Whether you’re a busy college student, working at a job, or juggling both worlds, it’s very easy to fall into the do-it-all trap. Self-care has taken a backseat to today’s quest for competitive ambition because people falsely believe that hard work and taking a break are mutually exclusive mindsets. The truth is that when your mental and/or physical self suffers, so will your performance in the rest of your world.
Burnout is what eventually happens if you ignore your body’s messages about taking care of yourself. It is generally caused by prolonged periods of stress without relief. There are warning signs to look out for, which is fortunate because the earlier you can take a break the better off you’ll be. The more burnout escalates, the more likely it is to have a longer-lasting effect.
The natural cycle of how our bodies handle stress is pretty straightforward. When we experience stress or shock or fear, the hypothalamus portion of our brain sets off a signal which prompts our adrenal glands to release hormones like adrenaline and cortisol. This gives us the strength to address any immediate danger because there is a sudden increase in energy levels, blood pressure, and heart rate. But there has to be a trade-off. All the attention being directed towards the immediate areas of need means that other, non-essential areas are not being focused on, such as our digestive, reproductive, growth, and immune systems.
In a typical situation, your body will readjust to base levels once a perceived fear or stressful situation has passed. The problem with a continually stressful environment is that your body remains in this state of alertness, always waiting for the other metaphorical shoe to drop. This creates a dangerous cascading effect in the body. When your adrenaline and cortisol levels stay at an increased level, you risk overexposure with can lead to health problems. Your blood pressure remains high which can lead to strokes or blood clots, your ability to fight sickness or disease is lessened because of a lowered immunity, you might develop insomnia from a lack of sleep, which leads to a host of other health issues over time.
For these reasons, it’s vitally important to make sure you take regular breaks throughout your day, which means fully removing yourself, if possible, from the situation that is causing you stress. Self-care, such as a hot bath or aromatherapy have also shown to work wonders.
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