Stressed Out? Quick Fixes Can Block Real Relief

Being stressed out is not a new problem. Neither is the search for quick fixes!

Back in the day – maybe they’re still doing this, who knows – there was a wave of “mindfulness at work” mania.

I call it mania because there seemed to be something fundamentally exploitative about it, as in: “dear employees, your work environment is so stressful for you that we are offering brief “recharge” sessions in your break time. That way you can pull yourself together and keep working hard the second part of the day”.

It looks so good on paper: employers offering a service to help workers destress. Yet, thinking about a typical stressful work environment, it’s just so easy to see how making people do some mindfulness practices is a lot cheaper and easier to implement than taking a long and hard look at why people get so stressed in the workplace in the first place.

 

The Wrong Way to Address Stress

With stress, it’s not just “all in your head”. You can’t “unthink” it away. When you’re chronically stressed, something in your life is too much and your body is sending you “m’aidez” signs to get you to take care of it.

If anything, mindfulness can make you more aware of how frazzled you are and – as such – make it even harder to calm down.

Nevertheless, even if mindfulness would work in the workplace, I believe there is something fundamentally wrong with using it as a way to combat symptoms instead of causes.

If work itself is stressing you out, then at the end of the day, tackling the actual causes of that stress (like lack of adequate breaks, skipping lunch, trying to do it all at ever higher speeds, not having a quiet place to think etc) is much more effective than trying to tackle the symptoms of that stress (feeling rushed and unsettled, sleeping poorly, racing thoughts etc).

If anything, when you get very good at tackling symptoms, so you feel better, the root causes of stress will go unadressed. Instead of truly lowering your stress levels, you end up increasing your tolerance for more stress.

This may seem like a good thing. After all, isn’t that what we want? To be able to handle more?

Yet, despite how you may be handling and negotiating your limits, your body does have very real non-negotiable limits.

 

Your Body Has Very Real Limits

When you use all the self-care tools at your disposal to manage stress symptoms only, then what you end up doing is:

  • You slowly get more and more stressed and depleted but you don’t notice because you’ve gotten very good at managing the symptoms of stress. You have meditations to help you sleep, supplements to help you relax, yoga to help center you and clear your head, positive affirmations to keep you focused etc etc. Plus, the adrenalin rush of the stress itself keeps you up and functioning at your peak (for now).
  • You have little to no practice in setting limits and finding ways to lower your workload. You’re scared of not measuring up, disappointing people, not getting it all done or being called too sensitive. As a result, due to your excellent self-management and your lack of setting self-protective boundaries, you end up taking on more work and you seem quite capable of handling that. So management rewards you with giving you even more responsibilities…
  • When you do get completely frazzled and exhausted, none of your tools work. You’ve already been using Reiki / Meditation / Healthy eating / Exercise / Flower Essences / You Name It to make yourself feel better when you were really busy. Now that you realise it truly is all too much, all those articles telling you to meditate and eat well seem to miss the point: you were already doing that!!!
  • Terrified that you’re not measuring up anymore, you may push your body to release some more energy for a final sprint… (enter: trying harder, thinking more positively, and coffee / energy drinks / guarana supplements etc) until one day, you just can’t get going anymore at all and all you want to do is sleep. At which point, you may be told that you’re depressed and need to go on meds.

 

 

Depression isn’t Always the Problem

Yes, there are cases when meds are needed or helpful but if you are depressed because you are exhausted, then depression is a healthy physical response. An intervention even. There is nothing wrong with your body. There is something wrong with all the things you’re expecting your body to do and keep up with. Depression – in this case – is just the natural result of an empty energy tank. It’s your body saying “please wait while we recharge your vital organs for you”.

It’s also a healthy emotional response (and perhaps the only thing that will finally get you to drop some of your workload!). If “not caring” is the only way your body can get you to take a break, it will happily put you in that state when needed.

So if you go on meds and you feel a bit better, enough to go on as you always have… can you see how that would only deepen the hole you’ve been digging for yourself?

What’s happened when you get into a cycle like this, is that excitement and stress have become the basis of your life, with you trying to build some peace and quiet on top of it. There is no safe and calm foundation. It can feel like trying to stay afloat in quicksand. It’s scary, and you want to frantically tread water, even though you rationally know that will just pull you in deeper.

 

 

When you try really hard to fix the stress, but you ignore the deeper issues, you can end up masking the pain. This will make the pain grow bigger in the end. You may seem o.k. on the surface, but deep down you’re not o.k. at all. The reason you try so hard to “try” to seem o.k. is because facing what is really going on is scary.

drawing of person hurting and being stressed out on the inside but putting on a brave face and using lots of remedies

 

At heart, you just don’t feel safe.

This is an endless battle, and at some point your relaxation methods won’t work anymore because the way in which you are leading your life is constantly inviting in more stress.

This is not because that is just how life is. It is because many of us never learned how to honour and protect our own boundaries. We get stressed out because we never learned how to tackle the roots of that stress.

 

Being Tired is Not the Problem

Maybe you were told there was something wrong with being tired or giving up.

Maybe you were told there was something wrong with your feelings.

You had to keep trying and “get over” yourself and your sensitivity.

While there is something to be said for a go-getter attitude, too much of it pushes you to completely go beyond your actual limits. When that happens, you don’t actually notice because you haven’t had a clear sense of your actual limits for a long time. You’ve learned to just pick yourself up and keep going no matter what. You stop noticing how stressed out you are, because you’re so focused on “not quitting”.

But here’s the thing: when you say a lot of YES to life, you also have to say a lot of NO to life. Otherwise, everything will be too much in the end.

If you’re afraid to say NO, then your YESes will pull you into a spinning vortex of activity and overwhelm. Your go getter attitude can make you more stressed out.

 

 

“BUT, there is no alternative to being stressed out!”

When you’re convinced there is no alternative and no solution, it just means you’ve come up against your inner set-points, ingrained habits and convictions. Part of stress is the environment, but a much bigger part is how we choose to deal with it. That doesn’t mean finding ways to put up with it! It means getting clear on:

  • what is actually down to the environment
  • what is down to your own habits and the pressure you put on yourself
  • what your actual choices are to create/demand a better environment or change your habits

When you’re really stressed out, those three topics typically get all glued together. When you feel bad, it’s hard to logically pull them apart and find your power amidst it all.

(That’s why, talking to someone can help! Set up a Clarity Call with me if you’d like to find a solution to the stress in your life, but just can’t see the forest for the trees right now)

Sometimes the best thing to do is leave. But there are also many times when you’ll notice that you end up in the same stressful situation again and again, no matter how many times you switch environments / jobs.

When stress seems to track you down and follow you around whereever you go, you can be sure that there’s something about the way that you’re dealing with stress that isn’t working. You don’t see it (otherwise you would have fixed it already!).

Yet, when stress follows you like a shadow, it is related to something about you, somehow. That’s actually great news because it means that there is something you – and only you – can do about it.

But – that doesn’t mean you have to do it alone! Set up a call with me here to discover how I can help. I’ve been super stressed. So much so that I lost my job once upon a time. And it took me a crazy long time to get back up! (read years, not months. And during one of those years, I didn’t crack a smile for a full year. Which – if you know me – is very out of character.)  I learned a lot from that time, but it’s not a fun way to learn. I’d prefer to show you how while you’re still standing (instead of collapsed on the couch). Because burn out doesn’t just happen to “old” people who lost their lust for life. It happens to young(ish) go-getters who lose sights of their limits, more often than you’d like to know.

Not up for a chat? If you’re more of a self-study afficionado – become a Happy Sensitive Library Member and dive into the courses on handling chronic stress responses, building energy when you’re depleted, and dealing with difficult feelings.

Whatever you do – don’t just “keep on going” the way you have so far! You read this article all the way to the end for a reason! At one point, your body will throw on the breaks, and when she does, it will be dramatic. It’s better (and a lot more fun!) to change things around before that happens. I really recommend taking action sooner rather than later.

 

clarity call after post transp

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