Overwhelmed and Overworked? Combat Stress Before You Burnout

Apr 30, 2024 | Stress Management

You wake up to a blaring alarm, grab a coffee as you rush out the door, and you can’t quit your mind as your day’s to-do list overloads your thoughts. Each task and notification adds weight to an invisible burden you carry into meetings, through deadlines, and back home. This non-stop hustle is exhausting and a definite recipe for burnout. I know the demands of leadership life won’t pause, but there are strategies to avoid burnout, protect your health, and start to heal before it’s too late!


How Stress and Burnout Affect Your Health

Unfortunately, stress is an inevitable part of life. But just because we face stress daily doesn’t make it any easier or less harmful for us. Whether meeting tight deadlines, managing relationships, or navigating financial pressures, these daily stressors continuously test our resilience

How heavily you feel the weight of daily stress can depend greatly on your capacity to cope and the magnitude of the demands placed upon you. For those with lower resilience or higher demands, stress accumulates faster and degrades the ability to bounce back. It can leave you overwhelmed and risking your health.

When you feel stressed, the sensations are due to your body’s fight, flight, freeze, or fawn response. This response releases a flood of hormones, including adrenaline and cortisol, which prepares your body to face a threat. Your heart rate increases, blood pressure rises, and your muscles tighten. It does this so we can stay safe, and it is meant to be short-term. But life around us has evolved at a much quicker pace than our human bodies. Over extended periods, it becomes harmful. 

As stress persists, its effects extend deeper into the body’s systems. It leads to an inability for your body to produce your daily hormones properly. It also leads to chronic inflammation and an increased risk of various diseases due to the degradation of your immune system. Think mental health illness, cognitive decline, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and more.

Inflammation is very dangerous, and it’s scary how many people are unaware and living their lives on autopilot while inching closer and closer to diagnosis. It is a leading cause of most chronic conditions, such as arthritis, heart disease, and even certain cancers

Most people will associate stress and burnout with mental health. As mentioned, it is a contributor. All of our body’s systems are so tightly interconnected. The chemical imbalances caused by prolonged stress heighten and even create mental health issues. Elevated cortisol disrupts neurotransmitter functions and can deplete serotonin levels, leading to mood disorders such as depression and anxiety. The hippocampus, an area of the brain essential for memory and learning, can actually shrink under constant exposure to cortisol. 

Now, burnout is what happens when you don’t address these escalating stress levels. It’s a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by prolonged and excessive stress. It feels like hitting a wall: everything becomes difficult, and nothing seems rewarding. You might experience burnout as a sense of emptiness, a lack of motivation, or a profound disconnect from your daily tasks and those around you.

Recognizing and addressing stress early on will allow you to surpass maintaining your health and actually take control of your life. You can start living with joy and abundant health. You don’t have to live your life with the world’s weight on your shoulders. 


Identifying Signs of Overwhelming Stress

Recognizing when stress levels are starting to tip from manageable to overwhelming can actually be more difficult than you might think. They are sneaky because we are almost always in connection and always on the go. It starts by adding one more thing, then two more things, and soon enough, our bandwidth has been surpassed without us ever making a conscious choice. It all compounds. Many of us also struggle to be in tune with our body’s sensational signals and symptoms that are meant to alert us to the need for a change and to slow down. This comes with practice. Until then, here are some key symptoms to watch for:

  • Persistent Fatigue: Despite adequate rest, you feel constantly drained and lacking energy.
  • Headaches: Frequent tension headaches or migraines can be a sign of prolonged stress.
  • Muscle Pain or Tension: Especially in the jaw, neck, shoulders, and back, often not related to physical activity.
  • Sleep Disturbances: Difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep. Frequently experiencing restless nights.
  • Changes in Appetite: A loss of appetite or overeating in response. Reaching for foods high in sugar and saturated fats. 
  • Irritability or Mood Swings: Small problems seem extremely frustrating, leading to sudden emotional outbursts. 
  • Anxiety or Depression: Feelings of doom or persistent sadness that don’t seem to go away.
  • Digestive Problems: Upset stomach, diarrhea, or constipation can occur when hormones cause diversions from your digestive system to ensure your safety.
  • Increased Heart Rate: Feeling your heart pounding in your chest during non-strenuous activities.
  • Cognitive Difficulties: Trouble concentrating, remembering, brain fog and difficulty making decisions.

It’s important to use this list more as a prompt for self-reflection than to self-diagnose over the internet, though I know that can be tempting. If several of these symptoms resonate with you, I urge you to examine your lifestyle or speak with myself or another healthcare provider that you trust. 

Everyone can experience these feelings from time to time, but many of you high-achievers and leaders out there will push down the feelings until you reach a state of overwhelm. You’ll be overworked, and your health will be completely degraded. Lead by example and inspire the people around you to embrace a more balanced, healthy lifestyle. I guarantee they will be passionate about keeping you around a little longer! 


Practical Strategies to Prevent Stress and Burnout

We can’t risk you shaving years off your life because you can’t manage to slow down now. You deserve longevity and joy, and you can make it happen with these practical strategies. They are easy to fit into a busy schedule and can quite literally save your life in the long run.

Nutrition to Support Stress Management

Everything you put in your body contributes to your physical and mental health. Some things are more helpful than others when it comes to supporting your stress levels and avoiding burnout. Include foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, like salmon and flaxseeds. They will help regulate mood hormones. Lean proteins such as white fish, or poultry for your DNA. Magnesium-rich foods such as spinach and almonds can combat fatigue and help maintain nerve function. Complex carbohydrates in whole grains help stabilize your blood sugar levels, preventing mood swings. By making thoughtful dietary choices, you equip your body with the tools it needs to handle stress more efficiently, keeping you focused and proactive in your busy life.

Relieve Stress and Avoid Burnout by Getting Physical

Regularly exercising is great for more than just your physical health. It also boosts your endorphins, the brain’s natural mood lifters. Whether it’s a brisk walk, a yoga session, or even pilates, moving your body is renowned for its ability to beat stress. Now, don’t push yourself to do an activity you’re going to hate. Find a type of movement you enjoy so you will actually keep up! Even 30 minutes of walking a day will boost your creativity and clarity, reduce tension, and skyrocket your energy levels. You’ll be ready to tackle challenges with renewed vigor. Try to do this outside as much as possible. Being in nature is shown to drop your stress levels and make you feel more grounded and interconnected with our world. Think of that as a type of support.

Meditation, Mindfulness, and Breathing Exercises

Meditation, mindfulness, prayer, and breathing exercises are incredible practices that have been around for centuries to help quiet the mind. By focusing your attention and slowing down your breath, these techniques help reduce the physiological effects of stress. They actually change your brain’s neural pathways and gray matter over time. Meditation can decrease anxiety levels greatly.It allws you to become more focused in your ways of being and shifting you from inside your head and into your heart and body. Mindfulness encourages you to experience the present moment fully, reducing negative thinking. Regular practice of deep, controlled breathing calms your nervous system while improving concentration and mood. It’s a tried and true way to build a resilient buffer against the pressures of everyday life.

Sleeping Your Way to Less Stress and Burnout Recovery

When you sleep, your body repairs itself, consolidates memories, removes toxins, and regulates hormones that help manage stress and emotions. Lack of sleep can worsen feelings of anxiety and decrease resilience to daily pressures. It can cause you to feel irritable, on edge, and low in patience. Too many of you struggle to get the sleep you need to live a healthy life, and the effects of sleep surpass just stress management and burnout recovery. If you’ve been tossing and turning all night trying to get quality sleep, you need to check out my sleep training resource. Better yet, it’s free! Start preventing burnout, curb your stress and wake up each day feeling refreshed and ready to face each day with renewed energy.

Leaning on Community and Relationships to Combat Stress

Connecting with others provides emotional support that can help you navigate stressful times. They can also help you take on some responsibilities so you can recover from burnout. Sharing your thoughts and concerns with friends, family, support groups, or a therapist can provide a sense of relief and belonging. You’ll notice reduced feelings of isolation that accompany stress. Being social can also distract you from your worries and uplift your mood. While it might seem counterintuitive to add things to your calendar when you’re already swamped, I promise that strengthening these bonds can provide comfort and reassurance, making the challenges of everyday life more manageable.


Want to get even more insights on living your life full of health, happiness, and vitality? Join me in my program, Pocket Doc! We’ll get face to face time through regular zoom calls with an incredible community of like-minded people looking to tap into the power of nature and live their best lives. You’ll get exclusive content and more! You wonder why you didn’t do it before! 

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