A burn-out is not your fault: it’s evolution

Source: YouTube

Half of all young Dutch people are suffering from burn-out symptoms, a million people are using anti-depressants, and one in ten are taking sleeping pills. Our society is stressed out. If you’re one of these people, don’t be too hard on yourself: it’s not your fault – it’s evolution.

On Tuesday May 30th, Wilmade Rek and Witte Hoogendijk will tell you all about their book 'From Big Bang to Burn Out' during a lunch reading in the series 'Under Pressure'.

Tuesday May 30, 12:30

Erasmus MC, Collegezaal 4


Us humans basically have the stress system as fish. In their book, From Big Bang to Burn-Out, Professor of Psychiatry Witte Hoogendijk and journalist Wilma de Rek trace the history of stress, and conclude that our stress system can be first found in fish that lived 500 million years ago.

Back then, there was no life on earth as we know it – let alone smartphones. Our society has changed rapidly; we’re constantly experiencing an overload of information coming our way. But we respond to it exactly like fish did 500 million years ago when they were physically threatened.

So we get sweaty palms, a hot head, and heart palpitations when we’re stressed out: all pretty useless reactions when you’re not actually being threatened. But we simply haven’t had enough time to evolve and adapt to our society.

'It's just a fish reaction'

So what can we do? ‘We didn’t want to write a self-help book, because there are plenty of those,’ says De Rek. ‘But when you feel stressed, just bear in mind that this is the result of billions of years of evolution. Don’t blame yourself, even though our society likes to hold individuals responsible for their condition. We’re imperfect mutants.’

Hoogendijk does have some advice for those who want to get rid of stressful thoughts: ‘You can practise a thought stop. If you’re thinking about something that’s stressing you out, just say "stop". Make sure you have another thought ready to replace it, and go do something distracting, like exercising, or taking a walk in nature.

‘And just take the sweaty palms, fast-beating heart, and other symptoms of that ancient stress system with a grain of salt: tell yourself that it was never meant for your specific problem, it’s just a fish reaction.’

Source: Studio Erasmus. Watch the whole interview with Hoogendijk and De Rek here (in Dutch)!

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