How Leaders Can Help Prevent Emotional Exhaustion at Work Are you or your employees short-circuiting? Here's what leaders can do.
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Our natural response to fear — our fight-or-flight response — is widely understood. On perceiving a threat, the hypothalamus in our brains sends the message to our adrenal and pituitary glands to release hormones that prepare the body for action. When the perceived threat is gone, the brain stops triggering the release of these hormones, and homeostasis begins, with our bodies gradually returning to their normal states. Easy-peasy.
Things start to break down, however, when our brains start continuously getting signals that there is a threat. When that happens, the natural fear response basically short-circuits, with the body stuck in a continuous cycle of releasing hormones then trying to normalize. This creates chronic stress, which drains the body's adaptive energy and leads to emotional exhaustion. Hans Selye, often referred to as the "father of stress research," named it General Adaptation Syndrome, which progresses from an initial Alarm Stage to Resistance and ultimately to Emotional Exhaustion.