Exactly How To Manage End-Of-Year Chronic Stress… Without ‘Burning Out’

by | Dec 7, 2016 | Health

Tired? Struggling to focus? You could be experiencing what is known as ‘cerebral overload’ – when you’re so overloaded and stressed that you cannot keep up anymore. Sound familiar?

Earlier this year, the Professional Providence Society (PPS) conducted a survey assessing challenges facing professionals across various sectors. The results were alarming, showing medical professionals to be the least confident in their professions. This was largely owing to burnout which is the leading cause of depression and anxiety in South Africa’s employed class.

Research by the South Africa Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG) showed that 80% of employees who suffered depressive episodes and did not take time off. As a result, they became less productive, forgetful,  made numerous mistakes and suffered negative thoughts.

READ MORE: If The Festive Season Stresses You Out, Try These Psychologist-Backed Coping Strategies

The bottom line? Never leaving your desk means you’re more likely to work less efficiently. That’s because stress affects how well your brain performs, says van Aswegen. “When you’re suffering from chronic fatigue and anxiety your brain starts to freeze and that’s when indecisiveness or ‘analysis paralysis’ starts to set in. You struggle to think straight and it becomes increasingly difficult to make the right calls, even for the most mundane tasks. Taking a proper holiday is as indispensable to the brain as oxygen is to the body,” she says.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), burn-out is rather a distinctive syndrome synonymous with the working environment. Although it can cause depression, it is an altogether different beast.

Can’t take time off? Hack the on-duty holiday – and kick cerebral overload – with these tips.


Research has shown that meditation can be helpful in lowering heart rate and blood pressure and even improve cognition. And meditation is pretty simple: just find a comfortable place, close your eyes, relax your muscles, and focus on one thing. It could be your breathing, an object (a flower or a painting) – or even a picture in your mind. You can do this for as little as 10 minutes to experience benefits. The key is staying focused and not letting any distractions or thoughts enter your mind. If you have more time, take a yoga class – you’ll also be getting a good workout.

READ MORE: 8 Physical Signs That Stress Is Seriously Hurting Your Body 

Drink Green Tea

Green tea is very soothing – it contains theanine, an amino acid that gives flavour to green tea and also promotes relaxation. It’s also thought that theanine is a caffeine antagonist, meaning it counters the stimulating effects of caffeine. Feeling super stressed out? Ditch the flat white: caffeine can worsen the stress response.

Eat Mood-Boosting Foods

Many of us crave carbs like biscuits, ice cream, and other sweet and starchy foods when we’re stressed, anxious or tense. Research suggests carbs have a soothing effect, and it may have something to do with low serotonin levels during these mood states. Serotonin is the brain chemical responsible for feelings of calmness and relaxation. It’s thought that consuming these carbohydrates helps boost serotonin levels, so you feel calmer.

Create a Relaxation Room

A relaxation room doesn’t have to be a “room” per se – it can be a space in your bedroom, for example, but the key is having an area or room at home, solely devoted to relaxing. You can have a really comfortable chair or daybed, with dim lights, or candles nearby – whatever it is that you enjoy and find relaxing. This will give you an opportunity to decompress, with very little stimulus. Forget your cellphone and laptop – this is a time to kick back and relax. You might want to read a book or magazine, but the idea is to clear your mind of distractions and stressors.

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