• Melissa K. Nicholson, LMSW

Beating Burnout Series: What You Need to Know About Stress

"You can't pour from an empty cup. Take care of yourself first."

April is Stress Awareness Month and to kick things off with the "Beating Burnout Series," I'm going to tell you what you need to know about stress. First, I describe the different types of stress and the effects of stress. Second, I describe what can happen if you're repeatedly stressed over-time, and lastly, I introduce ways to help you manage your stress.


* Acute Stress - This can be a good kind of stress. It can prepare you for some kind of reaction. When something unpredictable happens, a chemical is released in your body alerting you to prepare you for some action. For example, a meeting a deadline on a project at work can be a source of good stress because it motivates you to do well and get the job done.

* Chronic Stress - This type of stress happens when situations in your life cause your body to repeatedly release the stress chemicals. Chronic stress typically goes on for an extended period of time. For example, let's say you constantly feel pressured and exhausted by work demands. You feel like you can never catch up, or barely catch up, to meeting your deadlines. This type of ongoing stress is chronic stress.


Here are some of the various effects that stress can have on your physical and mental health:

  • chest pain

  • muscle tension or pain (in neck, shoulders, or back)

  • upset stomach, gastrointestinal issues

  • skin changes (acne, psoriasis, eczema)

  • high cholesterol

  • increase in anxiety and depression

  • irritability

  • panic attacks

  • lack of concentration

  • sleep issues

  • increased blood pressure


I used to let the busyness of my day get in the way of taking care of myself. I thought I would get to that (whatever "that" was) later. Like most people, I have the tendency to take care of others' needs before my own. Eventually, my cup was empty...

What ended up happening? By ignoring my own needs, I almost ended up 'running myself into the ground' by working too much and zoning out through TV and Netflix binges on the weekends.

In the mental health and social worker world, this is what we would call a recipe for "burnout." Burnout happens when you get so emotionally drained and feel so overwhelmed that you are unable to keep up with everyday demands.

Below are some factors associated with burnout:

  • A lack of support or resources to do your job

  • Feeling "stuck" in a job you don't like or don't find meaningful

  • Poor self-care

  • Perfectionistic or "overachiever" tendencies

  • Stressful workplace dynamics

I faced the consequences by finding out the hard way what happens when you don't take good care of yourself. I started getting migraine headaches. I felt fatigued and wanted to sleep... a lot. I felt dissatisfied with my job. I started to have digestive issues. I became aware that if I didn't control my stress by refilling my cup, I'd be heading towards burnout.



When your cup is empty, you have nothing left to give. How do you refill your cup? The answer to this question comes down to what is helpful to you in managing your stress and how you take care of yourself.

In my early days of being a social worker saving the world, I learned the importance of self-care and stress management. In order to prevent burnout and manage my stress level, I started refilling my cup through practicing mindfulness and walking daily.

Throughout this month, I will be posting more on this blog through the "Beating Burnout Series" on more ways you can refill your cup.

Do you feel like your stress is just too much to deal with on your own? Does it seem like your cup is always empty and you don't know where to start? Contact me or schedule an appointment today!

#selfcare #stress #stressmanagement

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5300 Northland Dr NE, Ste F

Grand Rapids, MI 49525

Licensed Psychotherapist

Trauma-Informed Yoga Educator

Tel: 616-795-0181

Fax: 888-972-8639


© 2017 by Melissa K. Nicholson, LMSW. | Licensed Psychotherapist in Grand Rapids, MI | Kent County, Michigan