Dear Faculty Relations – I think I may be burning out.  I have noticed that my physical energy levels are not quite the same as they used to be.  It is a struggle to stay asleep at night, which makes waking up a challenge, and I feel my energy levels remain sluggish throughout the day.  On top of that, I find myself with a shorter fuse than usual and making silly mistakes in my writing, teaching, and other work.  I think stress might be the culprit, but the demands of life make it challenging to work on self-care, which only exacerbates my stress levels.  I feel like I am caught in a loop.  What do you suggest? – Burnt out 

Dear Burnt Out – Let’s start with the good news - gaining awareness of your stress levels is the first step to improving your resilience!  The symptoms you mention may indicate that chronic stress is taking a toll on your physical, mental, emotional, and even spiritual health.  Of course, these are symptoms of larger issues that require addressing the multitude of factors generating these feelings. Nevertheless, it can be helpful to have a tool ready to use at the moment when you feel like this. There are many tools to support self-care, but the most profound tools can often be the simplest.  Research suggests that focused breathing coupled with activating renewing emotions can support all four domains of resilience.   

Below is a simple tool that you can try anytime, anywhere!  The more you practice, the more you charge your inner battery and a stronger baseline of resilience.  You can give it a try now; it takes less than a minute! 

Quick Coherence Technique® from HeartMath®  

Step 1:  Focus your attention in the area of the heart. Imagine your breath is flowing in and out of your heart or chest area, breathing a little slower and deeper than usual. 

Suggestion: Inhale 5 seconds, exhale 5 seconds (or whatever rhythm is comfortable). 

Step 2:  Make a sincere attempt to experience a regenerative feeling, such as appreciation or care for someone or something in your life. 

Suggestion: Try to re-experience the feeling you have for someone you love, a pet, a special place, an accomplishment, or focus on a feeling of calm or ease. 

Written by Erin Cunningham Ritter, Director of Wellness & Employee Engagement, College and Arts and Sciences and Certified HeartMath® Coach, June 2022.