Episode #18: Running on Empty Series (Part 5)
This episode is the fifth and final installment in a 5-part series exploring some of the signs that stress is starting to wear away at your effectiveness, health and overall well-being. Based on my own experience, the symptoms I explore in this episode would indicate prolonged exposure to stress without adequate recovery. If the indicators I review in this episode have become frequent or constant companions in your life, you have no choice but to take action.
Welcome to the Freedom from Empty Podcast: Building Strong, Effective, Resilient Leaders and Humans. My name is Booth Andrews, and I am your host. Thank you so much for joining me for this episode.
This episode is the fifth and final installment in a 5-part series exploring some of the signs that stress is starting to wear away at your effectiveness, health and overall well-being. As with each prior installment, this episode will also explore one of the research-based well-being activities or rituals that can help you recover and begin to restore your equilibrium.
At the conclusion of this podcast, I hope you will go to @theboothandrews on Instagram and comment--using the #freedomfromempty hashtag--how YOU know that you are starting to run on empty, and what type of recovery rituals help you start to recalibrate.
Each of the prior installments explored signs and symptoms of stress and recovery imbalance in different areas of our lives: leadership, work, health, and personal relationships. This last episode explores the “catch-all” category I call “Life.”
Please know that the components of each segment that I have explored over the last 5 episodes (including this one) are not intended to exhaust all of the indicators that you may be at risk from chronic or toxic stress. The “symptoms” are almost exclusively things I that I experienced over the 10-year period or so prior to (and during) my own actual crash and burn.
As I look back over this “Life” list, I think the items can be grouped into the following categories: lack of ability to regulate emotions, loss of energy or inability to engage in activities just for enjoyment, indicators of deteriorating mental health, and an over-reliance on coping mechanisms.
The list goes like this:
You have forgotten how to play or play is not relevant to your life right now. Episode 7 of this podcast explores my own experience with play and how important play is to our well-being; so I am not going to dive into it here.
You don’t have the energy to participate in hobbies you used to enjoy
You lose your temper more often than you used to
You cannot stop moving OR you can barely move
You have become “emotional”
You are drinking (or using other substances) or other potentially harmful coping mechanisms more than you should
You cannot remember the last time you felt relaxed
You cannot remember the last time you felt peaceful
You really just want to hide under the covers
You feel stuck
You feel afraid
You feel constantly overwhelmed
And you wish you could escape your life
Based on my own experience, these symptoms would indicate prolonged exposure to stress without adequate recovery. We all have stressful days or periods of our lives when we lose our temper, get discouraged, lose perspective, and get caught in overwhelm and fear. But if the indicators I listed having become frequent or constant companions in your life, I would suggest that you are reaching a critical juncture.
When clients come to me who are experiencing these symptoms, I tell them this . . . if we work together, the outcome is uncertain, because we will be challenging the assumptions you may have made about your life and well-being up to this point, and we don’t know how that will play out. On the other hand, if you stay on the path you are on, the destination is absolutely certain, and it is not a good one . . . you will crash and burn if you continue to live and work this way.
I understand what it is like to feel this way. And I understand now better than I did then how many signals my body and mind sent my way before they completely devolved into illness.
I want you to know that you don’t have to feel this way. That there can be hope and light at the end of this tunnel. It will take time and healing and intention. But it can be done. And you don’t have to do it alone.
When we begin to feel this way, we also may be inclined to withdraw from the people around us. I know I was. I was so afraid of how I felt, and I was afraid of how other people would react. I didn’t trust myself and I didn’t trust them with me.
And that is one of the worst things we can do when we are running on empty. . . to separate ourselves from the people who care about us . . .
Social connection improves physical health and psychological well-being. One telling study showed that lack of social connection is a greater detriment to health than obesity, smoking and high blood pressure. On the the flip side, strong social connection leads to a 50% increased chance of longevity. Social connection strengthens our immune system, helps us recover from disease faster, and may even lengthen our life.
People who feel more connected to others have lower rates of anxiety and depression. And, studies show they also have higher self-esteem, are more empathetic to others, more trusting and cooperative and, as a consequence, others are more open to trusting and cooperating with them. Social connectedness therefore generates a positive feedback loop of social, emotional and physical well-being.
Unfortunately, the opposite is also true for those who lack social connectedness. Low social connection has been generally associated with declines in physical and psychological health as well as a higher propensity to antisocial behavior that leads to further isolation.
And I also want to explore the benefits of connection with pets. According to research from Allen McConnell, professor of psychology at Miami University, pet owners have higher self-esteem, fewer feelings of loneliness, and are more physically fit and socially outgoing than people without pets.
Thinking about a pet actually provides the same power to recover from the negative feelings of rejection as thinking about a best friend.
Pets offer an unconditional love that can be very helpful to people with depression. They also add a sense of responsibility, regular activity, set routine, and reliable companionship, which can be an invaluable source of healing.
Pet owners have lower blood pressure, a reduced risk of heart disease, and lower levels of stress.
And pets can also be a plus in the workplace! A 2012 study published in the International Journal of Workplace Health Management found that in the course of the workday, stress levels decreased for workers who brought in their dogs. Having a dog in the office in the office had a positive effect on the general atmosphere, counteracting stress and making everyone around happier.
Today, I’ve explored some of the signs and signals that life and the stressors of life have started to reach a critical mass; a time when you may need to make a very important decision about whether you are going to continue on the path that you are on or whether you are going to start heeding the signals that your body and mind are sending you and start to recalibrate your recovery so that you can heal and stay well. I also explored the benefits of human connection and pet connection. I find myself, that when I start to feel impatient, sometimes what I really need is supportive emotional connection. And so now I have learned to start exploring and getting those connections on my calendar sooner rather than later.
As you wrap up listening to this episode, I hope you will go to @theboothandrews on Instagram and comment--using the #freedomfromempty hashtag--how YOU know that you are starting to run on empty, and what type of recovery rituals help you start to recalibrate.
Thank you for listening. If you haven’t already, please hit subscribe and remember to rate this podcast on iTunes or wherever you listen to podcasts.
I look forward to being back with you next time!