During one of our surveys last year with our community, our Flexers expressed their interest in learning more about burnout and how to manage stress levels. We rose to the challenge and reached out to the wonderful Deborah Bulcock to pick her brain on all things relating to mental wellbeing.
Deborah is a Coach, mentor, bestselling author, nutritional therapist and experienced business leader. We sat down with her to find out some of her top tips on the subject.
Take it away Deborah!
Please share a little about yourself and your background as a mentor and coach.
As with most people, my career has certainly been a journey. I began my career in the financial services industry, where I was fast-tracked to director level. But after many years pushing myself to the max – without the right support structures or balance in my life – I succumbed to the consequences of burnout.
I now run my own coaching practice. I specialise in the subjects of stress, burnout and resilience and helping people move away from being overwhelmed and to thrive in all areas of life. Oh, and in 2019 I wrote my debut book which went bestseller on Amazon – Have It All Without Burning Out. Nice work Deborah ;)!
What is burnout?
In 2019 the World Health Organisation (WHO) recognised burnout as an ‘occupational syndrome’ defined as follows:
“Burn-out is a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed. It is characterized 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
Burn-out refers specifically to phenomena in the occupational context and should not be applied to describe experiences in other areas of life.”
I believe it to be more than just work-related – how we live life as a whole can also lead to burnout. The complaints I hear the most include:
- Exhausted all of the time
- Running on empty
- Unable to function properly
What is the difference between being stressed and feeling burnt out?
Stress is a very natural, and essential, physiological response that helps us adapt, perform and keep us safe. Its function is actually a positive one, even though we often see it as a negative.
When we become ‘stressed’ we are usually referring to some element of overwhelm – the stressor, or challenge, that we are facing has pushed us beyond our normal capabilities and capacity to manage and we start to feel as though we are unable to cope.
Burnout arises following long periods of heightened stress, when the continued effect of the stress response on the body and mind takes its toll. It leads to ill-health that can show up in a multitude of different ways. Burnout is not momentary – it takes quite some time to reach this state, and quite some time to recover.
What are some of the common signs that someone is suffering burnout and working too much?
Burnout can manifest in many different ways, but the really common signs are usually associated with feeling tired all the time, a constant sense of overwhelm, having a very short fuse all of the time, and not being able to think clearly or problem solve like you normally can.
I’ve written a free guide that you can download to see if you think you’re someone suffering burnout and you can pick that up here.
What pieces of advice do you have for someone who thinks they are overworking?
I’d say there are 2 key things to focus on first and foremost:
- Understand the drivers – it’s key to get to the source of what’s driving you to feel overworked, overwhelmed, or burnt out. Sometimes it’s one thing, but often, it’s several things combined. Once we understand what’s driving it we can start to do something about it – one step at a time.
- Tell someone you trust how you are feeling, ask them to help you figure things out, and to support you in whatever way you will find useful. For some this might be a colleague or their boss, for others, it’s a family member or a friend. The important part is that you trust them and you believe they can support you.
Any top tips for creating a healthy work-life balance for temporary workers?
I talk to people a lot about really understanding what brings them joy in life, and finding ways to experience moments of joy every day. Sometimes the quest for constant happiness can seem unachievable – moments of joy are the way to go in my view.
Sometimes we can’t fully influence the working pattern we have, but what we can control is how much joy we experience both within and outside of work. And I’ve added some other top tips below.
Do you recommend any exercises for someone to do on a regular basis to manage their stress levels?
In my book, Have It All Without Burning Out’ I explain the ‘Nourish Model’ which has a whole array of things people can do to easily boost their resilience and wellbeing.
The trick is to find the handful of things that resonate for you, nourish you, and make a difference. Because we’re all unique, what works for one person will look different to what works for another.
Common things that help and are both free and easy include regular deep breathing, prioritising your sleep, mindfulness practices and staying well hydrated.
Do you recommend any sites/blogs in this area for further reading?
Of course, I’m going to recommend my own insights (so you should Deborah!). You can pick up my book ‘Have It All Without Burning Out’ on Amazon in either paperback or kindle. I have a blog and lots of free downloads on my website www.deborahbulcock.com too. And you can also follow me on Facebook and LinkedIn.
I’m also a major fan of the work of:
- Dr Chatterjee for all things health and wellbeing – books and podcasts
- Mel Robbins for all things mindset – books, videos, and her daily social feed
Huge thank you to Deborah for her pearls of wisdom, we hope this has given you a few extra tools in your tool skit. As Deborah explained, feeling stressed is part of everyday life but we can all take steps to manage those stress levels in order to not hit the burnout stage.
Take care everyone!
Indeed Flex Team Community