4 Simple Ways To Beat Stress & Avoid Burnout

Slowing down is a matter of survival. I learned this the hard way on a Saturday afternoon in 2013.

I was doing what I always did on Saturday–running around like a crazy person, dropping kids off at sports, texting church members about upcoming events, and fielding calls about an upcoming baptism at my house.

While I was driving that day I felt my chest constrict and I was having trouble breathing. “This can’t be happening,” I thought. “I don’t have time for a heart attack!” Reluctantly, I headed to the hospital. In the E.R. they ran all the usual tests, echocardiogram, chest x-ray, and so on. They found nothing.

“Everything looks good” the doctor said. “It’s probably an anxiety attack. Are you under a lot of stress?” When I told him I was a pastor and a police chaplain he flashed me a concerned smile and suggested that I see my doctor to talk about stress reduction.

Since then I’ve changed a lot about the way I work. Besides hiring an assistant, seeing a therapist about once a month, and taking a small dose of anti-anxiety medication, here’s the most important thing I do now.

I slow down.

 

If you have been feeling stressed here’s four simple steps you can take, along with the acronym “SLOW” to help you remember.

1 – SILENCE

Don’t be afraid of silence. It’s hard to be quiet in our culture. If I had time driving or waiting in line I would make a phone call or text. Now, I just allow myself to be quiet. Call it prayer or meditation, if you wish, but I’ve learned that my mind comes alive in the silence.

2 – LISTEN

Like silence this is difficult. Listening is an art form. I don’t mean listening to music or a podcast. I’m talking about slowing down enough to hear what people around you are really saying. This is not listening for problem solving, but listening for understanding and empathy. Also, in the quiet moments of silence you can listen for what God is saying to you too.

3 – OBSERVE

I had lost the ability to see and notice the beauty of the world around me. Taking time to notice things helps you remain in the present. Yes, life can be ugly, but there’s a lot that is appealing too. Make a decision to observe what’s good for your head and heart. That means avoiding the news for a while and going to an art gallery or taking a walk on the beach at sunset.

4 – WAIT

Learn to wait. We are so impatient! Next time you’re in line for something at the post office or tax collector’s office don’t whip out your phone, don’t text, don’t put in your earbuds. Try waiting patiently…quietly. This is a trick that I have to make time slow down. It’s a ninja-like skill to wait without distracting yourself with an electronic device. Waiting forces you to slow down and when you do it’s easier to observe and listen.

Since 2013 I’ve relapsed a couple of times. I’ve allowed myself to become over-involved, over-extended and generally worn out. Whenever that happens I come back to this acronym and put it in place again. It always helps.

So tell me, how do you deal with stress, busyness, and potential burnout? Consider leaving a comment and let me know!

17 Comments

  1. Excellent advice Phil,
    If we are relying on God’s power to help us through we need to let Him in and your advice allows that. We can’t just go… and go.. and go.
    Stopping to smell the roses is something that helped me. God rescued me by introducing me to the fact that He does run things if I let him.
    If we spend more time in prayer and we will get more done. Without spinning wheels.
    Blessings,
    Janis

    Reply
  2. Awesome, awesome blog . Like I have shared before I am an anxiety sufferer it comes and goes . What really helps me is to recite specific scriptures over and over until I calm down . Also the beach for me is therapy , nothing else in nature makes me happier than the sound of the waives .
    And strangely enough having things to do helps my anxiety . When I don’t have plans , goals, my brain starts painting not such great pictures so my anxiety levels go up and if I don’t realize it soon enough I will have a panic attack .
    Thank you for sharing !!!!

    Reply
  3. I have gotten to where I just let the house be messy and don’t stress so much over it being perfect. I watch Netflix TV shows or movies to rest. That’s the only way I will sit down and not do anything else. It is very important for everyone. We are called to rest, but we tend to not listen to God’s command on it.

    Reply
    • Jill,

      Thanks for the feedback. There’s nothing wrong with a house that looks a little “lived in” right? 🙂

      Phil

      Reply
  4. Hey Phil. I found your article to be concise, personable, and meditative. I would love to see more down-to-earth and helpful posts like this. I’m an over-exerted busy-addict too and your SLOW acronym is an easy thing to comprehend when the mind is too busy over-managing life. Also, I like the look and feel of your web design.

    Reply
    • Donald,
      Thank you so much for your kind feedback regarding the writing and the site design. It’s hard to slow down, that’s for sure. Thanks again,

      Phil

      Reply
  5. My biggest stress threat comes when I’ve got nothing to do.

    When I’m busy, I accomplish things. That makes me happy. When I’m happy, I do
    more stuff.

    I’m like a dog chasing his own tail.

    Slowing down is good medicine. Even a short break can prevent energy burnout that leads to collapse.

    Good article, Phil. It’s just what I needed to balance all those plates I’m spinning!

    Reply
    • Hi Frank,
      Thank you for your perspective and comment. That’s interesting! You say you are stress when you have nothing to do? I dream of the day when I have nothing to do because then I’ll get to do exactly what I want!

      Reply
  6. What you have explained is patience. I have lived with anxiety for about 12 years now. It was really bad when it first started. It would come out of no where and I would fight it. I would drive myself to emergency care… Slowly, I learned how to handle it. What you wrote is excellent advice! Since panic attacks come randomly I make sure to calm down in tense moments, take some anxiety medication, and learn to “let things go”… If people drive crazy I learned to slow down or move to another lane. Stress is a never ending battle, it will always be nearby but if you realize it and react differently you can manage panic attacks.
    Thank so much for this article. Knowing theres others out there, helps! ❤️

    Reply
  7. I am like Frank – when I am busy, I am at my best. When I stop, that’s when I have time to think. The problem is, I replay all the those negative tapes from childhood & that is not good for anyone to do. So I am going to really try to keep SLOW in my head & when I have nothing to do, I am really going to try to practice more praying & listening – especially to God. Thank you so much for your positive encouragement!

    Reply

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