How to Keep Stress Under Control

How to keep stress under control in a stress-induced world is one of the first questions we must address on the path of healing from burnout. Stress doesn’t help at all, so we must avoid it at all costs. Easier said than done, isn’t it? 😉

Your Diagnosis. What Now?

You have been diagnosed with burnout and the doctor told you to keep stress levels to a minimum. That makes sense, right? He also advised you the one thing you perhaps cannot do: take time off. Not just a few days, or weeks, but a long time.

Living in the world we are, we just cannot do that. Unless we have a large amount of cash stacked away or a good rich Samaritan wants to give us free food and boarding for a year, for many of us taking a sabbatical (or even half a sabbatical) is just not in the stars. We have to keep on working and expose ourselves to the one factor that will halt our healing process: pressure, strain …

how to keep stress under control

In my previous post How to Heal from Burnout, I mentioned my work situation. I had to fight to get even a week off, and that wasn’t enough by far. I was working in junior high which is not the ideal environment when you’re trying to heal from burnout.

Before I continue and address the symptoms and difficulties of working in a stressful environment while struggling with this mental health condition, let’s first see what burnout is. Tense situations are already hard to handle under normal circumstances, so imagine this when you are not well and your mind doesn’t function the way you would like to.

What is Burnout?

Burn out is a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion. It is caused by excessive and prolonged stress. Burn out is not the same as stress. It is rather, a result of it. It happens when you feel overwhelmed, emotionally drained, and unable to meet constant demands.

It usually builds up slowly and so you are, at first, unaware that you have burn out. You usually realize it when you’ve had it for a while and the symptoms start manifesting.

candle

You can compare it to a candle that has finally burnt out and as much as you try to light it, the flame just won’t ignite.

Burnout at the Workplace

Although I have always loved teaching and I love my students, let’s face it; dealing with teenage rebellions, hormonal mood swings, the “hate you, love you” facets, trying to push the limits, and all the usual adolescent phases are not ideal when you are going through burnout. I couldn’t handle it anymore. The doctor told me to avoid stress, but dealing with over a 100 teenagers every day made that a little challenging.

classroom

Some Symptoms

At first, I did not know how to do it, but I did make an enormous effort not to lash out and not to show any of my burnout symptoms. My symptoms were extreme forgetfulness, blackouts, not remembering how to do simple everyday tasks such as using the car gear stick or dialing a phone number, …

I also had no firm hold over my emotions, and as a result they frequently burst out of me. That sieve that filters our words before they come out was also gone, so I often spoke my mind without filtering the content.

sieve

You can compare it to an unedited manuscript that is filled with errors and that just makes you cringe. Before that manuscript meets an audience, it needs to be edited and some paragraphs may need to be cut. The same counts for things we say to others; most of it is best filtered before it leaves the mouth, right?

No to Little Control over Your Symptoms

I had absolutely no control over the lack of memory, blackouts, and my forgetfulness, and if that happened in school, I just apologized and dealt with the matter as well as I could. I also informed my boss about it, letting him know that this was what they were getting since I could not take any more paid time off.

Just to be clear, what I describe here are burnout symptoms, not my personality. There is a difference. It is important to mention this, because when you go through burnout you will quickly learn that people confuse those symptoms with your personality, and as a result you may end up losing some friends. It happened to me, and also to others who suffer this condition.

bad friend

In school I did my utmost not to give in to my emotional outbursts, and I must say that I did that well enough under the circumstances, although it was not easy. I managed to do that by adopting a few calming methods. In my private life there were some situations where that was harder to do, and that was why I lost some people.

Not everyone is a schoolteacher, but stress is a factor in many jobs, with some more than others.

smiling when sad

Why did my superiors want me to work with adolescents under such conditions? Not only was it unfair to me, but also to my students, since I could not give them my best.

From what I have learned, I can come up with three reasons.

  1. Burnout is not always understood. Most people confuse it with “stress you can’t handle”, and so they don’t understand the gravity of it and how it can affect people.
  2. It is not always advantageous to pay for a substitute while also paying for another employee who is on medical leave. For some companies there might be no problem at all, but in others the employers may be reluctant to get a replacement.
    If point nr. 1 was understood, then point nr. 2 would not be an issue either.
  3. When our organs are affected by something, we always think of the liver, heart, kidney, but it doesn’t occur to many of us that the brain is also an organ and it is entirely possible that it suffers a disease or some damage. That is, however, more difficult to accept in society.
    It’s not madness; it’s a mental health issue that should be taken care of just like you take care of another organ in your body if it needs medical help, to make it heal.

brain

Below, I will list situations that presented themselves and the actions I took to calm myself (my students did not know I had burnout). You can just replace the word student with colleague.

how to handle stressful situations

Sometimes, conflict at the workplace reminds me of high school, hasn’t this happened to you? 😉 How often have you had an issue at the office and thought “This feels just like high school”? We’ve all been in a situation like that, right? So, I suppose that this chart does apply to both. 😉

breath

Final Thoughts

If you are going through burnout, I hope that this article can give you some help. I hope that my chart might be useful for you. While the methods I mentioned need practice and a strong mindset to go through with them, they can help you if they are practiced at a regular basis. The breathing exercises – as simple as they seem – worked wonders for me.

If you are not suffering from burnout and you came here to get more information, because someone close to you is going through this, that is wonderful. You are a good friend 🙂 It can sometimes be challenging dealing with someone who has burnout, but understanding more about this condition will help you both maintain a healthy relationship and I hope that you may take something away from this to be there for your friend or relative 🙂 They need your support.

In my next article, I will go into more detail about burnout symptoms, and we will explore how to handle them when they present themselves. Not everything is easy, but with a little help anything can be achieved.

22 thoughts on “How to Keep Stress Under Control”

  1. That was very informative to share your experience on something we all go through. Stress can come from anything we do in life. It is mostly from concentrated areas like a job, events, etc. One of the techniques you’ve listed like taking deep breaths for a few minutes have been shown to alleviate the stress level. I use exercise to do a complete stress relief. You get to breathe and have a total body blood flow which not only alleviate stress by a lot but pain, aches, increasing endorphins. I also do mind clearing. I like how you made some strategies to cope with your burnout. This will be useful for others as well or help others to come up with their own. Great article on helping others.

    Reply
  2. Thank you for opening my eyes, I have a fiance and he is having big stress problems. I never knew that it could actually be so deep in his mental health. I will definitely wait on your blogs on how to help him and make him understand what’s wrong with him.
    Sometimes he just can’t control and in the end has to always say sorry for it. Even tho all he needs is a leave from all his problems.
    You are more than right a lot of people and employers don’t believe in burn outs, it’s just like a lot of people don’t understand postpartum depression.

    Reply
    • Hi Nataliya,

      Thank you for sharing this with your fiancé. I am glad this can be of help to him. It is sadly true that most employers have little understanding for mental health issues and as a result they do not help in the process of healing, by making their employees work more and thus slowing their healing process. Postpartum depression is another example of a condition that is not understood and should be taken more seriously.

      Reply
  3. Hi Christine,

    This is such an important and informative article. During the lockdown a few members of my family and friends have become a lot more stressed than usual. I have done my best to try and help them, and going through articles like yours has helped.

    I have forwarded this article onto my brother so he can help his wife, and if they have any questions then I have advised to get in touch with you if that is ok?

    Thank you for sharing and keep up the amazing work.

    All the best,

    Tom

    Reply
    • Hi Tom,

      Lockdown has been stressful for many people, very true; it has not been easy to be locked indoors all the time. Of course, your brother and his wife can contact me if they have any further questions.Thank you for sharing this with with them. I am happy that my articles are helping.

      Reply
  4. Very informative. I have suffered from burnout many times in life. It takes a strong mindset and the suggestions you offered to conquer it or make a life change. Thanks for sharing and I look forward to your next article.

    Reply
    • Hi Christy,

      True, it takes a strong will to conquer burnout and/or make a life change.
      Thank you for your comment! I am glad you have healed from burnout 🙂 Let’s hope it doesn’t come back!

      Reply
  5. I love reading your calming strategies when you are under alot of stress. I can see these amazing strategies will work wonders for me.

    Best wishes

    Reply
  6. Thanks for coming up with this highly informative article. I really enjoyed reading every bit of it. For a while now, my wife has been suffering from work related stress. This has negatively affected her mood for days. I can’t wait to show her this post I’m pretty sure the information contained here will sure be helpful to her. I sure will recommend this website to friends and family.

    Reply
    • Hi!

      That’s great! I am happy that this may be helpful for your wife. I hope my tips will help her deal with the stress.

      Thank you for visiting my page!

      Reply
  7. Hello there, This is an amazing article that you have got here. I enjoyed going through this article here on your website. I want to say thank you for sharing some of the symptoms of burnout. It’s pretty obvious that one could be experiencing burnout and still not be aware of it. Regarding your action plan when situation arises, I have tried the breathing exercise but it wasn’t long before the anger resurfaces.

    Reply
    • Hi Stevie,

      The breathing exercise needs to be practiced on a regular basis. It is not a cure for anger, but it helps calm down. If anger or stress resurface, then do the breathing exercise again, and go for a long, relaxing walk as well. These practices I described have to be done on a regular basis. It all takes time.

      Reply
  8. Hi, Thank you so much for taking the time to write this article. I found it really useful. I have a high pressured day job as part of my traditional service based business so it really gave me food for thought. I will definitely be trying to put some of these things into practice.

    Reply
  9. Hello Christine, you identified the very things that most people really struggle with on a daily basis. It sounds like you have very easy solutions for people to use. One of my employees really struggles with burnout and I am going to share with her many of these techniques. She is an employee worth keeping! I’m going to encourage her to put these steps into practice.

    Thanks so much!

    Reply
  10. Hi Christine,

    I have also been explaining this to others. That my forgetfulness is due to burnout and not my personality. But people that have known me for a few months or a year, still confuse these things and it’s frustrating in a personal level. I have found encouragement reading your post seeing we can understand each other on this point. Thank you.

    Reply
    • Hi Paolo,

      It’s true that many people so easily come to conclusions about others when they don’t know them that well yet … It can be frustrating and disheartening … 

      I am glad that this post was helpful. 

      Reply
  11. I didn’t know about burnout until I read your post. Now I wonder how many times I had to deal with burnout situations in my life. I can understand how easy it can happen to reach the burnout stage while we don’t realize that we are dealing with so much at work, home, marriage, friends, family, etc. 

    Thank you for the advice, I for sure need to remind myself that taking a break and breath can make a huge difference to feel a bit relief. We all have stressful situations in our lives. It is good to be aware that it’s part of being humans. 

    Reply

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