…
Apparently research shows a 20 second hug (potentially slightly awkward if we did this with all the people we meet, (although once Covid is over I’m clinging to whoever is nearest so watch out!!) has the same benefits as a 20 minute jog, in relation to our stress levels.
BIG OLD CRY
Crying will never remove the stressor but it will help you release and move through the full Emotional Response process. However, this only works if you are mindful of what the physical body is doing when you cry and stop focusing on the problem that made you cry. Hence you must stop feeding the problem by thinking about it, but instead use it simply as an emotional release.
Use your energy positively and productively by creating something with that emotional energy, e.g. knitting, painting or singing etc Carrie Fisher’s quote sums it up nicely, “Take your broken heart and turn it into art”.
I hope you use any one of these Secret Seven Top Tips to manage stress by releasing your emotional stress within.
In Summary, remember that stress itself is not the problem, it’s how you perceive the situations and challenges that’s important. A challenge must never be seen as something stressful to avoid, but instead as an exciting opportunity and adventure to learn and grow to feel strong, confident and see value and worth in who you are.
When we are able to do this, we reduce the number of Emotional Stress Responses we go through, which in turn minimises the chance or being stuck within one of those negative emotions, which increases the exposure of problems within our physical body as well as adding to the perceived negative beliefs and emotions within our mind.
So take time to look after yourself and to keep your body and mind
strong, healthy and happy.