Why is it that so many women are doing more to fight burnout and yet, it's this that is contributing to us burning out?
From my experience, and from lots of work I've done with my clients, I think the key to this is the word, doing. We keep doing and we keep doing more, assuming that what we are doing is right for us. But by doing and doing and doing, we are adding more stress and more pressure to ourselves.
When I burnt out in 2013, as part of my recovery I wanted to understand what had gotten me to that point of burnout in the first place. And so I kept doing! I did so much stuff.
I learnt about burnout, I did my therapy qualification, I did my psychotherapy qualification and I was doing research. My daily tasks became overwhelming.
I had this massive list of things to do from journaling, to yoga, to meditation, to ensuring that I was getting outside everyday, to eating a healthy diet, to making sure I was getting enough sleep. I was putting so much pressure on myself in terms of sleep and at the end of every day I was doing all of these things, plus I was doing Reiki, my daily gratitude and my daily EARN scores.
Throughout the day I was not only doing my job, looking after my family and trying to build my business, I also had this never ending list of things that I wanted to do. So every morning there would be cardio, yoga, journaling, gratitude, meditation and there would be this set routine around breakfast- to make sure I was eating and drinking as nutritiously as possible.
All day, every day my focus was on all of these things that I need to do to prevent burnout and from all of the learnings of psychotherapy, hypnotherapy, neuroscience, and understanding all of the research that I've done about burnout. So I was constantly in this state of doing and it was causing me more and more stress!
If we think about what the World Health Organisation (WHO) has said about burnout; burnout is a syndrome conceptualised as resulting from chronic workplace stress, that has not been successfully managed. They say it's characterised by three dimensions:
● Feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion
● Increased mental distance from one's job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one's job
● Reduced professional efficacy
Burnout refers specifically to phenomena in the occupational context and should not be applied to describe experiences in other areas of life. I can definitely agree with the feelings of energy depletion and exhaustion and I can definitely understand the feelings of negativism and cynicism and the reduced professional efficacy. But I think the fact that we're saying it's only relating to this occupational context and that it shouldn't be applied to describe experiences in other areas of life; I think that's where, for me, the definition is wrong.
We all know that if stress is impacting one area of our life, if our work is impacting one area of our life, it will impact all of them and you've probably heard me talk before about the four corners. The four corners of self relationships, work and world. If one of those is out of balance, or out of alignment, it will impact the other four corners. So there's no way that burnout can only be caused by workplace stress and it not have an impact on the other areas.
Likewise, if we are experiencing high areas of stress in either; ourself, our relationships or our world, of course, that's going to cause us more stress in our work. So for me, all of those four corners are our linked. So with all this doing that I was doing, as a result of my burnout in 2013, I reached burnout again in 2015. And this isn't uncommon for a lot of the women that I start working with, they may get themselves through that first burnout, but then they hit burnout for a second time, or they come really close to hitting it for a second time. And it's at that point that they realise I cannot do this again. And it's at that point that they start to reach out.
Again, I think the bit that we miss when it comes to the severity of the burnout is, we continue to do! We might take a week off, we might take a couple of days off, we might take a holiday and we might think that that's enough to fix everything for us. We saw the rise in 2021 of organisations that were closing their doors for a week to give their people a week off to prevent or recover from burnout. But just one week off is not going to fix this. One week off is not going to remove or change the prolonged periods of stress that we have been working in for long periods of time.
Burnout is not a mental health condition. But if we don't make the changes in our lives, to our behaviours, to our thoughts, to our interactions, to our actions, if we don't make those changes, we will end up hitting burnout again. So we need to create consistent change.
We need to be doing things differently in order to prevent burnout. And what I saw in myself and what I see from many of the core led women that I work with on either a one to one basis, as part of my membership community, or programme; what we all tend to focus on is the doing.
I think we need to start doing less. We need to do the three things that I talk about repeatedly. We need to get really clear on who we are. We start with that question: who am I? And we get really clear on our values, on our beliefs and on our strengths. When we understand who we are, then we start to create the boundaries. We create the boundaries based on our core values, our core beliefs and our core strengths.
Those boundaries are fundamental to us helping with our well being, helping us to maintain our well being, helping us to say no, helping us to do only those things that are aligned with who we are at the core. Far too many women that I speak to are still people pleasing. They don't want to say no, they're worried that if they set boundaries, people will not like them anymore. People will start to think that they're selfish. People will stop asking them to get involved with things. People will dislike them for having boundaries. My response to that is always, that if other people have an issue with you creating and holding strong boundaries, they are not your people!
Your people will respect your boundaries.
Your people will appreciate you for having boundaries.
Your people will see you as a role model for having those boundaries or maintaining those boundaries and in a way you're giving them permission to then create their own boundaries.
Yet so many of the women that I speak to are worried about creating and maintaining boundaries because they're too worried about what other people will think.
So three things that we need to do:
● We need to get really clear on who we are at the core. Start with that really powerful and important question, who are you?
● Create boundaries that are aligned to who you are.
● Create time. Create time in your day, in your week, in your month and in your year.
You should create daily, regular and consistent time for you to just be, to rest, to take time out, to do things that rejuvenate and recharge you. This doesn't mean filling all of that time with things to do. It can just be stopping, grabbing yourself a cuppa and just sitting. It might be sitting outside or going for a walk in nature. But it's not making the mistake that I did back in 2013, by thinking that you have to be doing 10,000 things a day on top of all of the 10,000 things a day that you're already doing. It starts with who are you? Because when you understand who you are, you can start to look at all of the things that you are doing in your life and say is this really for me? Is this really what I should be doing?
The boundaries become easier to create, because you realise that the list of tasks are not aligned with who you are. They're not aligned with your passion or your mission or your goals, or your values or your strengths. So it becomes easier to say no to the things that are just not aligned to you. And I think we've definitely seen a lot of this over 2020 and 2021.
I was part of a panel discussion recently, and the host mentioned the great resignation that I'm sure we've all seen on our social media channels or in the news. I don't think it’s a great resignation, I think it is a great realignment. A great recognition. A greater level of awareness. I think what people are saying is, if that organisation is not prepared to give me what I need to flourish, grow, thrive and succeed, then I don't want to stay there. They could be questioning and reflecting on the fact that that organisation is not aligned to my values. The purpose is not aligned to my values. The behaviours are not aligned to my values, the leadership team are not aligned to my values and I now want to do something that is more aligned to me.
I don't think everybody's waking up in the morning and saying right, that's it! The pandemic is over, I'm going to go out and just get myself a job for the sake of it. I think we're really questioning what is important to us. I think we've really started to recognise over the last couple of years what is truly important to us in our lives.
I started that journey back in 2013, going into 2014 and I'm still doing it.
What is important to me?
What is aligned to me?
What's the difference that I want to make?
How do I want to be?
How do I want to feel?
What do I want to achieve?
Who do I want to work with?
Sometimes that is constantly evolving, but the core part of that, that core part of who am I? What are my core strengths? What are my core beliefs? What boundaries do I have in place? That's pretty static. It's almost like every week I get more and more clarity on all of those questions that I keep asking. I think that's what some of us are missing.
So there's the timeout that we need to take, but it's not about making time and then filling it with lots and lots of other things. Of course it can be, if it’s filling it with things that are lifting you up. That is energising you. That is recharging you. That is making you feel better. But if you're just going through the motions as I was, based on all of this research that said; this is how we can prevent burnout and also based on all of the learning that I took from the neuroscience, psychotherapy and hypnotherapy, whilst adding what I already knew about coaching and how the brain wo