There is a new epidemic sweeping the world … and that’s stress: both real and perceived. Both major and minor. Stress is addictive, propelling and of course can be terribly debilitating, leading to burn-out and other serious illnesses and in the extreme, stress is a lethal affliction, one of the leading causes of death.
Last week, for the first time, the World Health Organisation included BURNOUT in its handbook, International Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems. They defined burnout as “a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.” The three key factors are: “feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion; increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job; and reduced professional efficacy.” Think about where you are on the ‘burnout continuum’? Are you on a ‘platinum level of self management’, which would mean that you are nowhere near burnout? Or are you at 9 / 10, where burnout is around the next corner?
The one thing that we know for sure is that the stress ‘mountain’ is here to stay.
If we don't have daily stress management techniques under our belt, we will burnout. The ‘mountain to climb’, which we call life, requires finding a path and navigating towards the top by up slowly and steadily using a “zig and zag” approach and a backpack of great equipment.
So what, now what? Most people that chat to us at ‘Resilient People’ are hungry for solutions.
So here are five simple suggestions in bullet point format for you to take, mold, modify and ‘make your own’. Get into a routine of GOOD HABITS by ‘automating’ the one/s that suit you. Consistency is imperative. Hardwire and ensure that you are disciplined about your new, energy boosting daily habits. These are not rocket science. But managing your energy is the key. Said another way: ‘energy management is the new stress management’.
1. Cardio to kick start your day:
this is a non-negotiable! Cardio at the start of the day ensures that your brain produces ‘happy hormones’ to set you up for success and manage the challenges of the day. When you are happy you are MUCH more productive. When you are more productive, you mange stress more effectively. Virtuous circle.
Some ideas for a Cardio start to your day: A 20 min run/ brisk walk ; 7mins of star jumps etc in front of the TV in your lounge ; bounce on a trampoline for 5 mins. See our Rebounder: https://www.resilientpeople.co.za/product-page/the-all-new-health-bounce-pro
Get creative. I have broken my foot and I am sitting on my bedroom floor doing sit-ups and arm exercisies with my kettlebell. When my broken foot starts to heal, I will be bouncing on one leg (using the support bar) on my Rebounder. NO EXCUSES. Set your alarm to go off at least 7 mins earlier in the morning. Nobody can rob you of this time. Taking control of the start of you day: conciously and subconciously sets you up for better self management during the day and better self control.
2. As the day unfolds, challenges of various sizes and dimensions will naturally come your way. At times you may feel overwhelmed and chasing your tail. If so, make time to escape outside for 3-4 mins and do three rounds of this simple, ‘reset your brain’ breathing technique:
Stand tall and breathe in for 4 seconds Hold your breath for 7 seconds Breathe slowly out for 8 seconds.
If you can’t get outside for whatever reason, escape to the bathroom and close the door. Have some ‘alone’ time to reset your brain and recalibrate for clearer thinking and managing the Stressors of the day.
3. QUALITY sleep is another non negotiable. I know that I sound like a broken record. That’s just how important sleep is though! Deep stage 3 and stage 4 sleep is when you get rid of the toxins that build up in your brain during the day. Here’s the short story: when you don't produce enough melatonin, you wont get into stage 3 and stage 4 sleep. How do you produce enough melatonin? Switch off all LED lights; TV; computers and your phone fo 60-90 mins before you go to sleep. If you cant do that (and I can’t) then simply wear red tinted SleepSpec glasses. I can say categorically that I am happy to look weird walking around my house at night. I wear SleepSpec glasses for about 75 mins before bed. These glasses block out the blue wave light that inhibits melatonin production. See the range on
4. Another ‘life changer’ is to treat yourself to reading a novel before going to sleep. Kindle is fine, but a paperback novel is far better. Try this for 5 nights and you will absolutely notice that you are getting better quality sleep. It is a way to literally switch off your work brain. As the last part of the day, you now own that time of ‘relax and escape into another world’. Of course this is vastly diferent to reading your Twitter feed or news articles on your phone. There is absolutely no way that your brain will rest adequately after this!
5. For years, I thought that my bedroom blinds were fairly good at blocking out the outside light. However, after using a sleep mask, I felt the difference after the first night. Light still goes through your eye lids and this also inhibits melatonin production. Try our fun Sleep Mask made by The Reaboka Foundation.
At the same time you are helping rural ladies earn money to send their kids to school. A real win-win.
Take ONE of these suggestions and make it your own. Eat Stress like an energy bar … ONE bite at a time.
Parting thoughts if you’re a Leader working in business… Be observant and watch out for colleagues that may be experiencing any of the symptoms in the WHO’s new definition of burnout — depletion and exhaustion, negativism and cynicism, reduced professional efficacy — how are they coping? Are they about to leave? Research shows that employee attrition costs businesses in the range of 1.5x or 2x the departing employee’s annual salary.
As a leader, initiate and step up, by focusing on what can be done to change people’s actual experience at work. This is no longer a nice-to-have, but a must-have for organisations. Burnout is an epidemic and we must each play our part in addressing the root causes!
“Change your sleep. Change your world. Beat stress into submission!”