It was one of those lightbulb moments. The kind where one minute you’re in darkness, and the next everything is illuminated. Of course, stress and burnout are related, but here’s the metaphor to connect and resolve them:
Stress is a tunnel. It’s got a beginning, a middle, and an end. When we get stuck in a stress loop, we stop progressing through the tunnel and we risk burning out. The key to fighting burnout is escaping the loop and processing the whole experience from beginning to end.
When stress (or anxiety, or shame, or grief, or…) happens, we have to honor the tunnel. Some are short and in the moment, others are long and stretch over miles of time. We just have to remember, if a tunnel has an entrance, it also has an exit.
Sometimes it’s as simple as noticing and labeling the sensation and being mindful about it. Other times it takes real strategy to get through.
Professionally, these tunnels allow us to exercise our empathy and humanity. It gets dark in the middle. Anything we can do to help people get through will be valuable. Personally, these tunnels are everywhere. We get plenty of practice if we start to notice all of the entering and exiting we actually do.
We all do better when we keep life moving forward. Sometimes all it takes is a simple visual, like a tunnel, to help us see the process.
Researchers, and sisters, Emily Nagoski, Ph.D. and Amelia Nagoski, D.M.A. have written the book on the topic, “Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking The Stress Cycle.” You can also check out their interview with Brené Brown on the “Unlocking Us” Podcast.