It can seriously feel like we are constantly under siege sometimes.
The news is relentless, the economy is uncertain, and our familial responsibilities are often can be overwhelming. Burnout is a very real danger and can affect anyone — even those who seem to have it all together. The warning signs of burnout are easy to miss, but if you know what to look for, you can take steps to manage stressors effectively and prevent burnout from taking over your life. Let's discuss the causes of burnout and suggest solutions that will help you calm your nervous system so you can thrive during difficult times.
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How does prolonged stress impact the nervous system?
The uncertain economy, familial responsibilities, and breaking news fatigue all contribute to the current stressors that can impact our nervous system. Financial concerns, job instability, and long-term financial planning can add to the weight of daily life. At the same time, caring for children and elderly family members, balancing work and home life, and maintaining relationships under stress can be emotionally draining. To top it all off, the constant barrage of negative news and the emotional toll of global events can lead to information overload.When these stressors become too much, our nervous system begins to struggle. This can manifest in physical symptoms like headaches, fatigue, digestion problems, and muscle tension. It can also lead to emotional issues like anxiety and depression. If left unchecked, burnout can take hold and have a devastating impact on our overall wellbeing.
How can you identify the warning signs of burnout?
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People with certain personality traits are particularly vulnerable to burnout.
High sensitivity, characterized by greater emotional responsiveness to stress and struggles with overstimulation, can also play a role in burnout. Additionally, perfectionism, with its unrealistic expectations and fear of failure, can contribute to the problem. Recognizing these traits in yourself is essential for understanding and addressing burnout in your life.
Here's what to look for:
- Difficulty sleeping or concentrating
- Feeling overwhelmed or exhausted most of the time
- Withdrawal from activities that were once enjoyable
- Loss of motivation and feelings of apathy
- Irritability and anger
What causes burnout?
Chronic stress and nervous system dysregulation are at the heart of burnout. When our fight, flight or freeze response is continuously activated, it takes a toll on our physical and mental health. Our bodies and minds become overwhelmed, leading to feelings of exhaustion, anger, sadness, or even numbness.
In order to reduce the effects of burnout and bring our nervous system back into a regulated state, we need to consciously engage in activities that will help us heal our nervous system.
When we take steps to regulate our nervous system and manage stressors effectively, the effects can be profound. We can experience improved cognitive function and focus, as well as increased energy and vitality.
How can you regulate your nervous system and stress levels?
While there are not quick fixes to healing burnout and nervous system dysregulation, is it possible to reverse these conditions with a clear plan and consistency.:
One way to activate the parasympathetic nervous system is through somatic practices such as yoga, mindfulness, bodywork, and massage, or progressive muscle relaxation. These practices can help reduce stress and bring regulation to your nervous system.
Breathing practices are another effective way to reduce stress levels in the moment. Techniques like diaphragmatic breathing, box breathing, and alternate nostril breathing can help calm the mind and regulate the nervous system.
Utilizing sunlight to reset the nervous system is also beneficial. Natural light positively impacts our well-being and helps regulate our circadian rhythms. Incorporating sunlight into your daily routine can improve your mood and promote relaxation.
Other ways to support your nervous system include:
- Exercise: Physical activity can help to regulate your nervous system and reduce stress. Aim for 30 minutes of exercise a day, even if this means breaking it up into smaller chunks of time.
- Connect with Nature: Spending time in nature has been shown to have calming effects on the body and mind. Get outside and take in the beauty of your surroundings.
- Eat Well: Consume a balanced diet that is high in nutrient-dense foods and low in processed, sugary junk food.
- Practice Mindfulness: Taking time to focus on the present moment can help reduce stress and cultivate self-awareness. Take time each day to meditate or practice breathing exercises.
5 Ways to Calm Your Nervous System and Regulate Stress Levels During Hardships of Current Times
Photo by cottonbro studio / PEXELS
To thrive in these challenging times, it's essential to understand your unique sensory needs and create a structure to support them:
- Prioritize activities that nourish your body and mind. Focus on vigorous movement, restorative activities like yoga and meditation, deep breathing exercises, journaling, connecting with nature, and cultivating meaningful relationships.
- Develop healthy coping skills to manage stress and anxiety. Find ways to access support when you need it, such as through therapy, counseling, or support groups.
- Create an environment that supports healthy habits. This may include decluttering your home or workspace, implementing a consistent schedule for sleep and meals, or designing rituals to help you feel grounded.
- Make time for activities that bring you joy, such as getting a massage or spending quality time with friends and family.
- Limit how much time you spend consuming media. Set boundaries around your digital consumption and find outlets for positive distraction like books, music, and art.
By implementing these strategies and nurturing your nervous system, you can move from survival mode to thriving, even in the most challenging times. With an understanding of your unique needs as a sensitive person, you can scale back the stress response and nourish your body, mind, and spirit. Ultimately, this will help you to manage any challenges that come your way.
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Dr. Linnea Passaler specializes in helping those with highly sensitive nervous systems find relief from anxiety, burnout, and overwhelm. Her innovative approach focuses on reversing nervous system dysregulation using neuroscience and somatic practices. Sign up for her weekly newsletter for exclusive insights on healing a dysregulated nervous system at healyournervoussystem.com.
Header image by Thirdman / PEXELS