Category Archives: Stress

burnout

The modern health concern: Burnout

And, what we should learn from it.

Burnout in the workplace is so much more than something we say when we feel like we need a break. It is a legitimate health concern, and it is so common that the World Health Organization has officially classified it as an “occupational phenomenon” in its International Classification of Diseases.

WHO classifies Burnout as a “syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.” Characteristics include: (1) feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion; (2) increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism; and (3) reduced professional efficacy. 

After all these years of increased workloads, less taken vacation time, and longer hours spent in the office, it is no wonder this health concern is becoming legitimized. It raises (and answers) the long asked question: Are we working too much?

What happened to balance? To slowing down? Why are we working so much? It is eye-opening. The reasons we work are to live. Yes, we want success and feelings of accomplishment, and to keep climbing the socioeconomic ladder.  But, what about the other things that make us, US — time with family/friends, travel, exercise, weekend hobbies, or even just watching movies or tv sitcoms. It is not that these things aren’t happening, it is just that they are taking less priority than they used to. 

Being successful in our jobs is great and all, and money is what we need to do many of the things we enjoy, but our mental health also needs to take priority. We need to be taking more breaks, more time off from work. We need to take the occasional moment in life to do nothing, to recharge, to refuel, to remember just why we do what we do. 

Rather than ignoring those feelings of dread we have for the day, the utter exhaustion we are faced with the moment we return home from the office, and the lack of desire to focus on our jobs, take a break. Take the time to focus on your mental health — whatever that may look like. Maybe it is seeking help from a licensed professional to help you determine what does matter to you in your life. Maybe it is setting limits on your time, not bringing work home from the office, not checking emails at 5 p.m., not working on weekends, etc. 

Let’s take this official classification as a wakeup call. Burnout is real and it is a threat to our health and our overall wellbeing. 

anxiety anger

Anxiety Can Make You Angry

It happens to those of us with anxiety all the time. The little things that are part of our everyday environment set us over the edge. That feeling of not being able to see straight, or “seeing red” as it is sometimes referred to, can be triggered by the most innocent of things. A compounding of the day’s responsibilities, a slight unraveling of the day’s schedule, the inability to get something done, an interruption at a busy time, it can be like the flip of a switch. 

Anxiety can make you angry. 

The other day a friend shared a personal story with me, and with her permission allowed me to share it as an example of this very thing. This friend, a mother of two young children, had woken up at 5 a.m. (as she does every day) to complete her mounting to-do list. She wanted to get in her workout, fold the laundry, shower, wash the dishes, send a couple of emails, get the kids fed, etc. all before getting the kids off to baseball practice. The list was set. It seemed manageable. All was well. That is until the dog ate the kids’ breakfast, the mom ran out of shampoo, the kids got into an argument, the dishwasher was full, and all of a sudden the mom was running out of time. Those feelings of being overwhelmed crept up on her, then her child asked her if they could go to the park after baseball…and she lost it. 

It seems so simple. So innocent. Yet those moments of anger are a frequent part of living with someone with anxiety. It is not that the mom wanted to be angry with her child for asking about going to the park, it is just that it felt like one more thing added to a mounting to-do list. Could that laundry wait? Those dishes wait? Yes. But, with anxiety, it can be hard to think in those logical terms (even for the most logical of people). It is not that we want to be an angry person. We want to be a place of solitude for those we love. We want to be a safe landing zone, not something to be feared. Anxiety makes that difficult. 

After that moment went down, her kids looked at her in fear and she felt awful. She was full of guilt, overcome with emotion and started on her usual string of apologies. She didn’t mean to lash out, yes she would take them to the park. And, her kids, used to the drill, gave her grace. They forgave. They hugged her. They told her they loved her. She asked if they were ok. 

This is one of the ugly sides of anxiety. It is hard. Acknowledging these issues, getting help from a licensed professional, learning coping mechanisms, stepping away from the situation, all of these are positive steps in the right direction. Nobody wants to be an angry person. We all want to be calm and level-headed. If you are an anxiety sufferer, allow yourself some grace. Try to say “yes” more often. Give yourself breaks. Apologize to those you love. Talk to them, explain to them why you may have reacted the way you did. Teach them the beauty of forgiveness.

Relating to our previous post on how managing your anxiety, especially as a parent, is important so that you don’t pass it on to your children, taking the difficult step to acknowledge your anger as a symptom of your anxiety is also crucial.

Motherhood and Alcoholism: When is it a problem?

Alcohol has widely become “part” of motherhood as odd as that may seem. Our culture is normalizing this practice and minimizing its potential impact on moms and their families. There are social media groups and websites like “mommy needs vodka,” and “moms who need wine.”

As a mom myself it has become commonplace to hear “when is it too early to start drinking?” or “wine time.” There are many moms that turn to alcohol at the end of the day, or even the middle if it’s a “special occasion” (like Tommy using the potty for the first time). We use alcohol to celebrate the small victories, to numb our stressors, and to dispel boredom. Moms feel like they deserve that glass of wine at the end of the day, they should be allowed to do something for themselves, and while all of that is true — when does the drinking become a problem? 

This past weekend was Mother’s Day and while it is a time to honor moms and all that they do, it is also a time to recognize the need to care for our moms. Moms need to be well. They need to be healthy and happy to take care of their families and themselves. 

While there are many factors that can impact whether a person is a problem drinker — everything from past traumas to genetics to things become habitual, despite their health repercussions. As a society that is putting alcohol in the face of moms everywhere, maybe we should start to reassess. Do moms really “need” alcohol? No, they don’t. Do they deserve to treat themselves? Yes, of course, they do. But, everything needs to be done in moderation. 

Drinking becomes a problem when it is a core thought. If you are constantly watching the clock waiting for that magical time when it is socially accessible to pour that first glass of wine and then next thing you know the whole bottle is gone. We tend to laugh about it. “Oops, I finished the whole bottle.. oh well.” But, we need to be careful. We need to look for other ways to care for ourselves. 

Rather than making alcohol your nightly ritual, try meditation, yoga, a special TV show, talk with your spouse, a weekly night out with friends, something other than the bottle. Drinking feels like a special dessert, a treat. It feels harmless and normal. But it can easily get out of control. That glass can turn into a bottle, which can turn into a bottle a night and next thing you know you are feeling crappy all the time, you are having trouble caring for your kids, you are overrun with guilt, you are hiding it from your spouse, it can easily escalate. 

Being a mom is hard work, don’t get me wrong, and while alcohol can make it feel a little better for a moment it can easily lead to more problems. My advice to you is to reign it in, seek help from a licensed professional, and work to develop healthier coping mechanisms. You don’t need to feel guilty, or alone, in this battle. We are here. We can go forward together for a healthier you. 

How do you cope with motherhood?

Ask Mabel: Is it possible to physically not be able to move because of stress?

Hi Mabel,

My eldest child continues to have these episodes where she falls over and physically can’t move. I have taken her to a neurologist who has several thoughts on why this might be happening, one of which is dissociation. The neurologist said it is very real physically but could be brought on by stress. Is this possible? Does anyone have post-traumatic stress disorder or dissociate by falling over and not being able to move? 

Signed, Mary from Texas

Fight, Flight, or Freeze

Mabel: Hi Mary, I am so sorry to hear you are going through this with your daughter. To answer your question, yes. People can have dissociation show up in a variety of responses. Think of fight, flight, or freeze. The fighting response is to get angry and act defensively; the flight response is to black out, experience memory loss, have no recall of events; and the freeze response is when you can’t move, you are stuck quite literally both mentally and physically. 

I understand how this can be confusing but your mental state can have a huge impact on your physical well-being. If something is going on mentally that is just too big to take on your body may display a physical response as an act of protection for your brain. In the case of your daughter, she may be unable to move because it is her brain’s way of shutting down to protect her from stress. 

Consider getting her some help from a licensed mental health professional who can help figure out what some of the triggers may be and teach her healthy coping mechanisms. 

Slow down to do more

It doesn’t make sense when you hear it. How could slowing down actually allow you to do more? 

Our lives are so busy these days. I am sure you say it all the time, “I just don’t have time for that.” But, have you ever stopped to really think about your life and how you are spending your time. It is so easy to get caught up in to-do lists, goals, work demands, that we forget about why we are really doing all these things. Our lives are literally passing us by because we are so over consumed with what “needs” to get done. We are overstressed, overworked, and overwhelmed. 

Practice Mindfulness

Slowing down, actually taking a moment to stop and look around us, to be present in the moment, to embrace the act of mindfulness can actually allow us to do more. Taking time to stop and smell the roses, as the saying goes, can help us be more productive and happier in the long-run. 

It is so easy to get burnt out when we are going full speed ahead all the time. We all need rest days. We need days with the family. We need time to enjoy the lives we have built for ourselves and to appreciate all the true beauty around us. 

It is ok to turn the phone off. Put it in a drawer or a cabinet for a few hours a day and be present in your life. The world will not end, I promise. Life is short and there are so many moments we can not get back. Start today with a few minutes of disconnecting. 

The next time you find yourself rushing to get from one place to another, ask yourself “is it really that bad if I am a few minutes late?” In most cases, the answer is “no.” Rather than losing your temper on your children for not putting their shoes on fast enough, or getting distracted by a flower they saw in the grass, slow.down. Turn that rushed moment in a positive memory. 

Source: https://hbr.org/2009/08/to-get-more-done-slow-down.html

You can boost your willpower, here is how:

Just like the muscles in our legs and arms, our brains get tired too. When we spend all day making decision after decision — the willpower part of our brains gets spent. Without even potentially realizing it, you begin to make poor—or even completely avoid—decisions. It is called decision fatigue and scientists are just beginning to learn more about its potentially detrimental impact. 

Whether it be shopping, working, dieting, it is easier for us to make smart, educated, well-thought decisions in the morning before we have depleted so much of our energy. It is why it is easier to eat healthier breakfasts than dinners, and why we often reach for that piece of candy at the end of the day. Our brains are exhausted and our willpower is depleted. 

Think about building a home, or picking out clothes at the store, you are making decision after decision — what hardware to put where, what lighting fixture, where should the outlets go, do I want the purple shirt or the red shirt, is this dress too big, should I spend this much money, etc. Chances are at the end you feel like throwing in the towel. Or you say “ah screw it, I will just go with this one.” This is decision fatigue. The list can go on and on. But, by recognizing that decision fatigue exists and acknowledging its potentially damaging impact, you can make changes to your life to increase your willpower. 

Reduce decison fatigue

Here are some ways to get started reducing decision fatigue and boosting willpower:

1.) Plan reoccurring decisions ahead of time: Obviously you can’t plan every decision before it happens. That is just life. But many of the decisions that are draining our willpower are the ones we make over and over again. Things like what you are going to wear to work, what you are going to eat for lunch/breakfast/dinner, when you are going to hit up the gym, etc. This stuff you can plan before you go to bed at night so the next day you have willpower for the big stuff. 

2.) Whatever is most important in your day, do it first: Maybe it is exercising, getting a project done, getting the laundry folded, helping your child with a project, whatever it is wake up early and get it done. You are the freshest version of yourself when you wake up. Get up, get to it and start your day off on the right foot, it may even help the rest of the day to unfold smoother.

3.) Take care of you: It is hard to have willpower if you feel drained, unhealthy, unfit, bad about yourself, etc. Put time in your day to focus on yourself and make sure you are getting the proper fuel for your day.

4.) Make commitments, instead of decisions: Rather than getting down on yourself by constantly telling yourself you “want to lose weight,” “want to change jobs,” “want to start working out,” start doing it. You will have fewer decisions to make if you just rip the bandaid off and commit. 

5.) Fuel first: If a decision is coming at the end of the day, or maybe a big meeting at work, then take a break, refresh and eat something first. You will be more on top of your game if you can boost some of that brain fuel. 

6.) Keep it simple: Get rid of the things in your life that you don’t need. Don’t waste your energy on things that don’t contribute to your wellbeing, that don’t provide joy. You don’t need to keep doing unnecessary tasks that are draining your energy. 

Your willpower is not always going to be at a steady level. That is impossible. But the first step to making changes is recognizing where the problems are and working to rectify them. It’s ok to put off a decision for a day rather than being impulsive. You can decide to get some rest first, just don’t avoid it completely. 

Sources: 

New York Times: https://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/21/magazine/do-you-suffer-from-decision-fatigue.html

https://jamesclear.com/willpower-decision-fatigue

Let’s end the habit of decoding other people

Imagine a life that didn’t revolve around what you think another person is thinking. Or what you think another person wants or expects from you. It’s called people-pleasing and let’s make the conscious choice to end the habit. 

Imagine how less stressed and overwhelmed you would feel if you didn’t put so much energy into making sure everyone else is happy. There is a difference between doing things out of the goodness of your heart and doing things just to “look good.” Rather let’s stop hiding behind our fears of potentially upsetting someone, or not coming off as “perfect” as we think others should see us — and be ourselves. 

Ending people-pleasing means more time for ourselves. It means less worry over the upcoming get-together, the side dish you are bringing to dinner, the outfit you want to wear because it’s comfortable. When you do things because you truly want to do them they leave you feeling good, whereas a life of people-pleasing generally makes us feel resentful, bitter, and stressed. People-pleasing keeps us up at night. It makes us dread events, meetings, occasions that don’t have to cause us stress. 

Let’s start by being more self-aware. When you feel overwhelmed, stressed reevaluate the reasons why you feel that way, chances are much of it is because of the intense energy you are putting into pleasing others. Recognize what you need to do for yourself and stand up for you. It is ok to say “no” if something is stressing you out. It is ok to not perform an action in the exact way someone else expects you to. It could be as simple as choosing to not answer the phone or staying home to read a book instead of attending a party. 

Are we forgetting about mothers?

I don’t pose that question lightly. It is a topic worthy of our thought, our discussion. It is a reality that demands to be paid attention to. 

We rush to the hospital to give birth to our precious babies who quickly become the center of our worlds. They are carefully looked over and checked up on with appointment after appointment. All the weight checks, the shots, the checking to make sure their hearts sound well, their joints are developing correctly, it goes on and on..and for good reason. These are our babies and they are small and tiny, and oh so new to this world. We should be paying attention to their health and their development but what about moms? 

Moms are sent home from the hospital after just going through a major life transformation with some guidelines, maybe a painkiller or two, and in many cases a few stitches. They aren’t followed up with. They are supposed to figure it out. It is their God-given ability to be a mother, so they should just know how to do it, right? Society expects that mom will seamlessly adjust. She will adjust to this new normal with little help. Yea, it won’t be easy but she will get through. The only follow-up she has to look forward to is six-to-eight weeks postpartum when in many cases her incisions are looked over and she is sent on her way. 

There is no depression screening, no required well check, no one helping mom adjust. Mothers need to be ok too. After all, happy mothers raise happy children. It is hard to care for anyone if you don’t first care for yourself. Let’s check in with our mothers. Ask if they are ok. Make sure they are ok. Let’s listen to our mothers, hear their cries for help and honor their need for support even when they themselves might not realize how much they need it. It takes a village to raise a child, that is for sure. We can’t expect a mother just because she has a uterus to suddenly be thrown into a whole new world like nothing ever happened. It is a shock to the system. She deserves support and she needs it. 

Why are more women being diagnosed with ADHD?

Over the years I have seen an increase in women coming to me with symptoms of Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder or ADHD. Many of them are concerned they may have ADHD and are looking for a solution. It got me thinking. Why are we seeing such an increase? What has changed to cause more women to experience symptoms of ADHD? 

Our reality as women has changed. We are busier than ever before while still facing the pressures of traditional gender roles. We are still expected to take care of our homes and meals. Many women now have taken on professional careers outside of the home environment adding to the mounting pressure. We are worried more than ever—about everything. Not to mention we are constantly in a state of comparing ourselves to others with the rise of social media and smart devices. Those women who choose to stay home struggle with feeling stir crazy and unfulfilled. We are easily distracted. 

All of the stress modern-day women are struggling with is causing them to lose sleep. They are staying up to later hours trying to get everything done. They are feeling the pressure to be the Pinterest mom or the perfect housewife/cook but also the career woman. Research shows that lack of sleep could be exactly what is contributing to symptoms of ADHD. 

The disruption of day and night rhythms, staying up later, eating at different times, variations in body temperature and physical movement, all of it can contribute to inattentiveness and challenging behavior, according to research done at the Vrije Universitiet Medical Centre in Amsterdam. This research also showed that people with ADHD had a rise in the hormone melatonin an hour-and-a-half later in the day than those who did not, contributing to that lack of sleep. All of this pointing to the reality that ADHD might actually be a sleep disorder. 

Similar studies have also found that those with ADHD had higher rates of daytime sleepiness than those without, making it harder to focus. Other symptoms such as restless legs syndrome and periodic leg movement are also common in those suffering from ADHD, according to the National Sleep Foundation. 

The bottom line is we are overwhelmed, overworked, and exhausted. We aren’t sleeping as much and therefore we are finding it difficult to focus. If you are someone who is struggling with symptoms of ADHD, it may be helpful to seek out a licensed professional who is trained in helping adults.

Sources:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/to-your-health/wp/2017/09/22/could-adhd-be-a-type-of-sleep-disorder-that-would-fundamentally-change-how-we-treat-it/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.40c10b6da7af

https://www.sleepfoundation.org/sleep-disorders-problems/adhd-and-sleep

Why are we afraid of others judging us?

Many of us are so afraid of judgment. We find ourselves covering up, hiding to avoid it. Some of us even change who we are. We pretend we are someone else. We lie about actions we have taken. We are afraid. But why? Why are we so terrified of how other people see us?

We mistake it as a truth about our identity. We let what other people say about us become us. We put too much weight in other people’s opinions. We give them too much power over how we see ourselves. We act like people and their thoughts about us determine who we really are. That is not the case. We can choose to see judgments simply for what they are—an opinion. Just because it is an opinion doesn’t mean it is true. Opinions are simply thoughts, they don’t have to mean anything. 

That is not to say we shouldn’t listen to others. If a lot of people we care about come to us with the same opinion about our behavior then it is worth considering what they have to say. It is worth opening your mind to their opinions and analyzing them for yourself. They could be trying to tell you something that maybe you didn’t notice. Or, it could be something you have noticed but have brushed off. 

The bottom line is all opinions should be taken in stride.

Don’t worry about the things you cannot control. People are always going to judge you. People are always going to have an opinion about the color of your hair, that outfit, how much food you eat, what time you put your kids to bed, how you spend your Saturday night, etc. Let it go. You could drown in judgments if you let them weigh on you. They are all around you. The best thing you can do is accept them as simply someone else’s opinion, which does not mean you have to listen to it.