Five Proven Ways to Deal with In-the-Moment Burnout Symptoms

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How to deal with in-the-moment burnout symptoms

We all face them at times – those moments when the unexpected happens. It might be harsh words from someone else. It might be a fender bender. It might be the email from the boss that suddenly renders all your work on a project useless because management changed direction. You feel the stress welling up as you try to figure out what to do or how to respond. If you’re already experiencing the symptoms of burnout, these situations just make that worse.

So, how can you deal with burnout and still maintain your equilibrium? Here are five surprisingly simple but research-based steps to take that will ameliorate to relieve this in-the-moment stress.

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#1 Jump in the shower

Physiologically, hot and cold showers each have effects on hormone and neurotransmitter levels, from reducing cortisol to releasing endorphins to increasing oxytocin and dopamine levels. Something about the water hitting our skin or the act of cleaning may tap into some sense of well-being and calm. There’s something about water that’s uncanny at interrupting the stress response and redirecting your mind to a better place.

#2 Spend a few minutes with nature

Research by the National Institutes of Health has found that spending time in nature plays a key role in mental (and physical) health. When these in-the-moment stressors confront you, just stepping outside into a garden, park or yard will have a positive impact. Of course, the longer the exposure the better. Making it a regular habit will help mitigate your stress as a whole over time.

#3 Breathe

Breathing calms the mind. This is particularly true if the exhaled breath is longer than the inhaled breath, which tells the brain that all is well. A Stanford Medicine study has found that breathing exercises have a significantly positive effect on people’s moods. Just five minutes of these breathing exercises were needed for the participants to feel its positive effects on their mood. So, when faced with something unpleasant, take a couple of minutes to practice simple breathing exercises.

#4 Chew gum

Believe it or not, chewing gum may actually take the edge off your perception of stress. There have been a number of studies over the years on how chewing gum might impact stress. One of the findings was that infrequent chewers reported a reduction in stress and anxiety when they increased chewing gum as part of the experiment. Now, this may not have a significant effect right away. But it might be enough to feel a bit more relaxed in the moment.

#5 Turn on some music

A significant amount of research has found that music has psychological and physiological effects. Listening to music reduces cortisol levels and feelings of anxiety. It also increases the introduction of endorphins and positive emotions. The next time you feel stressed, listen to a couple of songs that you know will take you to your happy place.

Maybe this is too much information, but I know first-hand that four of these five strategies work. I have been known to hop in the shower when I’m confronted with something stressful. I take daily walks to relax and refresh. I have conditioned myself to take a couple of cleansing breaths when faced with bad news and I have upbeat music on in the background much of the day. Chewing gum is not my thing. But I’m sure it works for some people. Don’t let in-the-moment stress add to your feelings of burnout. Use these simple strategies instead.

Headshot of Bob Wendover
Bob Wendover

Bob Wendover has been researching, writing, and speaking about workforce issues for more than 30 years.  He is the award-winning author of 12 books, including Smart Hiring, Figure It Out, Two Minute Motivation, Beating Burnout, and Crossing the Generational Divide. He has authored curricula on managing generational differences and improving workplace decision-making. He served on the management faculty of the University of Phoenix for ten years and as a special advisor to the American Productivity and Quality Center (APQC). Bob has written or contributed to more than 200 articles for a wide variety of publications. His credits include CNN, CNBC, The Wall Street Journal’s National Business Employment Weekly, Supervisory Management, Human Resources Professional, Women’s Wear Daily, Entrepreneur, and Money magazine. In addition, he has written monthly columns for both retailers and Realtors®.

His past and present clients include Deutsche Bank, Citigroup, IBM, KPMG, Discover Card Services, Shell Oil, International Dairy Queen, Kaiser Permanente, CITGO, Chevron USA, the Food Marketing Institute, Searle Pharmaceuticals, Super 8 Motels, Ace Hardware, Major League Baseball, the Professional Golfers Association and a host of other household names, government agencies, and educational institutions.

Connect with Bob on LinkedIn.

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