In the last 5 years, cases of burnout have increased 8 fold. And once you have burnout, you will probably be off work for 180 days (average time off taken by people in the Netherlands). 45% of people surveyed believed that admitting to stress would harm their career.
Burnout is increasing and the impact on your health and career are devastating.
The good news: it’s preventable. And even if you are in the early stages, you can turn it around.
But you need to try something new. If you are suffering, then continuing to use the techniques you have been using all your life so far will not work. You need to try something new.
Bur first, what’s so bad about having stress in your life constantly?
I’ve been living with chronic illness for more than 8 years now, both as a carer and as a patient. And there is something unique and often underestimated about the “chronic” part. There is a multiplier, exponential effect.
Usually illnesses come and go. You’re fine, you get a cold, break your leg, etc and then you get well again. You follow the wave of life and once it’s finished dipping you into the depths, you resurface. You are changed, you probably learned something new about yourself, and you move forward.
But this is where chronic is different. It means you never get better. Ever had a cold that seemed to hang around forever? There are days where it is worse and then less bad but it never goes?
Now imagine you had that, for the rest of your life. That cold that never went away.
Here’s a list of the things that come with the gift of “chronic” and I’m going to use the cold as an example
- You have a cold all the time. So you’re probably blowing your nose a lot
- The skin around your nose gets sore, red and then it hurts every time you blow your nose
- You’re spending more money on tissues, it starts to add up. Once you’re nose is sore you start to buy those “balsam” tissues that are extra soft. But they cost more.
- People get sick of you having a cold. They just want you to get better already and start telling you what you need to do to “cure” your cold
- You’re not sleeping well so your immune system suffers. You get more sick
- You try lots of different remedies and nothing works.
- So you give up trying. You stop resting, you eat whatever you like even if it’s not good for you. What’s the point? You’re going to be sick anyway.
- People step up the “you need to look after yourself” chant.
- You get frustrated with yourself.
- You find some determination to really beat it this time.
- You go through steps 6-10 in a continuous loop.
- Sometimes, you manage to take a step forward in your wellness. Sometimes.
It’s a very demotivating cycle that can also lead to other health issues.
So how common is stress?
One of the biggest and most chronic illnesses out there is stress.
It is the most common workplace hazard in the Netherlands, with 12% of the workplace reporting sick due to stress in 2014.
Between 2009 – 2014, cases of stress related burnout increased by 8 times, with people having an absence of 180 on average.
What’s so bad about chronic stress?
According to Shirzad Chamine, author of Positive Intelligence, stress is useful for about 10 seconds. Imagine you have been procrastinating on a report/project and the deadline is approaching. Those 10 seconds of “oh pants, I really need to get on with this and do some work” are enough of a fright to get you into action.
Holding on to the fright/panic/stress for longer than 10 seconds doesn’t help you. In fact, it keeps your brain in fight or flight mode. You become reactionary and short termist. Worst of all, you cannot access the executive functions of the brain like planning and rational thought.
And physically, your adrenals get tired of pumping out adrenaline. You’ll be tired and foggy, even after hours of sleep. Your immune system will be weakened. You’ll be anxious, irritable, less able to handle stress and less able to focus.
So what can you do about it?
Holding onto stress is a habit, it’s a set of behaviour that you have developed over time. So you need to learn a new set of behaviours.
Traditional approaches to stress are therapy based: which means that you will look to your past behaviour to find out why, and then a therapist will tell you what you need to do instead.
The problem with this approach is threefold
- We don’t live in the past. We can only take action in the present. So we need to focus on the present and what our thoughts are now in order to be able to find the right action
- Our executive brain functions can only interpret what has happened – they cannot define them. So if you are in a mindset that says stress is good, then how can you ever find an alternative way of seeing things?
- Somebody else is telling you what to do. But the only person who can create the right action plan for you is YOU
Coaching is a profession born out of understanding how change is created. Coaches are motivated by empowering people to create their own change, in a way that is meaningful for them.
It’s why we talk about “helping you create the best version of yourself”. It may sound vague but there is a very good reason for it: only you know what the best version of yourself is. We don’t know and we don’t pretend to. But we do know how to help you get there.
So what now?
As Einstein said, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over, expecting a different result.
Try something new.
If you want to know how I help people with stress and burnout, ask me about my RAW program: Resilience Agility Wellbeing. Sign up in December to start the program in Jan to get the 2015 special rate of 750 eur. Payments in 3 instalments of 250 accepted.