Practical Tips to Break The Cycle of Stress & Burnout

Kylie Broadfoot - reducing stress in business owners and leaders

It’s so easy to get caught in a busy cycle, like that revolving door you use to enter a building, but without easy-to-identify exit points. 

Stress and pressure are everywhere. And how fulfilled are we all really? I don’t think many of us are in a state of deep fulfilment consistently, without doing some significant ‘inner work’ to get there.

How do we start to shift this pattern? 

The reality is that a culture focused on achievement and busyness is unlikely to shift any time soon.

Burnout here in Australia is massive according to the 2022 Microsoft Work Trends Index, with 62% of Australian employees experiencing burnout, and 66% of managers. This doesn’t even take into account other types of burnout like parental or carer.

What is burnout?

Burnout often stems from prolonged or chronic stress, and has these 3 pillars:

  • emotional exhaustion
  • decreased sense of accomplishment (the unconquerable sense of futility, feeling that nothing you do makes any difference), and
  • depersonalisation (the depletion of empathy, caring and compassion, and then decreased sense of accomplishment:

These things may help to shine a light on how stress is currently impacting you, and what can help.

  1. Do a stocktake of your current life – if you’re noticing changes to your sleep pattern (eg insomnia), appetite (increased or decreased), consuming particular things consistently despite wanting to reduce these eg food, alcohol, online activity or TV in an attempt to unwind or ‘switch off.
  1. Develop an awareness of what stress feels like for you. Is it tight muscles, faster breathing and a racing heart? These are all normal aspects of a stress response which is intended for short bursts of fight, flight, freeze reactions. If you experience these sometimes in reaction to a stressor (moving out of the way quickly if you’re in harm’s way, or running to reach a child who’s about to injure themselves), this is a perfectly normal response designed to help you to deal with the situation quickly and effectively. But when these become long-term or chronic, they can impact a range of body systems negatively. 
  1. Consider what you do have control over and make small changes that will accumulate over time. Whether it’s making changes to your work schedule so that you’re taking regular lunch breaks; moving your body during the day; creating boundaries around work time and personal time; or having the difficult conversations that you keep putting off (but are creating more stress in the background, as they take up mental space and ‘air time’) these can all help. 
  1. ‘Finish off the stress response’. In their book, Burnout – The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle, Emily and Amelia Nagoski talk about the problems that arise when we don’t complete the stress response.

‘You have to do something that signals to your body that you are safe, or else you’ll stay in that state with neurochemicals and hormones degrading, but never shifting into relaxation. Your digestive system, immune system, cardiovascular system, musculoskeletal system and reproductive system never get the signal that they’re safe.”

In other words, when we’re all ready to fight, flee or freeze in response to a perceived stressor, but then don’t actually move these feelings through the body. By adopting strategies like going for a walk or run, taking a boxing class or punching some pillows, doing some star jumps on the spot or dancing, we can help to shift the stress response through the body and relax our nervous system again.

  1. Self-care strategies like getting enough sleep, seeing friends you can be yourself around, laughing freely and sharing a hug; or focusing on your breathing – the in and the out breath – despite a racing mind, can help to move the stress through your body so that your body can return to a calm state.

As the Nagoski sisters state:

“The research suggests a 20-second hug can change your hormones, lower your blood pressure and heart rate and improve mood, all of which are reflected in the post-hug increase in the social bonding hormone, Oxytocin.”

6. Understand your Human Design:

There are many elements of Human Design that can contribute to stress and burnout. This might be trying to keep up with the pace of others who naturally have more energy (eg a Projector trying to keep up with a Generator); becoming overwhelmed with stress due to constantly feeling like everything is urgent (someone with an undefined Root centre who continues to succumb to the feeling of pressure, rather than pausing to work out if something is truly urgent or not) or someone who is constantly spending time with their community but ignores their need to rest and have time alone (eg 1/4 profile). Knowing how to make aligned decisions that leave you feeling fulfilled with your life overall will also automatically help to reduce stress (your inner authority).

As always, I encourage you to start with small consistent tweaks and to develop more self-awareness about what will work best for you. Reach out if I can help.


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