Stress & Burnout

An interaction of social, psychological and physical factors can contribute in creating stress and burnout. What the main causes are may be a composition of special individual factors. Common psychological factors however may be perfectionism, and high standards and common social factors highly stressed workplace or challenging life situations at home or in one’s spare time. Common physical factors may be different physiological challenges, diseases and symptoms which makes one’s life situation more strenuous in addition to physiological symptoms which arise from stress


The body’s reaction to stress

Our bodies react somewhat same to both stress and fear. One can explain what happens by referring to the brains impact on the body’s nervous system

When a stressful event or a fearful situation sets in, the information goes past our frontal lobes where our reason is seated. Instead the signal of threat or stress goes straight to Amygdala, our centre of emotions which is seated in the middle part of the brain. The fear that has awoke in the Amygdala, triggers the back part of the brain called the limbic system. This is the part of the brain where our instincts are seated. From the limbic system the signal is then transferred to the body’s autonome nervous system.

We we have a voluntarily based nervous system where we consciously choose our own actions, and we have an autonomous nervous system which operates outside our conscious control

The autonomous nervous system can be divided into two parts; the parasympatic (the “rest and digest”) system and the sympatic (“fight or flight”) system

When our bodies are in the parasympatic state, our pulse and respiration are low. Blood is pumped from the heart to smaller veins and arteries and most of the body’s focus is on our restitution and our digestion. We are relaxed and can digest our food in a calm manner

When fear or stress has been triggered in our limbic system however, it triggers the sympatic system of fight or flight. This system is also what gets activated in animals in face of threats and stress

The body gets ready to manage to fight or flee the stressful or threatening situation. The heart pumps out blood to large blood vessels and muscle groups and creates, because of it’s activity, a physical pressure in the chest. The breathing becomes shallower and we don’t have time to breathe in our stomachs. Animals in a flight or fight reaction in a situation of threat, often get rid of what they have in their bodies before taking the leap of fleeing or fighting. This is because having too much in our bodies will make them slower and decrease their chances of survival. In the same ways we humans can experience a need to go to the toilet and a difficulty with the digestion when facing both stress and a threat. We can also sometimes get the urge of throwing up. From this perspective the stomach’s reaction to stress and threats is adaptive

This bodily reaction to stress can remain for a long after stress has occurred if the stressful reactions have occurred for a very long time. This bodily reaction in addition reinforces our cognitive beliefs of being in stress. The body has difficulty getting back to baseline

If we in addition have continuing problems with psychological and social factors which makes us stressful, the baseline is more difficult to reach


Coming back to baseline 

We need to help the body get back to the rest and digest activation instead of being in a constant fight or flight mode

One first important aspect in this regard is to reduce or eliminate stressfactors which makes our bodies activated. This can be workrelated aspects or aspects regarding family, friends or activities in our spare time

A second aspect is finding a good balance between being in activity and getting enough rest. Often one is too much in activity and need more restful activities. What is restful for you may not be restful for others, so it is important to find your individual ways of getting rest, may that be yoga, meditation, go for a walk, reading, doing tai chi, listening to music etc. Some people may also find it stressful to do too slow activities and they may find more rest in some kind of exercize which makes them relaxed. Make room every day for an activity which gives you energy and/or rest

A third aspect is to make the body find relaxation. This may be through a focus on breathing with your stomach and doing mindfulness. Mindfulness and deeper breathing is the easiest way to trick the body from a fight or flight activation over to a rest and digest activation