Are you hurtling towards a stress-related burnout?

Are you hurtling towards stress-related burnout? [Photo: Tim Gouw via Pexels]

Feeling stressed? We hear ya.

Between juggling to-do lists, dodging daily battles with your boss and managing money woes, it’s little wonder that around 15.8 million days of work were lost in 2016 due to mental illness – both pre-existing conditions and situational disorders such as stress and anxiety.

And stress doesn’t just affect our mental wellbeing. It can have a bearing on our overall health too, with 62% of people reporting that stress has affected their health and 67% per cent of people believing their body reacts physically to stress, causing them to suffer more headaches, stomach discomfort, colds, skin flare-ups and sore throats.

Feeling constantly anxious can leave us open to a whole heap of long-term problems too including putting pressure on our reproductive system, upsetting our digestion, shutting down our immune system, increasing our blood pressure and increasing our risk of both stroke and heart attack.

Oh and it prematurely ages us too!

With that in mind, and to coincide with National Stress Awareness Day (November 1), we spoke to Dr Amy Bibby from Qure for some tips on avoiding a stress-related burnout.

Take time out

Easier said than done when your in-tray is overflowing and your boss wants that report, like, yesterday, but sometimes you need to cut yourself some work slack. According to the NHS, UK employees work the longest hours in Europe, so it’s vital we take time away from the office both physically and mentally. “Having some ‘me time’ can reduce the amount of stress you feel and give you the headspace needed to approach the cause rationally and calmly,” says Dr Bibby. 

Don’t rely on a stress crutch

“But all I need are cigarettes and alcohol,” sang Oasis. But taking mental health advice from the Gallagher bros back in the 90s is probably not the one. “It’s easy to reach for a cigarette or a pour a glass of wine when we’re feeling stressed out but it’s never the healthiest option,” explains Dr Bibby. “Using substances as crutches will not provide any long-term benefits and will not put you in better stead to face your stresses; the relief is simply temporary and can cause more complications than good.”

Get a good night’s sleep

Trapped in the stressed-so-can’t-sleep cycle? You’re not alone. Recent statistics have revealed that over half of us (54%) say that stress or anxiety increased their anxiety about falling asleep. But while getting a good night’s kip might seem like a challenge if you’re feeling stressed-out, sleep can be a key factor in making you feel well and more relaxed.

“The body heals itself during sleep, resulting in a well-rested body and mind, so regularly getting a good night’s sleep sets you up to deal with the day with a positive attitude,” explains Dr Bibby. If you’re struggling to sleep, she suggests cutting out caffeine in the evenings and turning off all electronics half an hour before bed to ensure you’re completely relaxed when it comes to lights-out.

15.8 million work days are lost because of stress [Photo: Tim Gouw via Pexels]

Exercise therapy

When you’re on the anxiety treadmill, the last thing you feel like doing is pounding an actual treadmill, but according to Dr Bibby keeping active can have a powerful effect on your mental wellbeing. “Physical activity is thought to release endorphins, which cause a chemical change in our brains,” she explains. “This can affect our mood and give us the energy boost to combat the lethargic and tired feelings stress can induce.”

Get talking

The power of sharing your feelings with a good support network can be the answer to avoiding a total burnout, and shouldn’t be underestimated, says Dr Bibby. “Although you may not feel sociable, and would prefer to shut yourself away, this isolation can be damaging and make stress seem even worse. Chatting with friends, being social and having people you can confide in will alleviate some of the pressures you may face as a result of stress, and having a new perspective on situations may even help.”

If you’re feeling more stressed than normal, or you’re worried you’re heading towards a burnout, visit your GP or book an appointment at a time and location that suits you through the Qure app.

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