Published on July 29th, 2014 | by Paula Davis-Laack0
Use These Strategies To De-Stress When You’re Maxed Out
By Paula Davis-Laack—
I recently had lunch with a group of friends and work colleagues. Before our server even approached our table to take our drink order, one of my friends said, “I am soooo stressed out.” When we asked her why, she told us about a sticky work conversation she was going to have to facilitate the next day. As she reflected on her work situation in general and her corresponding stress levels, she wondered out loud whether she was burned out. Soon, all of our heads were nodding as we regaled each other with our stories about being busy – it was like a poker game of stress stories. I’ll see you your frustration with your boss and raise you a difficult conversation I need to have with my mom.
As the demands on your work and non-work time increase, your energy and resilience decrease and you run the risk of maxing yourself out. Burnout is not feeling bummed out, having a bad day, or depression—although being burned out can lead to mental and physical health issues, which can include depression. I define burnout as the chronic state of being out of sync with one or more aspects of your life, and the result is a loss of energy, enthusiasm, and confidence. Eventually, and as I experienced toward the end of my law career, your physical health and mental well-being will likely deteriorate if burnout isn’t addressed.
Here are three simple strategies to try if you are feeling stressed out:
Increase your self-efficacy.
Self-efficacy is having the belief in your own ability to accomplish (and exercise control over) personally meaningful goals and tasks. People who have a stronger level of perceived self-efficacy experience less stress in challenging situations, and situations in turn become less stressful when people believe they can cope. (*1)
The most direct and effective way to enhance self-efficacy is through performance mastery experiences. When you accomplish a goal, your brain asks, “Hmmm, what else can I do?” Another way to build self-efficacy is to find a self-efficacy “model.” Simply observing a friend or work colleague accomplish something meaningful is contagious and increases your ability to meet challenges directly. (*2)
Reframe the way you think about stress.
The next time you are stressed, write down the thoughts you have about the event and the emotions and reactions that are produced. Even though stress has become public health enemy #1, changing the way you think about stress is actually a health-promotion strategy.
The three building blocks of hope include having goals (seeking out where you want to go), feeling empowered to shape your daily life, and identifying multiple avenues toward making your goals happen. In the world of work, being maxed out leads to absenteeism, and companies lose billions of dollars each year when employees fail to show up for work. In a study of mechanical and electrical engineers at a Fortune 100 tech company, the high-hope engineers, on average, missed less than three days of work in a twelve-month period. The low-hope engineers missed, on average, more than ten days of work in that same period of time. (*3)
Paula Davis-Laack, JD, MAPP, is the Founder and CEO of the Davis Laack Stress & Resilience Institute, LLC, a practice devoted to helping professionals manage stress, prevent burnout, and build resilience. Her website is www.pauladavislaack.com. For additional tools and strategies to reframe stress and prevent burnout, please visit her Top Coach Page.
(1) Bandura, A. (1989). Human agency in social cognitive theory.44 American Psychologist, 1175-1184.
(2) Bandura, A. (1997). Self-efficacy. New York: W.H. Freeman and Company.
(3) Avey, J.B., Patera, J.L., & West, B.J. (2006). The implications of positive psychological capital on employee absenteeism.13 Journal of Leadership and Organizational Studies, 42-60; see also, Lopez, S.J. (2013). Making hope happen: Create the future you want for yourself and others. New York: Atria Books.