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How Daily Stress Results in Anxiety


Everyone experiences daily stress and anxiety – it is a normal part of adult life.

Chronic stress and anxiety however, can take a toll on us by way of emotional exhaustion.But how is emotional burnout different to just feeling overwhelmed? A good way to think about it is that where feeling overwhelmed can come and go fairly quickly, and arise from an intense rush of emotion at once through either one or multiple stressors; emotional exhaustion (or burnout) is chronic – it exists over time and the stressors are often less clearly defined. That is, burnout can arise from a whole lot of “the little things”.


Consider going through divorce. We might start off with a new lease on life because we have made a decision that perhaps needed to be made for some time. We might be proud of ourselves that we did what needed to be done, even though it was terrifying. But then perhaps the other party, for whatever reason, can not be amicable so instead draws the proceedings out and seeks to “punish” through withholding and dissolving joint assets, while at the same time refusing to agree to a divorce although the relationship is clearly over. What started as optimism, over time, can turn to something far less encouraging. Although we may be secure in the decision we made, we are just… tired. There isn’t one identifiable event that triggered us feeling this way, but it’s more that there is an entire casserole of nonsense that is just draining.


What does emotional burnout look like? It is different for everyone, but generally it can include (but isn’t limited to): loss of motivation; sleep problems; irritability; mental fatigue (the crippling kind that is somehow so much worse than physical fatigue); absentmindedness; apathy (a sense of “meh”); and irrational anger. “Wait a minute, this sounds awfully like depression!” I hear you say. Well, you would (possibly) be right. The main difference between burnout and a Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) is that in cases of MDD the symptoms I just mentioned last for most of the day, most days, for at least two weeks. So what can we do about emotional burnout so that it doesn’t progress into Major Depressive Disorder? I’m so glad you asked.


To any client that comes to me with emotional burnout I will say the same thing: your first step is to eliminate the stressor.Do you hate your job? Change it. Can’t cope with your university workload? Drop a subject. Sometimes however, we can’t do that.No matter what we say or do we can’t control whether our ex-spouses are going to give us the assets we worked years accumulating. So when we can’t control the environment, we look to what we can control. Things like diet, exercise, and sleep can make the biggest difference (even if it doesn’t really seem like it!). Find a way to exhaust that pent-up irritability (boxing is fantastic for this). Vent the entire contents of your mind into a voice memo on your phone then delete it. Make time for those things your enjoy for no reason other than that you just enjoy them (hello trash reality TV).Mindfulness and socialising with (trusted) friends are also great go-to strategies. Even better, come and see a professional like me where you know your secrets are safe.If you do, you’ll likely be able to learn some different ways of coping with whatever it is that’s stressing you out which will, in the long term, put you in a better position to deal with life’s little curveballs.


If you are interested in discussing any of the points further, we would be more than happy to hear from you. Feel free to send an email to admin@youmatterpsychologists.com.au and we will answer any questions you may have.


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