Is Accumulated Stress Burning You Out
What is "Accumulated Stress" and how it can be burning you out
We live in a crazy world. If you don’t live in a remote place far away from modern civilization — since you’re reading this, you’re probably not, but if you do, I envy you so much! lol — chances are that you are exposed to constant stimulus at the daily, oftentimes even on an hourly basis.
Inflammatory food. Artificial environments with bright LED lights, bad air and no or little green space. Pressures of deadlines. Constant distractions, notifications and information overload. Dealing with angry, frustrated and emotional people. Experiencing a lot of negative emotion.
All of these things create chronic stress in our body, which we know is one of the worst things for our well-being.
But stimuli itself wouldn’t be that big of a deal if we knew how to handle it. The problem is that we aren’t taught and we don’t know how to process the stimulus that we’re exposed to. And we do know how to process it, the amount of it is just too big.
And that’s where problems begin.
The theory of “accumulated stress”
There’s a theory called “accumulated stress” or “cumulative stress”. The theory suggests that our body hold onto the memory of every stressor we ever experience in your life: every inflammatory food we ever ate, every all nighter we’ve ever pulled, every time we mentaly overrode our fatigue and grit our teeth to complete a workout, project, or long exhausting week at work. It’s all stored in our cellular and genetic memory.
Because we’re always pushing, grinding and hustling without stopping, we don’t give ourselves and our body the time and opportunity to process the stimuli that we have been exposed to and clean the remaining waste out of our body.
And because of that, stress accumulates in our bodies and builds up overtime.
The accumulated stress can then manifest itself in the present as digestive problems and food intolerances, as stress we experience in the present and our diminished ability to cope with it, as autoimmune disorders, and also as anxiety, depression, and other mental health problems.
If we ignore these warning signs and keep going without cleaning the waste of accumulated stress and repressed stuff, our bodies won’t be able to take it anymore and something will break. Most people will get sick with a cold or flu. Athletes will get injured or burn out physically. Some people will develop mental health problems. Some people will burn out. Some might develop autoimmune disorders. In some extreme cases, people will even develop chronic fatigue syndrome, get cancer or some other life threatening disease.
Burnout as a result of accumulated stuff
Burnout can be a result of an accumulation of unprocessed things that we store in our body. Our body will treat these accumulated stress, fatigue, repressed emotion and tension as stressor: it will think that it’s under threat and will switch into Fight or Flight mode and will order the adrenal glands to keep producing stress hormones and overtime adrenal glands will get fatigued and burnout will occur.
That’s certainly the case for me. I’m an empath, highly sensitive person and over time I had discovered that I tend to hold on to and accumulate a lot fatigue, stress, emotions and other stuff from external stimuli in my body: they will be stored in my physical body and will manifest as pain, tension, discomfort, digestive problems, fatigue and feeling of burnout.
So in order to overcome burnout and function optimally, we have to detox our body of the things we have been accumulating. That’s where physical and emotional release comes into play.
Physical and emotional release
It’s crucial to find ways to release stored and accumulated things: the more we experience them and store them in our body, the more we have to clean and detox from them.
As I see it, there are two parts to physical and emotional release and detoxification: the physical release of tension and emotional release.
We know that fascia — a thin casing of connective tissue that surrounds and holds every organ, blood vessel, bone, nerve fiber and muscle in place — stores memories of past stress and trauma. So we have to release physical tension so that fascia can release accumulated stuff giving us the chance to process it and release it form your body
We can achieve physical release of tension with:
Deep yoga and stretching,
Exercise called “Shaking and dancing” and “Screaming, shouting and punching”,
Breathwork: relaxing breathing, Wim Hof breathing exercise, DMT or shamanic breathing,
Cold exposure and sauna,
Fasting: Intermittent fasting or a longer fast,
Stillness practices: Deep meditations, breathing exercises (DMT or shamanic breathing), floatation.
As we release our physical body, muscles, organs and fascia, we release emotions, but it doesn’t go just one way. As we express emotions and release them, we also release tension in out body.
We can achieve emotional release with:
Deep emotional conversation with someone we trust
Exercise called “Screaming, shouting and punching”,
Therapy: psychologist or psychiatrist
What can you do to release accumulated stress?
If you feel like you’ve accumulated a lot of stuff and feel the need to release them, try some of the activities from the list below.
Take a day completely off
Engage in parasympathetic activities only: chill, read, go for an easy walk
Cut down on caffeine: caffeine masks the fatigue, less caffeine will enable you to bring up stored fatigue, stress and emotions
Release tension from your body with deep stretching, yoga, shaking and dancing and deep meditation
Do some breathwork: Wim Hof method, DMT breathing
Have a deep conversation with someone you trust
Journal about your problems, how you feel, what emotions are you feeling inside your body
Emotional detox symptoms
At this point I should emphasize that often the release and detox of accumulated stuff can have some negative consequences. Stress can have the same flavor on the way out as it does on the way in.
Emotional detox symptoms can include:
fatigue and exhaustion,
bodily aches and pains,
vivid dreams and nightmares,
urge to change your life radically,
sadness, anger, resentment, insecurity, anxiety, depression, need to cry or scream and other unpleasant emotions.
The longer you keep something inside of you, the more it will grow in size and the more painful it will be once it comes out.
But I guarantee you that once you move through the discomfort of physical release and emotional detox, you’ll feel like new. You’ll have less tension in your body. You’ll feel less stress. You’ll handle better external stimuli and negative emotions. Your digestion will improve. The anxiety and depression will lift up. You’ll be happier, in a better mood and you’ll feel a sense of lightness and positivity.
Cumulative stress makes sense. I spent five years taking care of my husband who had dementia. I thought there would be a break when he went to a memory care facility, but not so. Among other things, while there he got COVID there and died. Then, I had to make decisions about his life, take over responsibility for our lives, and begin living on my own for the first time. I can identify with most of the emotional symptoms - they are ever present even though it has been awhile.
I absolutely have this. All of this. 🙃
It’s been so difficult for me to dispense with all the accumulated stress because I’m the one who has to manage staff and respond to issues. I’ve had intense years of reframing, refocusing, searching, surrendering… whew! This was a great reminder about all the tools I can use.