“Sometimes the most important thing in a whole day is the rest we take between two deep breaths.” – Etty Hillesum

According to the Center for Disease Control, up to of 80% of doctor visits are stress related.  On average, people have approximately 50 stress responses a day.  Think about it.  What are all of the things in your daily life that put stress on your mind and body?

There are different kinds of stressors and each one is going to impact you in a different way.  Some categories are:

  • Stress from daily routines (i.e. related to the pressures of work, family and other daily responsibilities)
  • Stress brought about by a sudden negative change (i.e. illness, death of a loved one, loss of a job)
  • Traumatic stress (i.e. a major accident, assault or natural disaster)

Physiologically, the body responds to each type of stress in similar ways. The sympathetic nervous system (the body’s built in stress responder) kicks in and gets the body ready for action.  No matter the type of stress, whether it’s running late for work and rushing through your morning or experiencing a sudden change or loss- your mind and body are being impacted and resources depleted.

Reactions to and capacity for stress are unique to each individual.  For example, some people experience digestive symptoms, while others may have headaches, sleeplessness, depressed mood, anger and irritability.  Some stressors will have impacts that linger longer, and some may be short term.  In order to avoid burn out and emotional, physical, or spiritual exhaustion, it is important to engage in self-care regularly.

So, what are the things in your life that deplete your resources?

Depleters are the things and activities in our lives that drain us.  These things aren’t necessarily “bad” or “unhealthy.”  Most of these are the daily activities we engage in that naturally take a toll.   For example, just being awake and active depletes us. That is why we sleep at night.

What are your daily and weekly stressors and depleters?  Write out a list of things in your life that cause you stress and deplete you.  Remember- this can be anything.  Some examples may be:

  • work/studying/school
  • fighting with a spouse, friend, family member, etc.
  • difficult coworkers
  • having a back to back schedule with no breaks
  • traffic/running late
  • lack of sleep
  • not having down time or alone time
  • having too much alone time (especially if you are more of an extrovert)
  • financial stress/responsibilities

After you make your list, go back through and try to figure out what part of your system they deplete.  Is the stress physical (p), emotional/spiritual (e or s), cognitive (c), or a combination of the three?  Make a note next to each item on your list:

  • studying (c)
  • lack of sleep (p,e)
  • arguing with spouse (e)

Thankfully, our bodies have a built in system (parasympathetic nervous system) that counters the action of stress responses and helps the body to repair itself and relax.  Self-care helps the body kick in this response and aids in overall emotional, cognitive, and physiological well-being.

Replenishers are the things and activities that energize and repair us.  Watch out for those things that appear to be replenishing, but are actually depleting or draining in other ways (i.e. alcohol, too much/strenuous physical activity).  Exercise is great and very important- and remember that also stresses your body therefore it may serve as a depleter and replenisher. It is important to find a balance between movement and rest throughout the day.

What are your replenishers?

Some examples may be:

  • confiding in someone (s,e)
  • listening to music (s,e)
  • Connecting socially (c,s/e)
  • engaging in a spiritual practice, mindfulness, meditation, or deep breathing throughout the day (s,e)
  • cooking (p, e, c)
  • sleep (p)
  • eating healthy (p)
  • hydrating (p)
  • vacations (p,s/e,c)

If you go back through and mark the areas they replenish (physical, emotional/spiritual, cognitive), do they seem to be enough to counter your depleters?  What do you need to add to your daily, weekly, or monthly routine to feel more balanced and help to cope with the stress in your life?  What small changes can be made?

Sometimes we get to places in our life when burn out kicks in.  When this happens, I always tell people to get back to basics. Meaning sleep, feeding yourself, drinking water, showering- and other basic daily tasks that we often put to the side in times of high stress.

During high levels of stress, you may need to add more to your self-care routine.  It is so important to intentionally care for yourself.  And it is important to remember that the little things add up.  This is true for things that deplete us and things that replenish us.  You may not feel fully refreshed after doing 5 minutes of mindful breathing once.  But incorporating that into your daily routine will add up- and will make it easier to fall back on when you go through a period that is more draining.

Resources:

http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/physician-visits.htm. Retrieved 2015.

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