As I’m in the process of launching my therapy practice and beginning a blog, the topic of stress is on my mind. (There are other things on my mind as well of course, such as – “Oh. A blog. Guess that means I need to write something…”) It was two years ago at around this time that I “hit the wall” as it were, and needed to take time off from work due to burnout. I won’t go into all the gory details, but the experience forced me to consider how I was managing stress – or not – and figure out what I needed to do differently.
I actually remember my first encounter with the word “stressed”, which believe it or not was not always part of our everyday conversation. I was 18 years old and at the beginning of my first year of university. A fourth year student at the university was volunteering to help with choosing and registering for courses, and I distinctly remember her saying something like “I’ll help you arrange your class schedule so you don’t end up being too stressed”. “Stressed”, I thought? And suddenly there was this word to describe something that I suppose I had already felt, but didn’t have a name for it as such.
The Free Online Dictionary defines stress as:
“A mentally or emotionally disruptive or upsetting condition occurring in response to adverse external influences and capable of affecting physical health, usually characterized by increased heart rate, a rise in blood pressure, muscular tension, irritability, and depression.”
Yikes! The fact that it affects physical health is significant, as I think it’s easy to forget that part as we bulldoze our way through stressful situation after stressful situation, claiming that we can “handle it”.
If you’re up for reading further on the topic of stress and its impact on physical health, I highly recommend Dr. Gabor Mate’s “When the Body Says No: The Cost of Hidden Stress”. If we are continually unable to say no or to set boundaries around our time and energy, eventually our bodies will say no for us in various ways. The mind body connection is profound, and the impact of stress on our physical health is a case in point.
Since being burnt out I’ve had to make changes. I’m careful about how much I take on at one time. I’m learning how to set boundaries around the time that I work. I’m mindful of not comparing myself to so-and-so’s energy level and trying to match it, but rather paying attention to how I’m feeling and resting when I need to. It’s been a learning process. There are other things that I keep in mind and try to practice, but I’ll save them for another post!
Here’s to making changes and discovering a new path to health.