After a particularly adventurous year of endless travel, I found myself exhausted and craving alone time. I live what I preach and thus ‘stressed’ is not the correct term for what I felt once I’d reached that point of needing to just stop.
Stress and I are equal parts friend and foe. It challenges me daily, and every time I overcome it relentlessly knocking on my mental door.
Many people may say that being tired simply means you need to rest to recover. But as a Stress Mastery Coach and a lifelong burnout recovery victim, I see being tired as the first of many ‘be careful’ signs that can inevitably lead me back to a state of burnout.
You see, it doesn’t matter what caused the exhaustion this time, once you’ve had burnout you’re forever looking over your shoulder and covering your tracks. The need for sleep, added to the subconscious memory of chemical imbalance from burnout previously, means that although I practice mindfulness and extreme stress management daily, as a recovering burnout victim, sleep deprivation can expedite my neural decline.
Sleep, as we all know is the only time that certain neural chemicals and hormones are regenerated or produced (think Serotonin, your calming hormone for example). It’s also the only time that Cortisol (your stress hormone) levels decline. A study that followed a group of pilots in 2014 showed those who slept only 6 hours a night for 7 nights while on duty showed an increase of 50% more cortisol in their bloodstream than the pilots who managed to get 8 hours of sleep. A keen reminder of what the right amount of sleep can do for us.
Lowered serotonin and heightened cortisol levels are the foundation for waking up feeling stressed, anxious and worried – none of which are emotions I wish to encourage in my life these days!
I write this blog as a simple reminder to anyone who has ever suffered chronic stress or burnout.
Sleep is one of the most important daily rituals that must be kept. I realize there will be times when the excitement of a wedding or event keeps you alive and partying through the night, but my hope is that when the dust settles, your number one priority is to get back in to the routine of sleeping the perfect allotment of hours for your age (see https://sleepfoundation.org/how-sleep-works/how-much-sleep-do-we-really-need).
For complete balance in my mental state, allowing me to perform optimally on a daily basis, I watch my diet, I schedule my sleep, I exercise (movement), I breath consciously and slowly, I smile often, I gravitate to happy people and social interactions, I contribute to others, and I challenge my mind by learning something new each waking day. All of this, above and beyond mind hacking and thought processing techniques.
Sounds like a lot, doesn’t it?
When you first learnt to drive, it overwhelmed you, yet now you could do it in your sleep. Find someone to teach you and support your learning style and soon it’s simply a part of who you are.