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Last week we talked about stress and how too much of it can lead to a forced time-out. There are many stages leading from stress over frustration to an official burn out syndrome, and every person experiences them differently. These stages are not necessarily sequential, nor are they always experienced with the same intensity. Let's have a look at what those stages roughly translate to, and where you might be at right now.

Imagine you're in a new job, just started a new position, of course you want to leave a great first impression with your employer, your colleagues, and not least of all yourself. You might even feel like you've got something to prove to your parents, your partner, or your former employers, so it's natural that you put in many hours in the first few weeks or months to find your footing. I've once been told that it's the actions of the first 100 days in any new position (or relationship, or city, or country) that count and set the pace for the long-term future. If you prove yourself during those first 100 days, you're good to go.

But what if you can't find a way to dial it down after that time? What if bosses and co-workers alike got used to having you there at all hours picking up the slack with a smile on your face? You can't start complaining or asking for a more detailed job description now, honey, after you've been doing such great work all these past weeks! Well, yes and no. Let's have a look at the burn out clock (modified from material I received during my first coaching):

The stages 1 through 12 are not meant to represent a certain time interval, although the first three months as described above might coincide with the three motivation and fun stages of "euphoria" as depicted above. So, how do you know that the fun part has stopped? Only you can answer that. Do you find yourself thinking about work all the time? Do you take your laptop home to get stuff done after dinner or on the weekends? Has your partner started complaining? Are you having trouble getting a good night's rest because you're worrying about work projects? Do you think that's normal? Do your colleagues have the same going on in their lives? In my humble opinion, just because it's happening to many other people you know doesn't make it right, and you always have a choice to change at any time you so decide.

If you feel overtired and overworked, a friendly chat with your neighborhood coach might be in order to see how they might help you prioritize, organize your time better, and strike a balance between all that is important to you. If you're actually starting to develop physical symptoms, suffer from ulcers, migrane headaches or heart palpitations, it's high time to see the physician of your confidence. Stress and burn-out might be sniggered at in your circle of colleagues as lah-di-dah complaints for the lazy and faint-of-heart, but they're certainly to be taken seriously. Prolonged periods of stress will wear your body and your mind out to the point where you will fall ill. With stress-related and burnt out patients, that illness is the bodies' desperate attempt to force them into relaxation. Why let it get so far, when a strategically timed hot bath, gossip session with the boys 'n girls, and trip to the movies/beach/spa of your choice can take the edge off and recharge your batteries quite effectively? Besides, you don't need me to tell you that your hand-held telecommunications device has an OFF-button, do you?

Writing this gave me ideas about more related subjects, like learning to say "no", psychosomatic illnesses, general balance exercises, and relaxation techniques. Which would you most like to read about? Let me know! For more information about stress and burn out, you can also refer to the American Institute of Stress and pages like Revolution Health.

Til next time!

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What are your thoughts on it? Have you experienced stress before? How do you define it? Is there a difference between stressful situations and actual physically manifested distress? How fast does your pulse come down after you've been feeling stressed? Where's the line to anxiety? These and many other questions are running through my mind as I look at the calendar and wonder where the past eight months have gone.

Time's not always a factor for stress though, at least it doesn't have to be. You know why Confucius said, "when in a hurry, take a detour"? Because you don't function well when you're in a hurry. Your mind is racing and you're not paying attention to the moment you're in, because you're preoccupied with how late you are or where you should already be by now. Before you know it, you've rear-ended the car in front, or watered your TV instead of your plants. I wish sometimes that there were more hours in one day so I could get everything done that's needing attention, and there'd be some spare to read a novel without feeling like there's something else I should be doing, something more productive. Alas, time's the same for everyone, last I checked nobody was able to freeze the moments or make them go faster at will. How come some people experience time as if there's plenty, and others as if there's never enough?

I guess in part it has to do with the "should"-ing I mentioned earlier, with expectations we have of ourselves, and expectations others have of us that we want to fulfil. "Early bird catches the worm" and other phrases like it almost make me feel bad for sleeping in even on the weekend, you know? The point for a well-balanced life, though, is to make time for relaxation, before too much stress takes its toll, and your body and mind experience a burn-out. This is when you'll be forced to take a break because you won't be able to do anything at all. Check back next week for more information on burn-out and its stages to see where you're at.

Everything's important, there's always going to be something to do, people to call, letters to write, work to finish. Next time you know your mind is racing and you feel your blood pressure rise, take a deep breath and a moment to reflect on what the actual stressful element is. Maybe once you've identified it you can practice getting things done without rushing. Make the conscious decision not to feel rushed or stressed. Paying attention to the moment, to traffic, to whatever it is you're in the middle of doing. You know if you rush and you're not doing it right, you have to do it all over again anyway, and that'll take even more time. Besides, it really is ok to smell the roses once in a while.

For more information on stress, its symptoms, how to reduce it, how it relates to diseases like cancer, and much much more, check out the American Institute of Stress and pages like Revolution Health.

Til next time! Thanks to Joy Prescott for the image.

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