Recently I made a short slideshow about my youngest child Erin. Erin has Dravet Syndrome and life can be very challenging trying to do everything we can for her and maintaining a balance in all the other areas of our lives.
I find myself on occasion having to hide away, and take a moment.
My body is overcome by a wave of Yearning, Anger, Guilt, Disbelief, Shock Denial, Confusion, and Sadness.
Why am I angry? Why do I randomly experience shock that nearly paralyzes me?
It’s grief. I am grieving the diagnosis. All I can do is breath and let the wave pass.
Sometimes I want to put a sign up for the world that says;
“I am grieving my beautiful little girl’s diagnosis today, I will have to get back with you. I will be okay, I just need time to grieve. Catch me tomorrow.”
It hurts so much to sit down and reflect, research, and read about her diagnosis and trauma but it makes me stronger. It helps me learn so I can do my best for her.
So, I research and reflect, with racing thoughts, I get angry, deny, and feel guilty about not doing everything right.
I WEEP----UGLY CRYING--- SHORT BREATH SOBBING---READING RESEARCH
I Yearn for her genetic disorder to magically disappear.
WHY DOES swimming cause an HOUR-long SEIZURE?
Why is her morning wake-up call a seizure?
Why is the insurance company wasting my time with a nurse that knows zero about Dravet?
Why do I have to carry medication in my purse that is used in surgical procedures?
Fist in the air I shout “It’s not FAIR.”
Then I stand up, take a deep breath, shut down the internet,put the books away,
and pull it together.
This is hard, but I am stronger than this.
It had been a long day of meetings and I was already feeling the pressure on my brain to escape the building to enjoy a cold frappe and some quality time with my family. With one giant group meeting left to go, I found a seat in the back and proceeded to give all my attention to the presenters.
The presenter got on the stage along with three assistance. They were going to teach us a wonderful example of role play we could possibly apply to our own classrooms and areas of study. The scenario was explained that one individual would be the nurse, the other two would be son and mother. The nurse was to use techniques she had learned to give the mother the information about her son's condition. The teacher stepped down and told the actors to begin.
Suddenly the man on stage sitting in a wheelchair started convulsing, I believe in attempts to mimic a seizure. This continued as the nurse tried to calm the mother and explain they were doing everything they could and other such statements. The truth is I HEARD NOTHING. My brain just stared at the convulsing actor.
My heart started to race, my face began to flush, my breathing became shallow and rapid. My fight or flight had kicked in and I was needing to take action. I took a deep breath and reminded myself it was only a scenario and it would be over soon. This wasn't my daughter on this stage and there was no true emergency. In an instant I was overwhelmed with offence. How can they do this? How can they badly mock a seizure? Suddenly my mind shouted "THIS IS OFFENSIVE!"
Fortunately, my more rational calm trained side then asked "Why is it offence." Are they doing something wrong? Are they intentionally singling me out? Did they choose this disorder just to get me all worked up? No they did not. The answer as to WHY I was offended is because of MY FILTER.
I realized that the offence was because of my sensitivity to my daughters condition. After realizing that my filter was causing my offence, I was able to see the situation for what was. My breathing slowed, my muscles relaxed and I was a better person for the experience.
After the meeting many people who were offended for me asked me if I was okay. I replied with "Yes, I think I just got a little bit stronger." Then I explained my experience.
Should we be sensitive, YES, will we still offend or be offended, Yes. The key is to know our own personal triggers and what filters we use to see the world. It is my responsibility to understand that my sensitivity doesn't make others offenders. My sensitivity gives me an opportunity to educate others, share my story, grow, and live well.
Burnout is Real, Now What?
In the first blog “What is Burnout?” I defined burnout as; over utilization of personal resources without replenishment. I use this definition because it seems to bring together what is found in various piles of research. Burnout can creep up on anyone in many different situation. Burnout is real, now what?
This blog is rather long. The hardest part about writing this blog was choosing what was going to stay when I started making edits. I had to remember that this isn’t a stress management workshop and not everything could be here, I was focused specifically on burnout. Here are some of the ways to avoid burnout and fight the symptoms that may appear.
Ways to Avoid Burnout
Next week: I received an e-mail asking me “Why do you think you can teach people to manage stress?” This is a valid question, perhaps for the next blog.
Thanks for reading this three part series on burnout. I hope it has given you some insight and strength!
In the first blog, “What is Burnout?”, we defined burnout as “over utilization of personal resources without replenishment.” This definition takes burnout to a personal level. Just like the causes of burnout the symptoms of burnout can be subjective to each individual. Different professions can yield different signs of burnout but overall, this blog is a culmination of the research on the signs of burnout and is not an exhaustive list.
Although different terms are used basically symptoms of burnout are broken down into three categories, physical, psychological and behavioral symptoms.
When we experience a stressor our fight for flight system goes into overdrive. This system releases glucose, speeds our heart, tightens our muscles, slows digestion, and many other things to prepare us to face an emergency. This system was meant to be a burst to give us energy to fight that bear or other life threatening emergency on our doorstep. After the burst the body would return to normal functioning. When we are in a state of perpetual stress due to causes of burnout (listed in the previous blog) our body begins to fight against itself and we begin to run out of resources.
Physical Symptoms of Burnout:
Fatigue: One of the most reported symptom of burnout in the research is feeling drained, tired, or warn out. Early signs of burnout may start with a lack of energy and move into exhaustion.
Change in Sleep (less/more): Tossing and turning, trying to slow down the mind, counting sheep only to end up thinking about what you forgot to do during that day. Also, sleeping excessively due to lack of motivation, fatigue, or avoidance.
Headaches/ Muscle Pain: Often muscle soreness can sneak up on us. We lean over desks, stare at computer screens, and sit or stand for excessive amounts of time trying to complete the tasks we have for the day.
Getting Sick: The immune system is in overdrive when we are under stress. Overtime the immune system gets weak and fighting even the most common cold because disastrous.
How we think and our emotional state are heavily intertwined. The research uses different labels to describe that is going on in our heads. Emotional, Cognitive, Thoughts, Feelings, and Psychological Processes are all terms that appear in the research with regards to burnout. For the sake of this article the terms have been combined into one category that we will call Psychological.
Psychological Symptoms of Burnout:
Feelings of Self–doubt: In the beginning, we may start to question if we are on track or doing the right thing. This can turn into questioning every decision we make leading to a feeling of failure.
Cynical / Negative Outlook and Self-talk: Small comments like “No one cares anyways, or what is the point doesn’t matter how hard I try” start to creep into our lives. These comments start to grow and eventually start to shape how we think in every situation. It is also important to mention that negativity is contagious. If we are in a situation where others are also starting to experience burnout we may be feeding each off of each other making the situation worse. It is good to have someone to talk and vent with but all too often we maximize more than minimize each other’s misery.
Lack of Motivation: We just stop, sit, stare, and don’t do anything. In the beginning this might be not starting a new project or struggling to completing an old one. Later down the road lack of motivation from burnout can even hold us back from doing or planning things we once loved.
Feeling Alone: When we start to feel some of the symptoms above it is easy to retreat within ourselves and stop talking to others. This is a vicious cycle that can lead to real isolation and feelings of detachment from others.
Behavioral symptoms are described as the things we do that can be observed. Feeling alone may manifest itself into withdrawing from others. Another example would be feeling sad may lead to crying, for what appears to be, no apparent reason. Many of the behavioral symptoms of burnout present themselves the later into the development of burnout. Behaviors can often be coping mechanisms for the bigger issues. Just changing stopping our self-defeating behaviors might be a good start but won’t be enough. More on that in the next blog.
Behavioral Symptoms of Burnout:
Withdrawing from Responsibilities: It is good to say no, but this can go to the extreme. When someone starts removing themselves from events, planning, and other things that were ones important to them red flags should be going up!
Isolation: Feeling alone makes a smooth transition into being along. One feels like no one would understand so they stop reaching out.
Procrastinating: The comment “I will do it later” has left many a thing undone and waiting attention.
Displacement: Displacement is the redirection of an impulse on a powerless substitute target. When we are feeling frustrated it is easy to take our frustration of our work or boss out on others. When we start yelling at, ignoring, or belittling the people around we might just be experiencing burnout.
Skipping, Coming Late, Leaving Early: Starting to find reasons not to be at work, coming in late, or leaving early could be a sign that the environment is not pleasing.
Self-Medicating: The use of alcohol, drugs, or other mind altering chemicals could be a sign of the need to escape.
WOW that was a lot to READ!
I didn’t intend on this blog being this long but this list was shortened as much as I felt possible, still giving credence to the more important and research presented signs of burnout.
STAY TUNED for the next blog “Burnout is Real, Now What?” We will investigate different skills that can be learned and performed to alleviate and help prevent the symptoms of burnout.
It is important to mention many of the symptoms of burnout similar to depression. It is important to seek out assistance from a medical professional if you feel your symptoms are dangerous to yourself or others. This blog is only meant to be used for education not diagnostics.
Part 1.5: What Causes Burnout
Part One: What is Burnout?
Burnout is defined as, the reduction of a fuel or substance to nothing through use or combustion. We combust all day! We burn our morning, midday, and evening oil to achieve, manage, and survive our day and if we aren’t careful we can burnout, just like a car running out of gas.
The term burnout was coined by Herbert Freudenberger in the 1970’s. Herbert used the terms to describe symptoms experienced by individuals in high stress helping fields. This term however has come to stretch far beyond the helping professions and into our everyday lives. Just yesterday someone in a booth next to mine said “I am so burnt out on coffee.” Burnout has become quite common in everyday speech meaning; I’m over it, enough, finished, can’t go on, get it out of my sight. But burnout is no laughing matter and can have some serious consequences for the person in its grip.
More specifically, burnout in mental health is defined as physical or mental collapse caused by overwork or stress. Although burnout syndrome is not considered a mental health disorder on its own, collectively the symptoms can cause significant struggle and have heavy overlap with depression. Some countries consider symptoms of burnout legitimate justification for missing work but diagnostic recognition is a slippery slope.
Burnout is different for everyone, just like other stressor, people react differently to different situations based on personal experience, stress management skills, and other factors.
Overall for this series we will define burnout as; over utilization of personal resources without replenishment.
Check out part two Monday, Jan 23rd, when we investigate:
“What are the signs of burnout?”
Burnout a Three-Part Blog
Okay by popular request the series on burnout begins, NOW! I LOVE that you are reading these blogs and sending e-mails. TAKE the leap post a comment.
This three-part series will include:
What is burnout?
What are the signs of burnout?
Burnout is real. Now what?
Posts will be made Monday Jan 16th, 23rd, and 30th. This is an exciting subject and I am up to my eyeballs in great research.
My holiday break was WONDERFUL and I am glad to be back.
Self-efficacy is the belief that one can complete a task. If you have high self-efficacy you are more likely to take on challenges and persevered through tough times. You have to believe you can achieve to get going and keep going.
However just believing isn’t enough.
The Little Blue Engine, written by Shel Silverstein, starts out with a hopeful little blue engine beginning his journey up a tall hill. When the hill gets rough, the engine spouts the famous words “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can.” He continues pushing till he nears the top, and at his highest, proudest, strongest point, “He was almost there, when – CRASH! SMASH! BASH! He slid down and mashed into engine hash.”
WHAT! NO! Your inner child is crying out in protest to this ending, but that is the REAL Little Blue Engine. Shel Silverstein wisely states “If the track is tough and the hill is rough, THINKING you can just ain’t enough!”
Just believing that stress will melt way the first time you sit down and OOOMMM, might let you down.
Of course, this is not a popular view and it is much easier to fall pray to instant bliss and the temporary band aid stress relief.
So, if just believing isn’t enough but you have to believe to achieve how do you reach a balance?
Learning. Learn the techniques to conquer stress. Fill your arsenal with those cognitive, physical, and biological techniques to keep your body and mind strong.
Training. Train your brain to respond in a way that produces healthy results.
Like RuPaul said in his 1993 hit, Supermodel, “You better work.”
There is a buzz going around about our implicit biases and how they influence our behavior. I have received many e-mails asking for an explanation on this term.
Implicit bias (simply defined) is the attitudes or stereotypes that affect our understanding, actions, and decisions in an unconscious manner.
We can all agree that unattractive children should get the same positive attention and praise as attractive children. However, research shows less attractive children get less positive attention and more negative attention.
Having implicit biases can cause stress in our own lives. They leave us wondering why we feel a certain way about something when we know we believe something different.
Here is an amazing website that tests implicit bias. The tests take a while and should be done privately. Check it out. This is good stuff.
Why do we avoid learning to manage stress? Here are some reasons and myths that keep us from learning to reduce our stress!
Any of these sound familiar? I went through all the these barriers and then made the decision that I not only wanted, but NEEDED to learn to manage stress.
Don't let you fool you or what people think stop you from getting what you need! This is YOUR life and you want to squeeze all the joy possible out of it as you can!
Tip: This too shall pass
Can’t find the keys, laundry is piling up, kids are driving you nuts, your head is splitting, and you have work deadlines looming! No one is devoid of these types of stressors and they can cause temporary feelings of stress and anxiety. Oddly enough if you accept that you are having these feelings and that they WILL PASS you activate your body’s natural relaxation response.
Playing piano is a skill. It would not be expected that someone could just sit down and suddenly play Moonlight Sonata or Piano Man.
So why do we tell people to stop stressing out and expect them to suddenly stop?
Why do we get upset or feel anxious and guilty for feeling stressed?
Learning to control stress is a skill. Stress management skills need to be learned and practiced just like piano! Getting anxious or upset with yourself for stressing out is as ridiculous as getting angry you can’t play piano.
Tip: Start small, compliment yourself today. There is something you did well today and there will be something you do well tomorrow. Start to notice things that make your world better, the good moments.
Have a relaxing day!
Have you heard that not being true to yourself can cause stress? Well, research agrees. Cognitive Dissonance, simply put, is mental stress when our beliefs don’t jive with our behaviors. This leads us to rationalize behaviors or beliefs to reduce the mental stress.
This can be healthy but also self-defeating.
I want to lose weight but the cheesecake looks so good. Rationalization, I had a hard day and deserve a little cheesecake. Sure, okay, but why can’t you just have cheesecake because you want it and acknowledge that you are trumping the want to lose weight? Well because that makes us stressed. We need a reason.
Ask yourself this, what am I wanting more right now cheesecake or to lose weight. Sometimes cheesecake might win, but being honest with yourself frees you from stress.
Take the chance speak the truth to yourself. You will be surprised how quickly you start making the decision that is in your best interest. Cheesecake won’t always win.
The French Renaissance philosopher Michel de Montaigne who stated “My life has been filled with terrible misfortune; most of which never happened” may have really been onto something!
To worry is to ruminate. Ruminate comes from the Latin word Ruminari which means “to chew the cud.”  In our minds we can see that cow chewing and chewing and chewing on the same piece of cud till it is nothing but a liquid mush. Disgusting eh? That is what happens in our minds. We ruminate on negative events, things that have a small likelihood to occur, or things we can’t change until our brains become a liquid mess.
So how is rumination productive? The answer is IT IS NOT.
The late Author, Earl Nightingale , estimates that:
Reframe those worries and rest your mind.
 The Essence of Success by Earl Nightingale, 2007
Locus of Control Julian Rotter originally developed the concept of Locus of Control.
Since its introduction to the discipline of psychology it has been discussed and applied to numerous situations. We are going to discuss how locus of control influences us and our perceptions of stress, without placing blame, but, with true appraisal of the stress and its cause.
Locus of control can be defined as an individual’s perception about the underlying main causes of events in his/her life. Do you control your life, or is your destiny controlled by outside forces such as fate, God, or powerful others? It sounds like we have crossed over into a philosophy lesson, so let’s break this concept down into our everyday life and relate it to stress.
With internal locus of control, the individual believes that his/ her behaviors and consequences are driven by actions and decisions. With external locus of control, the individual believes that his/her behavior and consequences are driven by fate, luck or some other external circumstances.
Here is an example of looking at a situation with external locus of control: One of my students would come into class late looking very distressed and disorganized. I once asked him why he was coming in late each day and he said, “I get caught at the train crossing and that makes me late every day Ms. Brown; sorry I can’t get here on time.” Then I asked him if the train stresses him out. He said, “Yes, it comes every morning at 8:15, and I am always late for my 8:30 classes. My Monday class teacher said if I am late again I will lose points on my grade. Stupid train!” I looked at him curiously and asked if it was possible for him to leave his house ten minutes early so as to avoid the train. He responded, “I guess I could, but I like to hit my snooze button.” I laughed to myself a bit then asked him who was in control (or responsible for) his tardiness to class. He said the train. I truly believed he believed this. I then challenged him to take control of his destiny and leave his house ten minutes early to see if he could get to the crossing before the train, or perhaps find some other route for getting to school on time.
I am happy to report that he decided to take control of his fate and go a different route to avoid the train crossing and was not late anymore. He had found a solution to a situation he could not control (the train schedule) by changing something he could control (the way he drives to school). It is easy to see how internal locus of control (our belief that our outcomes are contingent on what we do) is helpful for reducing stress. Are some things just out of our control? Yes. But how we respond to them is our decision.
There are many things that are out of our control. I am not able to control that my child has Dravet Syndrome. It is a genetic disorder, and her seizures are random and sometimes long, over an hour. But I can become educated and stay informed to do my best to keep her safe and well. I am slowly becoming an expert on the disorder, and although I am not able to take the sickness away, I can fight alongside of her to make her life significantly better. Having an accurate appraisal about what we are and are not in control of in our lives gives us the foresight to know how to resolve situations and how to make our lives better.
Photo by Haley Floyd
In physics stress is defined as the force per unit area within a material that arises from externally applied forces, uneven heating, or permanent deformation, and that permits an accurate description and prediction of elastic, plastic, and fluid behavior. Stress is a force in our lives. Often it is a stronger perceived force that the actual event causing the stress.
Webster’s dictionary offers many different definitions of stress: one of these definitions relates to constraining force or influence. This is closer to the stress we experience. Stress is often constraining, and in some cases paralyzing, to our wellbeing. Sometimes we don’t recognize that we are experiencing stress and find ourselves wondering why we can’t find our keys or why we just can’t shake this headache.
Psychology defines stress as the process by which we perceive and respond to certain events, called stressors, that we appraise as threatening or challenging our resources. With this definition we can see how events in our lives become stressors. More importantly, this definition shows us that stress is very subjective, meaning that we decide what is stressful and what is not.
Stress affects our life in numerous ways. We need stress to motivate us, keep our minds sharp, and push us in new directions. We are designed to handle stress, not to let stress handle us. Healthful stress is called eustress, a term coined by endocrinologist Hans Selye. The difference between the words eustress and stress is in how we handle stressors. If we see a stressor as a challenge and push through it, learning and growing from the experience, we have experienced eustress. If we see a stressor as threatening our resources, and crumble or become prey to a myriad of potential negative consequences, we have experienced distress.
Education is the most powerful tool to living a stress free life!
This blog was started as a fun way to get information out about various topics in the wide world of stress management. If you have any suggestions for posts, please feel free to comment below or send an e-mail. Sit back relax and enjoy.