By Ashley Stahl, Originally Published in Forbes
Burnout doesn’t just affect your work life—it can have a detrimental effect on your health, your personal relationships, and your family. It’s a particularly important topic in my world, as many of my clients have come to me after being hit by the burnout train.
Stress and burnout have become an epidemic in our society. In one study, 80% of respondents said they experience stress at work and need help managing it. A recent survey conducted by the American Psychological Association revealed that stress levels rose from one year to the next, with a sharp increase in those reporting that they experience extreme stress.
I was so inspired by Arianna Huffington’s intention to change this during a recent conversation I had with her about her new company, Thrive Global, which aims to eliminate stress and burnout by offering employers programs to help their workers improve their well-being and ultimately their job performance. The company uses science-based techniques that are relatively easy to implement and sustain.
We could all use better mechanisms to cope with stress levels. Here are five easy steps you can take today to reduce the stress in your life and improve your wellbeing.
Get more sleep. Letting your busy schedule cut into your sleep time is completely counterproductive. Science has proven that adults need 7-9 hours of sleep nightly to function optimally. Meaning if you’re not getting enough sleep, you’re most likely not performing to your maximum potential at work. Getting too little sleep also has other serious consequences, including lack of judgment, increased likelihood of car accidents, and development of chronic diseases like cancer, hypertension, diabetes, and depression.
Getting enough sleep is the cornerstone of Arianna’s approach to increased wellbeing. In fact, during our conversation, she said the most important piece of advice she would give to her younger self is, “Get enough sleep, and stop worrying.”
Eat better. Many of us tend to eat compulsively when we’re experiencing stress, especially if you’re having a rough day at work, but bad eating habits will actually worsen the effects of stress. A body that is properly fueled is much better equipped to deal with the effects of stress. So put down the French fries and grab some kale, and you won’t have a midday, post-lunch bloat dragging you down.
Meditate. Not only have scientists proven that meditation improves your health, happiness, social life, self-control, and productivity, it’s also actually changes your brain matter, for the better. So you really can’t lose here. And the excuse that you don’t have time is bogus. All it takes is 15 to 30 minutes a day.
Exercise. Being physically active causes the release of endorphins in the brain, which triggers a positive, sort of euphoric feeling in the body. Regular exercise also reduces levels of stress, improves self-confidence, prevents cognitive decline, increases productivity, and improves memory.
Laugh. The Mayo Clinic has actually proven that laughing relieves stress and also has many positive short-term and long-term effects. Actually, every study conducted on laughter has produced positive results. So interact more with the funny guy at the office. Plan a catch-up date with your funniest friend. Go see a comedy. Laugh until your sides hurt and you have tears streaming down your face.
It’s not always easy to detect whether you’re truly burning out, or whether you’re just feeling a little stressed. Burnout can sneak up on you, so it’s important to manage your stress levels before you’re overcome by it. When I spoke with Arianna, she suggested looking for telltale signs of burnout including not feeling clear mentally, and becoming emotionally and mentally overactive in that the slightest things set you off. If you’re experiencing any of this, it might be time to take a step back and hit the reset button, because burnout and stress will keep you from being fully present and truly enjoying your life.
And on that note, I’ll leave you with this gem by Rumi, which Arianna left me with at the end of our interview: “Live life as if everything is rigged in your favor.”