March 1, 2022

How to Manage Chronic Stress and Prevent Burnout with Proper Self-Care

After several long months of worldwide complications, the COVID-19 pandemic has transformed our lives on every level. Many admit that these are the most difficult times in memory. Most of us are now dealing with tasks and decisions on the job and in our personal lives that we never imagined we would ever encounter. We are challenged with:

  • Working from home with our spouses
  • Homeschooling our children
  • Caring for our special needs children and sick and/or elderly parents
  • Keeping up employee morale and managing their fears
  • Making decisions under duress while trying to appear to be in control

Yes, this pandemic has created stress in unprecedented ways.

But stress and life go hand in hand. And how we manage stress is of crucial importance. Managing stress with proper self-care provides mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual well-being. It also prevents burnout. So how is it possible to manage chronic stress and prevent burnout during this challenging season in life?

The Problem with Stress

Everyday Health states in The United States of Stress 2019, “Although there are different types of stress (some are even positive), the type we need to pay attention to, say experts, is chronic stress. This is the stress that makes it hard to sleep well, makes it nearly impossible to lose weight, and finds us fighting one cold after another. It’s the stress that can both cause medical conditions and trigger and exacerbate flare-ups from existing conditions. This kind of stress depresses the immune system, alters our moods, and damages our professional and personal relationships.”

Everybody has bad days and rough weeks. But running on empty without any good days for long periods of time wreaks havoc on our mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual well-being.

Chronic Stress Causes Burnout

The following list of issues reveals the negative effects of chronic stress on our bodies and lets us know we’re either headed for burnout or suffering from burnout already. Feeling exhausted all the time, being overly irritable, or frequently overreacting are some of the big red flags pointing to burnout. Other indications that we’re dealing with burnout are:

  • Sleeplessness
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle tension
  • Chest pain
  • Anger
  • Escapism
  • Drug and alcohol misuse
  • Restlessness
  • Depression
  • Diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Inability to lose weight
  • Health flare-ups of existing medical conditions
  • Depressed immune system
  • Mood swings
  • Damaged relationships

Chronic Stress Affects Performance and Productivity

It’s easy to see how the long-term effects of chronic stress affect us mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually. But think about it. When you feel overwhelmed and unable to cope, what do you tend to do? “Check out.” You may find yourself mindlessly sitting or standing there doing nothing, avoiding tasks at hand or even avoiding your spouse and/or children.

You lose focus. Thus, performance and productivity are affected. And feeling less productive adds more stress creating a downward spiral.

Manage Chronic Stress with Proper Self-Care

Of course, the causes of stress differ from person to person. But the need for regular self-care to reduce or manage chronic stress and replenish energy does not. Everyone needs to manage stress to prevent burnout and promote their mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual well-being.

Do you make time to manage stress? And do you take time for self-care on a regular basis? It’s important to take care of you.

Regular self-care offers:

  1. Reprieve from stress and anxiety brought on by technology and the effects of COVID-19
  2. Improved mindfulness - focus, concentration, memory
  3. Increased creativity, mental strength, empathy, productivity, and gratefulness
  4. Ability to give more to others
  5. Gained perspective
  6. Stronger relationships
  7. Inner alignment and fulfillment

“You can’t pour from an empty cup.” If you’re dealing with burnout, it’s much harder, if not impossible, to take care of your family, parents, or employees well.

How to Add Proper Self-Care Daily

Even after a year of living through the pandemic, putting yourself first may seem difficult or even selfish. But mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual well-being is vital. Focus on ways to practice self-care with intention and commit to it for at least 3 hours every day. Both self-care and self-compassion are essential to your sustainability.

COVID-19 has made working from home harder for professionals to maintain routines and structure, two major keys for success in the professional world.

And although the benefits and importance of regular, proper self-care are clear, you may be wondering, “How am I supposed to find the time to actually add it to my already hectic schedule?”

Self-care is meant to alleviate or manage stress. It shouldn’t add stress. But no matter how busy you currently are, self-care is doable and simple to achieve.

1. Create a Schedule

Plan each day the night before by creating a schedule for the following day. This alleviates stress at the start of every day.

What to include in your daily plan:

  • Your morning regiment
  • Time blocks for working on your tasks for the day. List the top three tasks at the top, then delegate, outsource or delete the rest.
  • Frequent 20-minute breaks or power naps
  • Your evening regiment [Make honoring yourself part of your evening (regiment). Reflect on all that you accomplished and did well on that day]

During these frequent breaks choose one or more of the following self-care exercises:

  • Practice breathing
  • Enjoy some aromatherapy
  • Take a walk
  • Connect with a friend or family member
  • Pray and meditate
  • Journal
  • Read something inspiring
  • Listen to a podcast or TED Talk
  • Or dance in your kitchen!

To add structure within your schedule, try working in 25-minute increments and then take a short break. Or work with focus for 90 minutes, then take a 20-minute break. Whatever way works to help you be most productive.

When it’s time to take a break, don’t visit social media, your email inbox, or check your phone. This is the time to choose one of the self-care exercises listed above.

2. Set Boundaries.

Setting boundaries can be challenging to create and make others adhere to, but boundaries are a form of self-care. Give them some well-deserved thought and attention, and then stick to them.

If you want to focus on the task at hand uninterrupted, turn off your phone and notifications. Block time to listen to voicemail, return calls, and even check the never-empty email inbox. And if you’ve made plans with your family or set aside time to look after yourself, say “no” to anything or anyone (family included) that would interfere. Remember, “No” is a complete sentence.

3. Outsource Everything You Possibly Can

Just because you’re working remotely from home doesn’t mean you have to do it all. Taking on too much is a sure way to burnout. Outsourcing frees you up to focus on your top three priorities each day.

  • Hire a dog walker
  • Use grocery delivery services
  • Enlist tutors
  • Hire house cleaners who follow rigorous pandemic protocols
  • Work with a personal trainer who encourages you to exercise outside

4. Take Time Off

Schedule time off throughout the month and use it wisely.

Do something fabulous. Take a complete break - No meetings, no answering email or phone calls. If you need assistance developing a schedule which includes proper time off, connect with a self-care-strategist.

5. Other Important Daily Self-Care Practices

Above all, give yourself grace. Don’t create unrealistic expectations or timelines for yourself. You don’t have to have all of this figured out and implemented tomorrow morning.

Some self-care is easy to implement. Other activities take time to master.

  • Get seven to eight hours of sleep
  • Eat real food
  • Drink 64 to 128 ounces of water
  • Totally disconnect from work each evening
  • Practice relaxation or meditation techniques

Don’t Overwhelm Yourself

Remember to manage chronic stress with proper self-care daily to prevent burnout. It doesn’t have to be time-consuming or difficult to do. Nor do you have to manage self-care on your own.

Also remember, the most effective self-care takes place when you focus on short, frequent bouts daily. And when you’re homeschooling children and/or caregiving while managing the well-being of employees, short, frequent bouts may be all you can accomplish.

Recognizing the signs of burnout is the first step to addressing it. Listen to your body. It’s trying desperately to do what it was designed to do. Make your self-care a priority. Manage chronic stress to prevent burnout and enjoy improved performance and productivity, too.


About the Author 

Benita Williams is an International Best-selling author, Self-care Strategist, and CEO of Benita Williams Enterprises, LLC., a business consulting company. Find out more at www.benitawilliams.com. Looking for additional tips to add to your own practice?Speak 1:1 with The Self-Care Surgeon

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