My Life in Words
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My Life in Words
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The Solution Focused sisterhood is my membership club. Filled with some of the most giving and incredible women I know, the lovely Marije, writer, mother and our all round solution focused thinker from Holland has been kind enough (and brave enough) to share her story of Burnout. Big events in our lives can simply be the tipping point and help us to come out the other side victorious, with more strength. All good in hind sight of course. Marije is passionate to share her story to help other women to see that Burnout can be an opportunity and that you can avoid it IF you listen to the action signals your body sends you before you do hit the wall. Read on to find out how Marije learnt from one of the hardest experiences of her life. Getting clear on this has been the key to her recent happiness and it can be the same for you too. Read on .....
aahh that honeymoon period. The time in your relationship when all you can see is a sparkly, loved up version of your mate. You view them from an emotional distance that doesn’t allow you to pick at their flaws and see their weaknesses.
They are gods (or goddesses). They are heroes (or heroines). They are knights (or…?? What’s the female equivalent? You know what I mean!) Everything is carefree. Sans responsibilities or duties or routines. You make an effort with your clothes; your activities; your time together.
Christmas can be a time of great joy and happiness. It can bring out the best in people and bring people together. On the other hand, Christmas can feel very lonely. It can feel lonely if you aren’t in a relationship. It can feel lonely in a relationship, if you aren’t getting on, or if there is a disconnection in your relationship. It can feel lonely if you have lost someone close to you or if someone is ill.
I remember one Christmas in my late 20s when I was on the verge of a burnout. I had been with my partner (now husband) for about 6 years and I felt completely lonely. However, it wasn’t his fault. He was loving, kind, appreciative and I was keeping him at an emotional arm’s length.
‘Yes, I’m fine.’ I would say if he asked how I was. I’d say this even if I felt I was feeling hollow inside. I didn’t want to admit to him, or myself, how wretched I felt in the profession I had chosen to be in for the rest of my life!! (Or so I thought.) Christmas felt lonely. I wasn’t enjoying anyone’s company, not really. I was going through the motions and all I could think about, constantly, was the work I ‘should’ have been doing, in the moments when I wasn’t doing it. I felt a failure. I felt lonely. So, if you are having a hard time this Christmas and you are feeling lonely here’s what I have learned from the experience, coupled with a couple of coaching tools to help you take a step forward to connection.
Say, 'I am lonely.'
No blaming. No attacking. No shaming. Simple vulnerability. Chances are they are feeling it too. By stating it you open up the possibility of change; of reconnecting; of intimacy.
If you are not in a relationship (or you are and the loneliness comes from outside of the relationship) but have found a distance between you and your family/friends, find the one person you love and trust the most and do the same. State how you feel.
2. Ask yourself what you have been giving to the relationship?
Be honest with yourself. I felt lonely in my relationship, but I had created the chasm between us myself. I hadn’t allowed myself to communicate how I was feeling honestly with my partner or my friends. I felt a failure so I kept it in and distanced myself instead.
I wasn’t giving anything to the relationships around me and it was a vicious cycle of escaping into the very work that was making me feel lonely, despite being surrounded by people 24/7.So, how are you communicating? Who are you making connections with?
3. Gain a solution focused approach
Once you’ve been honest with yourself, it’s time to take responsibility for that which you can control?
Get solution focused questions that inspire action and manage expectations.
What will I do to connect with someone I love today?
Where can I find likeminded people who lift me up?
How can I enjoy a conversation with someone today?
What will I do to give the love of my life some joy today?
Who might be lonelier than I am and how can I help them?
You are not alone. There is always someone to connect with. Go and find them and make a life (not just a Christmas) filled with love.
If you want to gain a solution focused approach on a daily basis, and be surrounded by some of the most giving women I know, give yourself the gift of a monthly subscription to my sisterhood (You can cancel at any time so there is no risk). Click here to join
Do you have any tips you'd like to share in the comments?
When I was about 9 or 10 something changed in my relationship with my little sister. (My little sister that's just less than a year younger than me.) We went from being inseparable and loving to fighting and arguing in the blink of an eye. Having girls of my own now, who are prone to the occasional wrestle, I don't know how my mum stayed sane. All of sudden we went from begging each other to sleep in each others' beds, (Me, because I am always cold and she was the main source of central heating in the days when not everyone had central heating. Her, because she was scared of the dark and the mere mention of Dracula would have her jumping her lovely, hot body into my bed.) to not being able to stand in the same room with each other. Maybe it's because we shared a room and we were getting to the age where you want your own space, or maybe it was pre-teen hormones kicking in, whatever it was we started to be seriously mean to each other.
Why am I telling you this? Well, I'll tell you.
I'm not proud of it, and I've subsequently apologised to my gorgeous sister, who I love dearly, but we started to call each other horrible names and continued to do so right into our teens. Now, there was a 'no swearing from the kids' policy in our house that was strictly adhered to, but we would try to get away with it by calling each other a 'cow'. (This actually annoyed my mum as much as swearing would, but it was a fine line.)
This cow would be prefixed with something.
For me, my sister would usually go for, "You ugly cow. You sad cow. You pathetic cow." My wounding arrows of choice would be, "You stupid cow. You thick cow. You annoying cow." Lovely!! I know.
And as siblings do, we knew we had found the weak spot and we repeated it and repeated it. As much as mum stopped us, we'd whisper it quietly after she'd left the room. It seeped into our subconscious beliefs.
And eventually often, I did feel ugly and sad next to my long legged, blonde, bubbly, gorgeous sister. And eventually she felt stupid next to her hard working, conscientious, studious sister. We'd conditioned each other with these little labels to believe that they were true.
My sister and I in our adult years have spoken about this and forgiven each other for what we said all those years ago as young girls. We didn't mean what we were saying, we just wanted to hurt the other person when we were annoyed by each other. Today we try to be cheerleaders to each other and love each other dearly.
But how interesting as I started to look at the inner critic voice, and I wanted to give it less power in my mind after my near miss of a second burnout, that I should call it "Mean Little Cow." It's only as I launched my book this weekend did I even consider the significance in this. Calling someone a cow in my eyes is a real insult. (Poor cows, as a veggie I really do love them and don't know why we picked on them all those years ago. LOL)
So how do we undo that conditioning? How do we quieten down that inner critic that takes from references buried in our sub-conscious? How do we show it what it is saying isn't true? Or is a warped version of the truth at best?
Well, depending where you live if you go to Bounce Back from Burnout UK, Bounce Back from Burnout US or Bounce Back from Burnout EU there's a great little exercise in Chapter Seven to help you to retrain that 'Mean Little Cow' voice once and for all.
I'd love to hear if you have a name for that negative, inner critic in the comments and how to manage to make her, or him, pipe down.
This question has been asked to me several times this week as I finally publish my first book. EEEEKKKK!!! If you’d asked me 3 years ago, 'Where will you find the time to write a book?' The answer would have been either 'Me, write a book? LOL' or ‘I've no idea!.’ But I have and I did.
Living proof that if you want it, you make space for it and take action on it, there is very little you can’t do!
So, how did I do it?
Well first, I decided it was something I wanted to do. I wanted to do it because I have gained such a lot myself from reading books and implementing action from exercises and strategies that lie within those lovely pages. I know not everyone will want to invest fully in coaching so a book is an ideal opportunity for me to reach that woman who is sitting with her head in her hands at the kitchen table feeling alone, exhausted and can’t see the wood for the trees. She’s my why. She’s why I had to make the time.
I also wanted to write a book that allowed me to be me, to talk with my voice and not the well trained corporate voice that was necessary to attract European Funding or attract charitable donations from large corporations or keep a project on target. I wanted to write a down to earth, warm, British approach to personal development. Yes, well researched. Yes, filled with value, but also I wanted it to be filled with me and my daft expressions, my Merseyside colloquialisms. Again, proof you can do this on your terms. Your way. Oh my giddy aunt you can.
Plus, I wanted to take the shame out of my burnout. Yes, even now this is the hardest part. In saying out loud, effectively to anyone in the world that wants to read it, I have had one full on burnout, and swerved a second, I am confessing my 'weakness'. My subconscious fear and my Mean Little Cow voice says, ‘Stop, you’ll make yourself look pathetic. You’ll make yourself unemployable. You’ll embarrass your kids and husband/family. You shouldn’t announce this to the world you’ll be seen as weak!!’ (And that’s only the tip of that iceberg!).
On a society level we are made to feel ashamed in the working world, if we express weakness or mental health issues. We can be seen as a burden or a weak person. Luckily, I had been blessed with two great bosses who were supportive and resourceful when I shared any of my burnout symptoms. However, researching more about burnout I realise now that by sharing our burnout stories in the work place we can support employers to create more nurturing environments and give them the chance to retain talent before they leave unexpectedly!
The total number of cases of work related stress, depression or anxiety in 2014/15 was 440,000 cases, a prevalence rate of 1380 per 100,000 workers. In 2014/15 stress accounted for 35% of all work related ill health cases and 43% of all working days lost due to ill health. Shocking isn't it. Stress is more prevalent in public service industries, such as education; health and social care; and public administration and defence.Again, proving environment can be a major factor in burning out. *Work related Stress, Anxiety and Depression Statistics in Great Britain 2015 report from HSE, UK
Therefore, I tell my MLC, “I must do this. I must admit it because there is a lady out there feeling just like I did. She feels alone, scared, she feels trapped in a job, business or an environment that isn't helping her explore her greatness. She's scared to tell anyone as she fears she'll been seen as weak or a failure, that she’ll never feel OK again. But look at the stats, she's not alone.
My story and the tools in the book can help her see this isn’t a bad thing that is happening. It’s a chance to reflect, assess, to grow. It’s an opportunity to look at what she is doing and why she is doing it. It’s a chance to make positive changes in the environment she’s in, or create an exit plan that will take her to a place she can shine and show her strengths in a better light if that’s what she needs.The fact you are now equipped with all these tools, strategies and have a success definition that alerts you to when you aren’t aligned to it makes you mega employable and an even better leader than before, if you ever want to apply for a job that is.”
And in quietening MLC's fear driven banter I pressed approve on the publish button and bring that story to you and in doing so allow the taboo of burning out to be overcome in a small, but significant way.
So why I wanted to find the time was a significant factor in how I found the time!
‘What was the secret then Michala?’ I hear you cry. ‘How did you find the time?’
I used the time I had to better effect.
Nothing mind blowing.
No rocket science.
Simply, I looked at my working week, plus the time I am with my family/friends, and I said, 'Where can I fit this in?'
The only available slots were 2 hours a week, whilst my treasures were in clubs. Usually, I’d sit and watch them in one hour, or I’d go for a coffee with a friend or go for a run, in the other.
Instead, I sat in my car paper and pen in hand (I’m so old school. LOL) and I wrote. It took me longer this way than if I’d blocked time during the day or written late into the night, however, with my client commitments, my on line content creation, my family commitments, my success definition to thrive and other volunteering I do there wasn’t any space for that, so rather than wait for that space, (Let’s face it, it will never appear!) I used what time I had to the best advantage.
Several months later I had written my first book!!
No excuses. No waiting. I did it.
Have technical hitches set me back on my original release deadline? Yes.
Has it stopped me? No.
Did I find help? Yes. (Thank you Peter Thompson. Tech ninja. I am eternally grateful!)
So here you find me the proud (scared, excited, nervous, excited) author of my first book!
If you are a woman sitting at your kitchen table, head in hands saying, ‘What’s the point? Why can’t I see a way forward? Why aren’t there more hours in the day? What is wrong with me?’ then this book is for you. I hope it makes you love you a bit more. I hope it helps you see you and your world more clearly.
I hope you can learn as I did that burnout is an opportunity to grow and create positive changes. I hope it helps you see the wood for the trees.
Yesterday a gorgeous lady sent me a photo of her holding my book saying, ‘Look what I have!’ I cried. The woman I wrote this for has it in her hands.
So the secret is; there is no secret. Make time for what is important to you. Decide it’s a must and take action. #sodtheshoulds
To celebrate this book I have created a great new community called the Bounce Back Club. I’d love you to join me if you are ready to bounce back from anything life chucks at us! Click here to join NOW!