We all have an intuitive sense of what burnout is; we know what it feels like. Perhaps you are feeling it today with some emotional fatigue or exhaustion from the surging Covid numbers. Or maybe you are exhausted from juggling work and home schooling. Some people are just burned out by the 24/7 news cycle. We all are experiencing some level of stress as we enter into Thanksgiving 2020. The challenge is to figure out how to move through the stress cycle and not get stuck in it.
Emily and Amelia Nagoski wrote Burnout Burnout Burnout The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle.
They guide the reader through an exploration of stressors, stress responses and most importantly strategies to prevent getting stuck in the stress. They define stressors as what activates the stress response in our body. External Stressors include anything we feel, smell, touch, taste and include work, school, family life, news, and the underlying fear from the pandemic. Internal stressors include self criticism, identity, memories and an unknown future.
Stress on the other hand is the neurological and physiological reaction that happens in our body when we encounter a stressor. Think fight, flight, freeze. Heart beats faster, attention is alert, sense are heightened, and you perhaps even flee the stressors! Example, I’m going to be with my family or friends for Thanksgiving to try and escape all these societal stressors.
Much has been written about stress but what differentiates the Nagoski sister’s work is the concept of moving through the stress cycle. Their entire work focuses on strategies for ensuring the stress does not get stuck in our bodies, minds and spirits. They encourage us to move through the stress and then out into a new horizon.
Their best example of moving through a stress cycle is arriving home, shutting the door behind you and melting into tears for 2-3 minutes, and then when you finish crying…you pick yourself up and start making dinner.
Some people cry, some people scream….but we have to give the stress cycle an outlet.
To help you move through the stress and stressors of your world, the holidays, and challenges of the pandemic, I offer some of their ideas on how to complete the cycle. I hope they help you to have a restorative holiday.
- Breathing- Deep breaths. Breath in for a count of five, hold your breath for five, breath out for five. Breath in for seven counts, hold it for 7, breath out for 7. Repeat as your heart slows and you move through the stress.
- Positive Social Interaction- Small talk matters! Greet someone over the holidays, engage beyond the mask, say hello. A casual conversation is a powerful stress reducer.
- Laughter- Laughing about current or past events releases a host of hormones that can reduce stress.
- Affection- We may not be able to hug our friends and family but is there one person you can hold in a hug for over 20 seconds. The longer the better. Just hold each other tight. It releases stress.
- “Big Ole Cry”- Get your favorite tearjerker book or movie and let the tears flow. Stress will flow out and through you.
- Creative Expression- What can you create? Music? Art? Flower Arrangements? Food Arrangement? Create something beautiful and feel your stress move out and away.
Emily and Amelia Nagoski have many ideas. However this list seems to be helpful for many people who are reinventing their holidays. We can feel and see the stress right now. Let’s work together to move through it.
I’ll add one more idea. I stood at the edge of the Rodeo Lagoon last week and could see the entire lagoon and then it opened up over the beach and out to the ocean and the sky. The lagoon, ocean, and sky guided me right through the stressors I had brought to the park. If Nagoski’s ideas don’t work for you, look for a landscape that moves your eyes through and out to the open. That open view is the beginning of stress relief.
Stay safe, stay strong.