If you consistently experience high levels of stress without taking steps to manage or reduce it, exhaustion will eventually take over, leaving you emotionally and physically burned out. You will begin to feel less motivated, since it seems like nothing you do matters, while even the smallest tasks can leave you feeling overwhelmed and broken. Taking action to address toxic stress burnout is essential, since it only gets worse if you just leave or suppress it—it literally creates biological chaos in the brain and body!
When you are feeling very stressed out and anxious, I recommend using my NeuroCycle 5-step mind-management technique, which is a way to harness your thinking power and change your thinking habits, as I discuss in detail in my upcoming book Cleaning Up Your Mental Mess. This technique teaches you how to be a responder, not just a reactor,when you are faced with stressful situations and challenges (which are part of life—we cannot escape or ignore them!).
This calming down technique actually works well with any issue, and can be done anywhere, any place and at any time—all you need is you!
First, calm the brain down by breathing deeply. I recommend breathing in for 5 counts and out for 11 counts, repeating this technique 3 times (for around 45 seconds).
Then, go through the 5 NeuroCycle mind management steps:
Step 1: Gather
First, I want you to just gather awareness of how you are feeling mentally and physically.
You chose to do this NeuroCycle because maybe you have been feeling very overwhelmed, or maybe you are losing motivation and feel exhausted all the time. These are emotional and physical warning signals—your body is trying to tell you something important, so take some time now to just listen.
- How do you feel mentally and physically right now?
- Are you struggling to concentrate?
- Do you find you are getting more frustrated and irritable with people?
- Do you feel fatigue? Muscle tension? Headaches?
- Are you struggling with sleeping issues?
- Do you feel anxious? Depressed? Lethargic?
Just gather awareness for a few minutes.
Step 2: Reflect
Now, I just want you to be curious and question your emotions and feelings. It’s tough to make changes when you don’t know exactly what needs to change, but exploring contributing factors or sources of stress in your life can really help.
- Why do you feel exhausted and spent?
- Why do you feel that you have been “on” too long?
- Why do you feel overwhelmed?
- What could you do differently right now to feel better?
- What if you took a break, or slowed down? What would happen?
- What are you fearing will happen if you take a few steps back or slow down?
- Are you tying your productivity to your self-worth? Why?
- What unrealistic expectations can you let go of?
- Are you taking on more commitments as a way of trying to fit in or people-please? Why?
- How can you make your mental health a priority?
Reflect now for a few moments.
Step 3: Write
Now, just write down the answers to your reflections from step 2. This will help organize your thinking and gain clarity.
Step 4: Recheck
In this step, I just want you to go back over what you just reflected on and wrote by exploring and asking questions.
- What can you change in your life?
- What advice would you give to someone else if they came to you with this issue?
- What toxic patterns or habits are you noticing?
- What assumptions are you making in your thinking?
Recheck now for a few moments.
Step 5: Active Reach
For this step, I just want you to do any or all the following:
- Commit to doing a full 21-day NeuroCycle to see what toxic habits or traumas may be causing burnout and stress in your life.
- Create a “to-don’t” list instead of a to-do list!
- Examine your current commitments. What can you give up? What can you delegate to someone else?
- Try to incorporate more “thinker moments” into your day, where you switch off to the external and switch on to the internal and daydream, nap or stare out a window. Let your mind wander! This is a great way to give the mind and brain time to rest and reboot, which is so important when it comes to your mental health!
- Leave work at work. A large part of burnout recovery is learning how to prioritize your work-life balance. After leaving work, focus on relaxing and recharging for the next day.
- Build more fun into your routine! Go for more walks, exercise, take time to read some fiction, paint….do more of what brings you joy!
- Set and enforce boundaries. Before committing to help someone, accepting an invitation or taking on a new task, do the following:
- Take a moment to go through what would be required of you if you agree.
- Ask yourself if you truly have the energy and time.
- Consider whether doing it will offer any kind of value to your life or goals.
- Question if you want to do this or if you are just trying to people-please.
- Remember that you’re not lazy, selfish, or mean for declining a request for your precious time. Being selective about accepting commitments is key to taking care of your mental health. Honor the truly important commitments and proactively prevent burnout!