“Stress is the inability to adapt to a changing environment” – Dr. John
It seems that more and more people are suffering from stress-related complaints, such as burnout and fatigue symptoms. Perhaps because the load on our stress systems is greater than the load capacity.
Our stress system consists of; the central nervous system (our brain), the autonomic nervous system and the stress hormone system. This stress system was created in evolution to save us from short-term, occasional, life-threatening situations. And so not to take action when there is prolonged, frequent discomfort or virtual stressors.
However, we have developed our culture in such a way that our stress system can be in action almost constantly. This is thanks to modern mass communication tools such as TV and social media. Much of the information we see, hear or read leads to discomfort. That information is often of a negative nature and can lead to uncertainty (about the future) and anxiety. Consider the many crises that seem to surround us from day to day. Social media also creates an unrealistic expectation for many of perfection, being the best you can be, being ambitious, excelling, looking perfect, doing fun things, being happy and so on (Peper et al., 2020). In short, an illusion of social engineering and unlimited possibilities. Yet many young people find that this competition with others and with themselves takes too much energy. Fatigue and burnout are increasing every year. The stress system has limited capacity and must be replenished or refueled regularly. There is no magic method or miracle pill for that. However, there are multiple methods or means that can all contribute (Cooper & Quick, 2017).
Adequate sleep is already an important factor in recovery (Irwin, 2015). Despite the fact that there are considerable differences in individual optimal sleep duration, the majority of people need 7 to 9 hours of sleep per day. The most important question you can ask yourself; am I fully rested when I get up in the morning? Are my tanks completely full again? Or do I still feel a deep fatigue, a tiredness to the bone even after 9 hours of sleep? The latter is a sign of being stressed.
Remember that sleep very subtly goes both ways. It’s not just that one less hour of sleep, but on the other hand that extra hour of being awake also means extra activity.
An important phenomenon, when it comes to stress, is adaptation. Adaptation or adaptability is our ability to cope with change, in the broadest sense. Every change appeals to our stress system. Those who face many changes in a short period of time are more likely to overload and deplete the stress system. Consider the common addition among people between 20 and 35: getting into a relationship, getting another job or more responsibility, moving, parental illness, having children, etc. The hardest part, of course, is reducing or avoiding this burden. What can be done, of course, is to increase or maintain load capacity by taking vacations, taking it easy on weekends, sleeping adequately, and continuing to exercise leisurely despite the hustle and bustle. And take an hour every day for yourself, for example, spend some time reading a book or spending time on a hobby. And of course take a moment to turn off the smartphone or put it away and unplug it.
Another option is the regular use of adaptogens, during stressful periods. Adaptogens are natural substances that support our stress system, increase our adaptive capacity and can prevent or reduce the harmful effects of stress (Provino, 2010; Vinod & Shivakumar, 2012).
Unplug & Enjoy!
- C. L. Cooper, & J. C. Quick (2017). The Handbook of Stress and Health: A Guide to Research and Practice. Hoboken: John Wiley & Sons.
- E. Pepper, R. Harvey, & N. Faass (2020). Tech Stress: How Technology is Hijacking Our Lives, Strategies for Coping, and Pragmatic Ergonomics. Berkeley: North Atlantic Books.
- Irwin, M. R. (2015). Why Sleep Is Important for Health: A Psychoneuroimmunology Perspective. Annual Review of Psychology, 143-172.
- Provino, R. (2010). The role of adaptogens in stress management. Australian Journal of Medical Herbalism , 41-49.
- Vinod, P., & Shivakumar, H. (2012). A current status of adaptogens: natural remedy to stress. Asian Pacific Journal of Tropical Disease, 480-490.