Beyond Burnout: The 2 Essential Ingredients for Sustainable Wellbeing
And 10 ways we cope when our life is out of balance
Hello & welcome to another edition of Beyond Self Improvement!
Last Wednesday, I wrote about A Reliable Way to Consistently Feel Seen In a Lonely World.
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Humans have two fundamental needs: the need for challenge and the need for comfort. Both are necessary for balanced mental health and well-being.
Challenges, which are about doing, are energizing, help us focus, and get us out of bed. Comfort, which is about being, concerns relaxation, physical ease, and lack of constraint.
While these needs are universal, we tend to gravitate more toward one or the other, depending on our personality. Those with higher expectations are likely to prioritize challenges, while those with lower expectations are likely to prioritize comfort.
Swinging too far in either direction becomes counterproductive, leading to anxiety. We face too many challenges and risk overwhelm (think entrepreneur or triathlete). But by not being challenged enough, we risk boredom (think retiree).
The idea is to have enough challenges to keep us engaged and enough comfort to sustain us.
When we become overwhelmed, we seek greater comfort through relaxing activities like reading, being in nature, or spending time with friends. But sometimes these are not enough. We may become anxious if our responsibilities are too great or our ambitions are too high.
When your expectations motivate you into situations that overwhelm you, your desire to reduce the tension may cause you to lower your expectations. This can be a reasonable solution, such as taking off for a long weekend. But it may also put you in danger of harming your self-esteem.
Suppose you’re so comfortable that you become bored. In that case, you may stimulate yourself by training for a marathon, looking for a new job, or starting a side hustle. If you fail to finish the marathon or get rejected by many companies, you may stop taking on new challenges. Avoiding further risk may protect your ego, but you may also become anxious, paralyzed between boredom and fear.
When our anxiety becomes too great, we seek ways to relieve the tension. Suppose we find an activity or substance that temporarily alleviates the stress. In that case, we might become addicted to the anxiety-eliminating technique.
Addictions may offer temporary relief, but they may also become self-destructive. They can harm our health, reduce longevity, diminish vitality, cut us off from reality, stifle creativity, and damage our self-image and results.
Are you balancing yourself by knowing when to seek challenge and when to be comfortable?
Addictions are either “uppers” or “downers.” Those that raise your energy by stimulating you are uppers, while those that lower your energy by pacifying you are downers.
What is the connection between uppers and downers and boredom and burnout?
The type of device someone uses reflects their personality, vulnerabilities, and frustrations. Uppers are for people who get bored and need to feel stimulated. Those dependent on downers may struggle with reality and wish to eliminate emotional pain by tranquilizing themselves.
Let’s look at a few common ways of coping with anxiety.
Smoking is an upper. Nicotine, a stimulant, and drug, constricts the blood vessels, reducing oxygen to the brain. The adrenal glands respond by speeding up the heart rate by an average of 22% to increase blood flow to the body and mind.
Alcohol is a downer. It relaxes us by bringing us down below our fears and inhibitions. Becoming uninhibited can release repressed emotions such as sadness or anger. Drinking is preferred by those overwhelmed by stress and wanting to escape their emotional pain.
Caffeine, like nicotine, is an upper. Many people depend on coffee to start and get them through the day. As a drug, coffee is a stimulant that depletes energy, causing letdowns afterward. Caffeine also increases the heart rate and disrupts eating and sleeping cycles. Also, caffeine causes panic attacks among 15% of the population and nervousness among almost everyone.
Food can be an upper or downer. Sugar is an upper, causing an insulin reaction, temporarily increasing energy. Downer foods, primarily fat and protein, take hours to digest, causing us to become sluggish and sleepy. If you feel down, you may reach for refined sugar. If you feel stressed, you may hunger for so-called ‘comfort food’ such as a hamburger with bacon and cheese plus french fries.
Television is a downer. It is the most passive activity. Watching the same program for 30 seconds reduces brain activity, causing your mind to become mesmerized, often for hours. Research shows that television may also atrophy our brain cells.
Oversleeping is also a downer. Sleeping more than seven or eight hours per night may be a form of escape from reality. Staying in bed can be used to avoid responsibilities.
Gambling is an upper. Our survival includes taking chances. Gambling is based on the thrill of making money without having to work. Suppose you add a negative self-image that may cause you to self-destruct but is hiding in the shadows of your mind. In that case, you risk becoming an addict and losing everything. Your intrinsic desire to take chances must be balanced with reason.
Shopping is an upper. Have you ever spent money to feel better? During one period, I would stroll through a local Target store, looking at everything I wanted. Sometimes I would buy something to feel better. Eventually, I realized that buying something I needed, like a toothbrush, was enough to leave me feeling better.
Buying yourself a gift may be the kindest thing you can do for yourself. But it may also be a way of inflating our self-esteem when we’re not feeling accomplished enough. Be especially wary of addictions you cannot afford.
Social media can be an upper or downer. The Internet, video games, and pornography, like television, take your mind off reality. How many people still text while driving? Do you ever scroll social media when you’re with other people?
I want you to know that awareness of your need for a challenge and comfort is essential to your well-being.
If you challenge yourself too much, you may burn out. But if you don’t challenge yourself enough, you may worry that you should be doing more with your life. Swing too far in either direction, you will likely seek ways to cope that provide temporary relief but may cause longer-term issues.
The key is finding a healthy, sustainable balance between the two, where you feel energized and relaxed.
That’s all for this week. Thanks for being here, giving me this space to share with you, and for your ongoing love and support. I’ll be back in your inbox next Wednesday.
Keep balancing challenge with comfort,
Whenever you’re ready, I can help you transform chronic stress and worry into ongoing calm and feeling in control in 90 days. Schedule a free, 30-minute discovery call today.