What’s the difference between burnout and stress?

Burnout is more than just stress. There’s a difference between the two. Like stress, it causes physical damage, and over time, it leads to anxiety disorders and job burnout. Stress is a normal part of life, and it’s something we deal with on a day-to-day basis. Burnout is what happens when it’s all too much. 

It’s different from stress because stress can be a positive thing or a negative thing, and we can use that energy as momentum. Burnout is the accumulation of stress, unmet and unspoken expectations, eroded boundaries, and overwhelm.

It’s like an emotional, physical, spiritual, and behavioral pileup on the interstate where there are way more cars than room, and everything comes to a standstill after an inevitable collision. 

Burnout is a very real thing, and it’s happening to so many of us. 

What are the physical signs of burnout?

There are physical signs of burnout that can be noticeable. You are tired all the time, and your food intake is more or less than usual. You don’t have the motivation to get up and move your body the way you normally do and you might see an impact on your weight either way. When you’re burnt out, it can impact your immune system, and you might find yourself getting sick over and over. 

What are the emotional signs of burnout?

Emotionally, you might find you’re more reactive to more minor intrusions. You might find you’re crying more often, and you might not know why. You are fighting with your spouse more, and you’re resentful of people at work. You feel dull and discouraged in every area of your life.  You can feel your body tense with every ding of an email arriving in your inbox. 

Everything feels overwhelming. 

Much like in depression, you might find that your behavior changes. You don’t participate in the things that once brought you joy. You aren’t as responsive to emails, and you let voicemail pick up the calls you just don’t have the emotional bandwidth to deal with. You might be outright defiant when asked to do ONE. MORE. THING. Your tone might shift. 

Burnout affects so many areas of our lives, but the physical impact is undeniable and can be hard to handle. The mental load of burnout has a physical cost on you, and it’s important to recognize it and take steps to reverse it before it causes permanent issues. 

What Burnout Has Taught Me

I’m a giver by nature, but burnout taught me that the most important person I need to give to is myself. I need to give myself the gift of noticing when things are too much and make changes to protect my body, heart, mind, and soul. When you give to yourself, you can help insulate yourself against burnout and start to reverse the process so you can heal. 

It’s also taught me to be aware of when I’m hustling for my worthiness or stepping into people-pleasing mode at the expense of my own mental and physical well-being. 

Brene Brown is one of my “go-to” people when it comes to understanding how to embrace our vulnerabilities while also taking steps to reclaim our well-being.  She says, 

“When we can let go of what other people think and own our story, we gain access to our worthiness—the feeling that we are enough just as we are and that we are worthy of love and belonging.

When we spend a lifetime trying to distance ourselves from the parts of our lives that don’t fit with who we think we’re supposed to be, we stand outside of our story and hustle for our worthiness by constantly performing, perfecting, pleasing, and proving.

Our sense of worthiness—that critically important piece that gives us access to love and belonging—lives inside of our story.”

It’s time to reflect on why you are always walking around like you’re on fire?  Where in your life are your making decisions to people-please rather than permitting yourself to fill your own cup?  Are you hustling for your worthiness because you don’t know how to feel good just as you are?  Do you need to permit yourself to recharge when you see and feel the signs of your own burnout? Are you someone who’s always stressed out and exhausted?

We are embedded in a culture that is always telling us that we are not enough.  “You’re not a good mom if you train for a half marathon.” “You’re not a good wife if you don’t keep a clean house and provide good meals for your family. “You aren’t a good person if you don’t work out daily.” “You’re not a good husband if you’re not bringing in the dough.” The “not enough” list is damn exhausting.

I have learned to be on the lookout for signs of my own burnout, and because I’m a happiness coach, I have a set of skills I teach to others on how to get ourselves out of the gutter quicker.  I call it work-life flow. We have to redefine our worthiness outside of all that we do and achieve. We have to accept ourselves for being “enough” just as we are without proving it to ourselves and our world. 

You can be a light in the world without burning out, but you need to tend to the fire inside you, so you don’t get consumed by what the world needs. Shine on, and give yourself a little more today and every day because you’re worth it. 

I can help you overcome burnout with simple happiness habits that help you create work~ life flow. Get on the wait-list for our Happy Academy, 10 month program that begins in August.

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