If you can’t stop thinking about work when you’re at home, it’s possible you’re dealing with chronic stress and you are burning out.
For many, including parents and those in certain professions, chronic stress can leave you feeling exhausted, cynical, and unwell. But, worst of all, chronic stress harms your health, with research showing chronic stress increases your risk of some health conditions, such as heart disease. It’s also changing your brain – the vicious cycle of chronic stress actually enlarges the amygdala which is responsible for fear and aggression. There are many evidence-based ways to naturally reduce chronic stress and prevent burnout. You could start today! Here’s how.
Chronic stress is when over a long period of time, you experience a consistent sense of feeling overwhelmed and pressured. Stress is good if it’s motivating you, but too much and chronic stress is a problem.
You may experience chronic stress symptoms including:
Burnout is a result of chronic stress and typically involves emotional exhaustion, feelings of cynicism, and reduced desire to accomplish work. People with burnout can feel a loss of interest and find it difficult to concentrate. Burnout can come from a professional environment that lacks reward, the ability to accomplish tasks, and a sense of community and/or support, explains Forbes. You can make changes in your workplace. There are also natural lifestyle habits that can help you deal with burnout.
It’s important to understand that stress isn’t the same as mental health issues (depression, anxiety) that require a different kind of help. Traditional physicians may treat depression with medications. A naturopath might suggest N-acetylcysteine or other natural remedies for depression such as omega-3s, vitamin D, St. John’s Wort, ginkgo, SAMe, 5-HTP, magnesium, or B vitamins. Chronic stress can increase your risk of developing depression if you aren’t coping well with stress.
Breathing might be the fastest way to relieve stress. Deep, cyclical breathing immediately reduces stress, improves mood and conscientiousness, better than cognitive strategies (changing your thoughts), according to a study conducted at the University of Arizona. Focusing on the breath helps you tap into your more relaxed state (parasympathetic nervous system), which is the complete opposite to your overwhelmed, stressed-out, fight-or-flight response caused by chronic stress (sympathetic nervous system).
Many research studies have noted exercise as an effective way to reduce stress, as well as exposure to nature as being restorative. Combined together, such as a walk in nature, appears to be an excellent way to reduce cortisol levels (a marker of stress in the body) and improve mood, notes scientists.
Adaptogens are herbs that support the body during stress. Rhodiola (Rhodiola rosea) is an adaptogen approved in Europe for stress. Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) is a well-known adaptogen with a history of traditional use, that in a randomized, double-blind controlled study reduced cortisol levels in the morning for men and women.
Known for their calming scent lavender essential oils are touted as stress-relieving. Science is limited but, in an animal study, lavender essential oil improves the ability of the brain to adapt and learn (neuroplasticity) when cortisol levels were high.
Increased caffeine consumption was linked with increased anxiety in males, in a 2021 study. When researchers looked at the effect of caffeine on adolescents, it raised concerns that caffeine can negatively impact the regulation of the neuroendocrine system.
Touch has a calming effect, according to scientific evidence. A small gesture, such as a tap on the shoulder can impact how you feel. Social touch can help you better handle stress. A gentle touch from another person gives a sign that things are okay and inhibits fear and stress responses. Shake someone’s hand in greeting. Get a massage. Hug someone. Snuggle with a pet. Touch is an easy way to naturally relieve stress.
There are so many rewards of learning to better manage your stress: less anxiety, a better quality of life, a feeling of peace, lower blood pressure, better focus, and relationships. A healthy lifestyle isn’t just about eating well and exercising – it’s about learning skills that help you handle stress allowing you to experience a joyous, healthier life.
If your job is a source of chronic stress, you may be looking for a career change. A career in an area that you are passionate about. The Canadian School of Natural Nutrition offers virtual courses you can take any time, from any place.
Discover more about CSNN Distance Education Courses here.
N-acetylcysteine as a new prominent approach for treating psychiatric disorders. British Journal of Pharmacology 2021 Mar; 178(13):2569-2594.
The relationship between burnout, depression and anxiety: a systematic review and meat-analysis. Front Psychol 13 March 2019.
Improvements in well-being and cardiac metrics of stress following a yogic breathing workshop: randomized controlled trial with active comparison. Journal of the American College of Health 2020 Jun.
Health benefits of walking in nature: a randomized controlled study under conditions of real-life stress. Environment and Behavoir 2018 Sep.
Deciphering the role of physical activity in stress management during a global pandemic in older adult populations: a systematic review protocol. Systematic Reviews 2021 May.
An investigation into the stress-relieving and pharmacological actions of an ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) extract: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Medicine 2019 Sept;98(37).
Lavender essential oil ameliorates depression-like behavior and increases neurogenesis and dendritic complexity in rats. Neuroscience Letters 2019 May 14; 701:180-192.
Adolescent caffeine consumption increases adulthood anxiety-related behavior and modifies neuroendocrine signaling. Psychoneuroendocrinology. (2016) 67:40–50.
Habitual coffee drinkers display a distinct pattern of brain functional connectivity. Nature Molecular Psychiatry 2021 April; 26:6589-6598.
Calming effects of touch in human, animal and robotic interaction – scientific state of the art and technical advances. Frontiers in Psychiatry 2020 Nov 4.
Contributed by Allison Tannis
Known for her deliciously geeky words, Allison’s articles and books are read around the world by those curious about where to find the most delicious (and nutritious) places to stick their forks. More at allisontannis.com. Follow @deliciouslygeeky.