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Stressed Out? Don't Let It Become Burnout


Moch's patients were given intensive stress management therapy while they were in the hospital, which included medicine as well as courses in meditation, breathing, exercise, and nutrition. They also saw a social worker who taught them to handle stressful situations and a psychiatrist who gave them talking therapy. They participated in this program all day for about five days while in hospital and then half days for a short time after they were discharged. Afterwards, they came in for monthly follow-up sessions.

The intense stress management worked -- to a point. The people with burnout did start to feel better and were able to go back to work and live normal lives. However, their cortisol levels have remained low, even five months later. This means they remain more susceptible to diseases like colds and flu and are more likely to have another burnout if they don't stick to the stress management changes they were taught.

Moch presented these findings recently here at the 32nd annual meeting of the International Society of Psychoneuroendocrinology.

"When they feel well, they start to backslide right away [on the stress management program]," says Moch. "It's only when they start to feel sick again that they think, 'oh yes, I have to do all this stuff again!' We're trying to educate them that this is lifestyle change."

Given the devastating effects a severe stress burnout can have on the body, Moch suggests that avoiding one is the best approach.

She recommends the "three R" approach: Recognize, Reverse, and Resilience. You can recognize signs of an oncoming burnout by looking for regular, unexplained pain like headaches and stomach problems. You can reverse the damage by getting help from a therapist or someone trained in stress management, and you can make yourself more resilient to stress by exercising, eating well, putting energy into your personal relationships, practicing stress management, and dealing with specific issues that stress you out, like an overly demanding boss.

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