Moving Beyond the Pressures & Problems of Life- A Stress & Burnout Recovery Guide

By Dwight Bain, Nationally Certified Counselor & Certified Life Coach

Have you ever felt completely overwhelmed with life? I sure have and you probably have at different times of your life too, since everyone feels pressure over problems in their life. However, problems and pressures are different at different life stages. For instance, a teenager’s greatest problem may be worrying that they don’t have a date for the prom, while a parent may worry that their daughter has a date with the wrong guy for the prom! Pressure for one person may be the feeling of panic from not having enough money, while pressure for another person is being overwhelmed by the amount of taxes they have to pay because of having more money than they expected. Increased stress comes from many different directions, often creating greater health challenges than we realize. Cary Cooper, a professor at Lancaster University in Great Britain, described it this way, “Stress as a health issue is probably the Black Plague of the 21st century.”

Stress often starts out small, which is why we don’t think about it much until it’s out of control. Picture a series of seemingly innocent little problems that seem to pop up throughout the day to then grow in intensity like a twister churning across a Kansas cornfield by bed-time. If they came at you one at a time you could handle it, but when they are bunched together in clusters and seem to be coming at you from a dozen different directions at once it feels like more than anyone could handle… that’s when you know you are on stress overload and headed toward burnout. And that’s what this stress recovery guide is designed to help you identify and more importantly, to solve.

Face it, daily stress affects every area of our lives and to some degree affects everybody, but not always in the same way. According to a recent Harris Poll 75 percent of people said they felt some to lots of stress, while 23 percent experienced lots of stress every day. Their research covered the 14 most common daily pressures that are believed to cause stress overload, like finances to being worried about health to feeling disconnected and lonely in relationships.

Over one in five people feel overloaded with stress every single day!
– Harris Research

Unresolved stress can lead to burnout because the pressures and problems that can build up in one area of life tend to spill over into all other areas of life. Which means that not dealing with stress and pressure in one area of life will eventually have a negative impact on the other areas of life like energy level, relationships, health, sleep, career, money, schedules, home-life or even harm our emotional and sense of spiritual well-being. Stress compounds the amount of internal psychological pressure that we have to deal with, whether we like it our not. That’s why we tend to avoid it, which only makes it worse because unresolved daily life stress can lead to an explosive level of panic and tension or if we choose to deal with it, these same pressures can be quickly solved to bring you to a position of greater peace and strength inside.

STRESS COMES FROM FEELING OUT OF CONTROL-

Here’s a foundational insight about moving beyond the normal changes of life to overcome stress and avoid burnout- you have more control than you think. You really do have a great deal more power to change than you could ever imagine. The Bible teaches a timeless principal about managing stress when it says, to “Count it all joy when trials and challenges come along,” (James 1:2). This is because the trials and challenges force us to deal with our character issues by growing and changing. A great deal of the pressures and problems in our lives is based on our perspective about those issues. Do you see those pressures and problems as something terrible that will only break you down and leave you weaker or as a positive pressure that will blast away insecurities and fears to push you toward reaching your potential?

Stress affects everyone from the cradle to the grave, which is good news for some and not so good news for others. The not so good news is only that there isn’t a place on this planet where you won’t have to deal with stress because it will never go away…it’s just part of life. If you see this as bad news, please balance it with the very good news that it’s a perfectly normal part of growing through every stage of life. Yes, I said perfectly normal because everyone has to deal with stress if they want to grow strong. It just feels overwhelming when there is too much in too short a period of time, and with the rapid pace of life these days, we are all prone to carry too much stress inside.

Stress researcher, David Posen, MD, describes the problem this way, “The problem causing stress is the rate of change in the modern world. You almost have no time to adjust to one change before the next one comes along.” Think of it as a process that looks like this flow chart:

Life causes Change
Change is Stressful
Stress is difficult to deal with
On the other side of Stress is Strength

We grow the strongest as we tackle issues to move forward through the stress and pressure to face our fears and go to an even deeper level of insight and maturity. So, if your goal in life is to try and do everything possible to avoid stress and pressure then in some ways your goal is short-sighted, because it is going to leave you weaker and more immature than others who face the stress with God’s help to grow stronger and become more of the person they were designed to be.


STRESS WARNING SYMPTOMS:

How can you tell if you are on stress ‘overload’ instead of just having a bad day? Take a minute to check off any of the following stress symptoms you have felt on a regular basis over the last month or so. The more symptoms you are experiencing in your physical, behavioral, emotional, relational or spiritual life, the greater the likelihood that you are being overwhelmed with stress leading to burnout or exhaustion, instead of growing stronger on the other side of stress. (Remember, some of these symptoms may indicate serious health problems and should be checked out by your medical doctor or by a qualified healthcare professional).


PHYSICAL or BEHAVIORAL STRESS SYMPTOMS:
__ Loss of Energy __ Sleep loss or Insomnia
__ Fatigue __ Listless or in a mental ‘fog’
__ Dry Mouth __ Ulcers
__ Headaches __ Migraines
__ Smoking __ Rapid/shallow breathing
__ No Appetite __ Alcohol or drug abuse to cope
__ Caffeine dependence __ Inability to rest
__ Over-eating __ High blood pressure
__ Hyper-tension __ I.B.S./Colitis
__ “Nervous energy” __ Tightness in chest or heart palpitations
__ Chronically sick __ Accelerated heart rate
__ Decreased libido __ Chronic joint pain
__ No time to relax __ Unkempt physical appearance
__ Chronic back pain __ Nightmares or night terrors
__ Restlessness __ Cries easily or can’t cry at all
__ Increased health worries __ Muscle tension (neck/shoulders/jaw)
__ Skin disorders __ Fainting or feeling like you will faint
__ Abdominal pain __ Sweating or really cold hands/feet
__ Nausea or diarrhea __ Increased cold or flu symptoms


EMOTIONAL or RELATIONAL STRESS SYMPTOMS:
__ Difficulty concentrating __ Uneasiness or nervousness
__ Defensive __ Easily angered
__ Withdrawal from others __ Criticism or Sarcasm
__ Holding problems inside __ TV addiction-Soaps, Sports, Sitcoms
__ Self-consciousness __ Anxiety or panic
__ Apathy __ Avoidance of emotions (esp. fear)
__ Financial worries __ Living in the past or future
__ Short temper __ “Clinging” or dependent behavior
__ No sense of humor __ Not sharing burdens with others
__ Feeling hopeless __ Over-committed or life is out of balance
__ Feeling helpless __ Life seems out of control
__ Trouble making decisions __ Feelings of failure
__ Forgetfulness __ “Type A” driven personality
__ Impatience __ Elevated shame or guilt
__ Unresolved loss or grief __ State of alarm
__ Tension __ Depression or overwhelming sadness
__ Irritability __ Apprehension or confusion
__ Overwhelmed __ Impulsive Decisions
__ Perfectionism __ Diminished productivity
__ Restlessness __ Easily distracted


SPIRITUAL STRESS SYMPTOMS:
__ Avoiding spiritual needs __ Loss of faith
__ No time to pray __ Increased doubts
__ Inner turmoil __ Spiritual aloneness
__ No peace or contentment __ Spiritual emptiness
__ No day of rest __ Tremendous anger at God
__ Unresolved past guilt __ Lack of inner peace
__ God seems a “million miles away” __ Believing that everyone is a hypocrite


The more warning indicators that are identified in a single category or across multiple categories, the more that person may be in a stress ‘overload’ situation. However, if only a few of these stress-related symptoms are present, then don’t worry about it. Life stress is common, so if only one or two symptoms are present, it is not usually a cause for alarm, but it is a sign that you are alive!


MOVING FROM STRESS TO STRENGTH

Once you have identified the primary factors that are fueling your stress, then it’s time to take positive action to change. Some situations are so complex that you can’t work out of it by yourself, but you can take action to move in the right direction. Do this by talking openly about what’s causing your pressure with others. Even if you feel like you can’t talk to anyone about your problems, you can pray about it, or write down your thoughts in a journal. Remember, no one can solve all their problems alone so don’t be afraid to reach out to the people around you who can help, like pastors, doctors, counselors or call a hotline, (you can call the number 211 in many cities to be connected to social service agencies that are available to help with many daily life stressors). You can always do something positive to face the stress and pressure in your life, but you have to decide to take action now before the pressure increases and things get worse.

Here are a number of proactive steps you can take every day to build your personal energy level with the use of stress coping strategies. The more positive actions you take, the faster you will move from stress to strength as you implement the skills necessary to make your life work better.


PHYSICAL & BEHAVIORAL STRESS COPING SKILLS:
__ Sleep (7-9 hours) __ Balanced diet
__ Regular meals __ Deep breathing
__ Regular exercise __ Tense/relax muscles
__ Hugs/affection __ Regular daily routines
__ Massage __ Plenty of water
__ Medical checkups or physicals __ Medication (prescribed by your MD)
__ Quiet times of rest or naps __ Get out into the sunshine
__ Brisk walking __ Organize time and schedule
__ Learn to use a planner __ Regular bedtime
__ Allow extra time to do things __ Simplify your lifestyle
__ Get rid of clutter __ Delegate or delete low priority events
__ Learn to organize tasks __ Leave earlier to avoid traffic jams


EMOTIONAL & RELATIONAL STRESS COPING SKILLS:
__ Personal planning time __ Positive relationships
__ Build positive esteem __ Share your burdens
__ Support groups __ Counseling
__ Deal directly with problems __ Talk openly about anger
__ Honestly face fears __ Laugh and have fun
__ Relax with family/friends __ Reading
__ Learn to say “No” __ Short term goals
__ Hobbies/activities __ Take on new challenges
__ Learn something new __ Leave work at work
__ Do good for others __ Victory list of achievements
__ Pace yourself __ Control spending with a budget
__ Journaling __ Manage your moods


SPIRITUAL STRESS COPING SKILLS:
__ Bible Study __ Apply biblical principles to life
__ Prayer __ Church socials or recreational events
__ Meditation __ Regular worship in a house of faith
__ Inspirational music __ Join a supportive church group
__ Memorize scripture __ Observe a day of rest
__ Spiritual landmarks __ Keep priorities balanced
__ Inspirational books __ Realize God loves you
__ “Re-create” Spiritual energy __ Listen to inspirational messages
__ Express more gratitude __ Experience quiet times with God
__ Spiritual concert events __ Spiritual workshops or classes
__ Forgive to really live __ Practice acts of random kindness


Finally, remember the old saying, that “Things come to pass – not stay”. No matter what problems you are facing today, they will eventually pass. If you are on the right road, moving in the right direction, you will get the right results. It is my hope that you will begin right now to build positive stress coping skills into your daily life and routines so that you can spend your time and energy really living life instead of feeling beat up by it. You can’t control the fact that stress comes into your life, but you can control how you manage it and how you will respond to the pressures and problems of daily life- with fear and dread or by facing it head on with discipline. One path leads to exhaustion and the other to being better equipped as a person of strength. It’s time to choose a path- choose wisely and your life and health will be better or choose poorly and live in quiet desperation. I challenge you to let this be your time to take bold action to live better as you move past your stress to live at a new level of success.


For further study on stress recovery, check out these sites:www.webmd.com www.Family.org
www.AACC.net www.eCounseling.com

NOTE: you can freely redistribute this helpful resource to friends, family, co-workers or at church, electronically or in print, provided you leave the authors contact information intact in the box below.

About the Author: Dwight Bain is a Nationally Certified Counselor, Certified Life Coach & Certified Family Law Mediator in practice since 1984 with a primary focus on solving crisis events and managing major change. Critical Incident Stress Management expert with the Orange County Sheriffs Office, founder of StormStress.com and trainer for over 1,500 business groups on the topic of making strategic change to overcome major stress- both personally & professionally. He is a professional member of the National Speakers Association and partners with corporations and organizations to make a positive difference in our culture.
Access more complimentary counseling and coaching resources from The LifeWorks Group by visiting their extensive posting of blog’s and special reports designed to save you time by strategically solving problems at www.LifeworksGroup.org

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