Breaking the Burnout Cycle With Breathwork
by John Stamoulos - Master Breathwork Trainer
The tipping point between stress and burnout is all about being on ‘empty’.
Have you reached a point in your life where you are out of gas, where you simply cannot put one foot in front of the other, where the demands on you far exceed your capability to fulfill them? If you can respond in the affirmative, it is a pretty sure bet that you are experiencing the early signs of burnout.
What is burnout?
A burnout is not a clean cut medical disease. It can come out of nowhere and the reasons are quite versatile – too much work with too little tribute from your superiors or colleagues, emotional stress, discrepancy between your achievements and your own – far too high – expectations and many more. In a nutshell a burnout results out of continuous excessive demands.
How Burnout Can Re-wire Your Brain
Your life experiences have taught you to look externally for direction and the right way to be. The sad side effect of this is that you ignore your own inner wisdom and expend immense amounts of effort trying to please everyone in order to meet all the expectations that bombard you from family, society, your work environment and even your own endless ‘To Do’ list. Eventually, your ability to hold it together simply implodes into stress, chronic stress and ultimately – burnout.
Unrelenting stress activates the instinctual part of your brain, which is more primitive and survival-oriented. As a result, you become less able to hold perspective, to reason or achieve calm. You tend to be driven by the fear-based urges in your mind that cause you to react rather than to respond. When this happens, there is an upset of balance in the brain chemistry which, left long enough, can literally re-wire your behaviors in the stress mode.
Your Burnout Checklist
Rate your level of these experiences and behaviors from 1-10 in the checklist below – the higher the numbers, the closer you are to burnout.
- Withdrawing from responsibilities
- Isolating yourself from others
- Procrastinating or taking longer to get things done
- Using food, drugs, or alcohol to cope
- Being sick more often than usual
- Noticing changes in your appetite – more or less eating
- Taking your frustrations out on others
- Skipping work or coming in late and leaving early
- Sense of failure and self-doubt
- Feeling helpless, trapped, and defeated
- Detachment, feeling alone in the world
- Loss of motivation
- Increasingly cynical and negative outlook
- Decreased satisfaction and sense of accomplishment
- Being grumpy and irritable
- Often misplacing your belongings
- Waking up in the middle of the night and are not able to get back to sleep for all the thoughts running through your head.
- Enduring nagging back pains, tension headaches, jaw pain or aching shoulders
- Holding tension in your face, neck muscles and are told you frown frequently
- Wanting to scream or use bad language just to relieve the inner tension
- Never wanting to get out of bed in the morning
- Actually aware you are stressed but feeling that there is no way out
What Can You Do?
How do you wake up that sense of well-being that has been suffocated by your stress responses? How do you reclaim the passion and enthusiasm that you once had and find ways to slow down the race you are running and losing against the world?
There have been volumes written and avalanches of advice given on the epidemic of stress issues we face today and most of the ideas are solid. Get exercise, slow down, meditate, prioritize, delegate some responsibility, take time for more self care, change your diet, spend more time in nature…every one of these and thousands more are a powerful path to recovering your sanity…
and…the most immediate and simple tool you can use is your very own breath:
Clinical studies including thousands of participants spanning a 30-year period offer persuasive evidence that the most significant factor in health and longevity is how well you breathe.
First Aid with Your Breath:
Here are two quick ‘fixes’ you can use:
For Agitation - try Sitali Breath or Cooling Breath. Simply lightly clench your teeth and take a few breaths in and out through your mouth. You will feel the cool breath as you inhale and it is guaranteed to put out the fire. Do this for one minute and notice the effect on your ire.
For Invigoration - try Breath of Fire. This breathing technique requires that you take a series of rapid inhales and exhales that you control with in and out pumping motions from your diaphragm. If you need a pick-me-up – do this for one minute and notice your increased energy.
Shift the Running Commentary in Your Head
Breath is Life and Breathwork is an inner journey that is the thread joining our physical, mental and emotional being to a sense of unity and harmony with everything. It is In a Breathwork session, very often at the end, that there is an experience of a complete blending with the Divine and a complete understanding of the vastness of who you truly are. In that experience, there is a sense of belonging to everything that inspires nothing short of peace and awe for the experience of our lives.
In that redirected perspective resides the possibility for calm and your ability to be bigger than your life demands. It hands back control to your higher brain and shows you the love-filled, God-being that you truly are. From there – life transforms!
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