How To Prevent Burnout By Completing The Stress Cycle

I recently read a book by twin sisters, Emily Nagoski and Amelia Nagoski, called Burnout. The tagline is intriguing: The Secret To Unlocking The Stress Cycle.

Everyone has both stress and stressors. Those won’t ever go away as long as we are alive. What is important is not what comes at us, but how we deal with these stresses.

According to the authors, we want to complete the stress cycle. There’s no reason to have unneeded stress (and all the physiological changes it brings) for any longer than necessary.

For example, if you realize a lion is coming after you in the jungle, you immediately have stress and begin to run. If you notice the lion keeling over dead, you may be unsure whether to keep running or confirm he’s dead. You continue dealing with your stress even after you continue on your path. To break free, you need to “close the stress cycle.”

Here are some ways to complete your stress cycle:

Talk About It

In our example, you can share your story with your loved ones when you arrive back to camp. Share the details – your scare, your thoughts, your heartrate, and your feelings about the whole thing. Your friends tell you, “It’s going to be ok.” They smile and understand. Some of them have been in a similar situation. Finally, you discover the stress response is lowered.

Engage in Physical Activity

While most readers won’t get chased by a lion, other stresses will linger. Conversations at work, bad news from your investment agent, a terrible grade on an exam, and the list goes on. One way to regularly close the stress cycle is to exercise or take part in physical activity. Whether you take a walk, work out, or ride your bike, you will sense your stress level going down. This one is one of the best and most common ways to close the stress loop cycle. You begin to think clearly and are able to put the situation into perspective. Your mind begins to think of next steps and alternatives to your situation. Have you ever noticed that tension always seems to subside when you take time and take a walk after things go wrong?

Make A Plan

When you are faced with stress from a financial issue, a school issue, or a job-related situation, one great way to begin to close the stress cycle is to make a plan. Our minds are designed to figure things out. We want to know the next step. If we stay in constant stress, we don’t make great decisions. We can make ourselves sick. Instead, make a plan. Determine a time line; get a vision of what could happen; and determine steps you can take today and tomorrow.

Remember The Future

Another way to close the stress cycle is to think about the future. When you’re feeling overwhelmed, tired of a situation, and without motivation, think ahead to something you’re excited about. This will help alleviate the stress of the here and now, and give you the oomph to keep moving forward. What vacation are planning? What fun thing could you do with friends or family?

Sing or Praise

Much like Paul and Silas did when they were imprisoned (Acts 16), singing and praising is a great way to break the cycle. Singing does wonders for the soul and body. Or praise by writing your blessings in a journal or a similar practice. Praise lifts your spirits and your mood. It’s known to bring about a healing sense – partly because God inhabits the praise of his people. Praise is an incredible way to close the cycle of stress in your life. It’s hard to feel down when you are whistling or singing. Praise also reminds us and those around us that we can rejoice even in hard times, even if the stress we feel is the worst possible thing in the world, because we are God’s.

This book was insightful about how we wind up becoming burned out in our ministries, jobs, and life requirements.

One great quote was: “Exhaustion happens when we get stuck in an emotion.” Though stress isn’t technically an emotion, it seems like one. I can definitely see that a person could become exhausted when stuck in a constant cycle.

Break the cycle. Don’t let stress overtake you. Take concrete actions, the ones listed above or others, to break free.

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