Burnout - you can turn things around

Burnout

The verdict’s in – the World Health Organisation has declared that burnout is an occupational phenomenon that undermines how well people perform at work.

What is it

Burnout occurs from chronic workplace stress that has not been managed. It is characterized by:

·       feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion

·       being more and more detached from your job

·       feelings of negativity, cynicism and complete lack of motivation for your job

·       inability to meet the constant demands at work

 Work-related causes

  • Feeling like you have little or no control over your work

  • Lack of recognition or reward for good work

  • Unclear or overly demanding job expectations and workload

  • Monotonous, unrewarding or unchallenging work

  • Working in a chaotic or high-pressure environment

  • Poor work-life balance

  • Lack of job stability

  • Being ‘on’ 24/7, seven days a week with no time to re-energise

While burnout starts at work, there are many factors outside of work that contribute to it, such as: not taking scheduled holidays and regular time out;  being a perfectionist; not seeking help when it’s needed; not enough social time; lack of social supports; not getting enough sleep; taking on too much in your everyday life and already having a pessimistic attitude.

 What you can do

Whether you’re experiencing early warning signs of burnout or you are in the thick of it, it’s never too late to take steps to turn things around. Here are a few helpful tips:

·       The obvious first step is to address the thing that’s causing the stress in the first place – your job. It might be time to start planning for a new job but if this isn’t possible right now, then give the following things a try -

·       Reach out to your loved ones and people that nurture your soul. Maybe you haven’t spent enough time with these people and way too much with people that bring you down. If you need new friends, start investigating community recreation groups, volunteer your services for a cause you’re interested in, or even make new friends at work – you may even consider organising some social activities for your workmates.

·       Take care of your health – you need 8 hours of sleep, a healthy diet, reduce alcohol/nicotine/caffeine/sugar/processed food, and exercise at least 30 minutes a day. Find an activity you enjoy (or used to enjoy) and go for it. If you can get out in some nature, then even better.

·       Have time away from devices and completely disconnect from technology for some time every day, and that includes no phones in the bedroom. A simple suggestion is to down tools and take a lunchtime or mid-afternoon walk (you know, when that slump kicks in)!

·       Learn the power of saying the polite “no” so you’re not constantly over-extending and later resenting it. Setting boundaries is very healthy – you may even become a role model for others.

·       Take up a creative activity. Is there something you’ve been planning to give a go but never seem to have the time or energy - what have you got to lose? Choose something that’s not connected to the stress at work and that will give you a real sense of fun and satisfaction.

·       Include some relaxation time – it’s as important as any other time and helps relieve that mounting stress. There are so many apps to help you get started with mindfulness and meditation, or a long soak in the bath or chilling to relaxation music may be more your style.

·       Finally, learn how to deal with stress in the moment by intercepting unhelpful thoughts and feelings. There are plenty of simple techniques for this and I’d be delighted to show you how.

 

Clutter to Calm



Take a moment to think about how you feel when you are surrounded by clutter – got the feeling? Now think of a space that is orderly, where you can actually see surfaces, and everything is away in its rightful place – I bet you instantly feel calmer?

That’s because we have proof that mess equals stress. Here’s why physical clutter creates emotional clutter:

Research from UCLA demonstrated that people with homes filled with an over-abundance of ‘stuff’ or clutter have elevated levels of the stress hormone cortisol - for instance more than 75% of these households had so much stuff in their garages, they were unable to park their cars in them.

We know prolonged cortisol contributes to health problems including high blood pressure, poor sleep, insulin resistance and diabetes, anxiety, poor focus, feelings of guilt and inadequacy, and weight gain - it appears the same bad habit that urges us to consume more is linked to over-consumption of food.

A cluttered environment restricts the brain’s ability to focus and process information, as we only take in so much visually for processing. Clutter overloads our senses and competes for attention, leaving us distracted, anxious and stressed out.

According to feng shui principles, clutter represents trapped energy. It is believed that when clutter is cleared, negative emotions are released and positive energy is generated.

According to the National Association of Professional Organizers, Americans are collectively spending nine million hours per day searching for their stuff, not to mention the fines they pay for overdue accounts as a result of misplaced bills – so clutter is also costing us time and money.

We know we need to reduce clutter to bring in the calm, so here’s some simple tips to get started today. As the saying goes, remember to eat the elephant one bite at a time…!

Begin in one space and don’t move to another until the job’s done. Have four containers handy to start sorting your stuff: one for items to keep, one for items to be donated, one for recycling, and the last resort container for garbage. Don’t forget things like garage sales are a great way to offload unwanted items and can be fun occasions with friends and neighbours…remember the saying “one man’s trash…”

Start a new I have a place for everything habit, and before you know it, you’ll be a proud ‘clutter nazi’, putting things in their rightful place before overwhelm sets in.

Finally, in these times where consumerism reigns supreme, think about what you’re buying in the first place. Try to delay any purchase until you can answer the following questions: do I really need it; will it still be as useful to me in 3-5 years; and, what do I need to get rid of in order to have it?

Happy decluttering everyone and please get in touch if I can help you get started and bring in the calm.

Megan x

 

 

Attitude of Gratitude – it’s your choice

Why gratitude

As humans we have an in-built negative bias, which simply means we react more sensitively to unpleasant or negative news. This was a useful coping mechanism back in caveman times, when anticipating the negative meant surviving the jaws of a sabre-toothed tiger. Today, without the daily threat of man-eating creatures around every corner, we need to work hard to reduce this ingrained negative bias - which is a whopping ratio of five negatives to one positive, to truly enjoy overall well-being. An attitude of gratitude is proven to increase overall health, well-being and happiness, while decreasing stress, anxiety and depression.   Put simply, “gratitude turns what we have into enough (Anonymous)”.

Definition

So, what is this thing called gratitude? Gratitude is a positive human emotion that can be most simply defined as appreciation or acknowledgement of an altruistic act. Robert Emmons, considered the world’s leading gratitude expert, suggests that there are two key components to gratitude: “First, it’s an affirmation of goodness. We affirm that there are good things in the world, gifts and benefits we’ve received.” The second component is when “we recognize that the sources of this goodness are outside of ourselves…We acknowledge that other people…gave us many gifts, big and small, to help us achieve the goodness in our lives.”

Why practise gratitude?

There are many scientifically proven benefits for practising gratitude:

  • It takes as little as eight weeks of committed gratitude practice to start showing changed brain patterns that lead to greater empathy and happiness.

  • It is a choice, it’s free and available to everyone

  • It enhances and increases relationships: expressing thankfulness and gratitude are appealing qualities that are attractive to others and even ‘win over’ new friends. Grateful people experience more sensitivity and empathy towards others

  • It improves physical health: studies have shown that grateful people report feeling healthier, sleep better, have lower blood pressure, have more strengthened immune systems, are more inclined to engage in healthier activity, attend regular check-ups and generally take greater care of their health overall

  • Improved psychological health: gratitude increases happiness and reduces depression. Negative emotions such as envy, regret, frustration and resentment are reduced. It increases self-esteem by reducing the resentment that comes with social comparison. Robert Emmons describes how a group of study participants felt 25% happier after ten weeks of regularly expressing gratitude

  • Social benefits of gratitude: paying it forward can create a greater circle of social good, much like a gratitude ripple effect where the recipient may be inclined to offer a thoughtful deed to a third party and so on.

In a nutshell, people with an “attitude of gratitude” experience lower levels of stress, anxiety and depression, have increased resilience and self-esteem, and greater happiness and well-being.

 How to practise gratitude

The habit of being grateful isn’t reserved for the big things in life. Start noticing the small everyday things – there is nothing too small to be grateful for, and you’ll start recognising things that you once took for granted. Remember this is no set and forget. As with forming any new habit, it must be practised regularly!

Daily gratitude journal

Start and continue this intentional action daily, and as with any new habit, attach it to another routine of yours, like reading before you go to bed or your morning coffee (soon it’ll be second nature). Write about three things from your day that you are grateful for – remember these can be little things and include people, things, places and ideas. If you like, turn this into mindful gratitude practice where you create a picture of those things and sit with the feelings of gratitude that they evoke. Don’t forget, there is no end to the types of things we can be grateful for.

 Write and deliver a letter of thanks

In a study by Seligman, Steen and Peterson (2005) results showed that participants who engaged in the following letter-writing exercise reported more happiness for one month after the intervention, compared to a control group. The authors stated that expressing gratitude not only helps you to appreciate what you’ve received in life, it also helps you to feel that you’ve given something back to those who helped you.

  1. First, think of someone who has done something important and wonderful for you, yet who you feel you have not properly thanked

  2. Next, reflect on the benefits you received from this person, and write a letter expressing your gratitude for all they have done for you

  3. Finally, arrange to deliver the letter personally (if possible), and spend some time with this person talking about the contents of your letter

 Helping others helps you!

Volunteering or selflessly giving back to others will make you more grateful for the things you take for granted. After testing many variables, Martin Seligman suggests that volunteering is the single most reliable way to momentarily increase your well-being. There are so many ways to volunteer – give it a go and see how it makes you feel.

Summary

With all the benefits to yourself and others, why not start your gratitude practice today – it’s your choice, it costs nothing and there are only positives to be gained. In the words of Oprah Winfrey, “be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough”.

I’d love to know how you get on,

Megan x

There's a time and a place

How much time do you spend on social media? Has it crept into every aspect of your life – think about it for a moment? As a keen social observer, I’m staggered by the decline in phone etiquette with the rise of social media, and worried about how much its addictive nature is impacting us and those around us. Don’t get me wrong, social media has given me the gift of long-lost friends and business promotion to name just a couple, but I’m worried that what should be a “sometimes” is fast becoming an “often” activity.

The recent release of the Growing Up in Queensland Report, revealed that children are stressed and feel ignored almost daily by parents who increasingly absorb themselves in the digital world. It got me thinking about how social media and use of devices continue to reshape our landscape.

Let’s take a quick look at the Australian experience:

  • Smartphones continue to be the most popular device for accessing social media and Australians are one of the leading global users of smartphones with nearly 85% of us owning one. That’s a whopping 16 million smartphones and rising. These “technological swiss army knives” allow us to stay connected to the net 24/7.

  • Over 90% of Aussie teens aged 14 – 17 have a mobile phone with 94% owning smartphones.

  • Almost eight in ten internet users now have a social media profile.

  • The amount of time spent on each social media visit is approximately 23 minutes, averaging almost 10 hours a week on the most popular sites.

  • We are checking our phones more often. Thirty-five percent of us check-in more than five times a day.

  • Over 50% access social networking as one of the first things they do in the morning.

It’s as if our digital ‘relationships’ have replaced the art of conversation and deep connection. When was the last time you gave or received a hand-written card or letter, or picked up the phone for a heart-felt chat on a friend’s birthday – or even better, organised a one-on-one catch up?  You don’t even have to have a conversation with that special someone to find out that your relationship status has changed! Reports also prove that a large number of social media ‘friends’, in the absence of meaningful relationships does not improve someone’s sense of loneliness and connection.

Media+Free+Moments.jpg

You already know that mobile phone use whilst driving is dangerously distracting and increases risk of a crash four-fold, but did you know that ‘selfie’ deaths are becoming a thing, with more than 250 deaths globally, largely from drowning and falling from heights. Interestingly, Russia has launched a Safe Selfie campaign with the slogan “Even a million ‘likes’ on social media are not worth your life and wellbeing”, and India has declared “no selfie zones” to address the harm.

Sean Parker, founding President of Facebook, recently admitted that the ultimate company goal was not to unite us, but to “consume as much of your time and conscious attention as possible”. Facebook was onto something when they did their homework into the dopamine factor – we get a small hit of this feel-good neurotransmitter every time we get a like or comment to our posts or pics.

Before this sounds all doom and gloom, the solution surely is finding balance with social media. Unless we live in Bali where one day each year the internet is shut down for Nyepi or New Year, a sacred day of reflection, there is plenty we can do every day.

An easy way to start is to reduce our number of check-ins and time them appropriately – we’re in charge, not the other way around.

Thankfully we get meaningful neurotransmitter hits from hugs, smiles, exercise, time with loved ones and pets, and being of service to others - all sans phone.  Do an honest audit of how you’re spending your personal time and ask yourself if you could do with a ‘rebalance’.

Make a call, plan catch-ups with your besties, send the card and most importantly, put the phone down and be truly present with the ones you’re with!

While social media and devices now provide us 24/7 access to information and digital global connection, let’s not forget that we human beings need balance in all areas of our lives, so let’s start a #mediafreemoments revolution to authentically connect with each other, with nature, but mostly with ourselves – there’s a time and a place for everything.

Megan x  

 

Mindfulness

With so much going on in our lives, it’s easy to be distracted from the present moment. When we’re constantly prioritising what we must do tomorrow or fretting about what we should have done yesterday, we put ourselves under constant pressure and can forget to appreciate the life we’re living RIGHT NOW!

Cue the need for ‘mindfulness’ – a mental and physical technique that’s been in use for more than two thousand years. 

What is mindfulness? 

Mindfulness is the practice of focusing on the present moment, which involves being aware of your breathing, your body and your senses - paying attention to what you are experiencing, and accepting it without judgement. There are many ways to practise mindfulness, but they all aim to achieve the same thing – a state of focused relaxation that keeps the mind on the present moment.

How can it help us?

Mindfulness has been found to be a great help in reducing stress. It does this by:

  • Helping you become more aware of your thoughts, and letting you acknowledge them but not dwell on them.

  • Making you more aware of and sensitive to your body, its sensations and its needs.

  • Encouraging you to enjoy your surroundings, such as pleasant sounds, sights or fragrances.

  • Teaching you to become more focused, which has many benefits, including an increased sense of well-being and better performance during work, sport or other pursuits.

Mindfulness has also been shown to improve sleep and overall health. 

How can we practise mindfulness?

Anybody can practise mindfulness. Although it has its roots in Buddhism, it’s not connected to religion, and it doesn’t require any particular equipment or resources – just a small time commitment to prioritise YOU.

Some of the basics of mindfulness practice are: 

  • Find a quiet place where you won’t be interrupted.

  • Focus on your breath going in and out of your body, by noticing the sensations of air flowing into your nostrils and out of your mouth.

  • Begin to broaden your focus by noticing your surroundings. Become aware of what you can hear and feel, and what thoughts are slipping in and out of your mind.

  • Consider each thought or sensation, but don’t label it ‘good’ or ‘bad’. If you find you are getting too distracted, just return to focusing on your breathing, and then go back to expanding your awareness again.

  • Be kind to yourself and patient with your wandering mind. Don’t judge yourself or your thoughts but just keep gently directing your mind back to sensations in the present.

  • Once you’ve mastered this, start becoming mindful with everyday activities like eating (imagine how good every mouthful will taste). How many times have you driven to a destination and can’t remember the journey because you were on auto-pilot with a racing mind? Yes, you can even be mindful doing the ironing!

There are plenty of apps to get you started: check out Smiling Mind, Headspace and Calm.

If you regularly practice mindfulness techniques, it will become second nature to focus on the present moment, and you’ll find that your worry, tension and stress levels will gently reduce as your well-being and happiness increases.

If you would like to discuss being more present in the moment, please take advantage of my free 30 minute clarity call - contact me today at info@megancolliercoaching.com or check out my “Work With Me” page for more details.

Persistent Loneliness

Even though digital technology and the rise of social media have made it easier to stay in touch with people more these days than ever before, these amazing tools that we have at our fingertips haven’t made us less lonely.

In fact, many researchers believe that the internet has contributed to the growing problem of loneliness, because it’s so easy to substitute real with online relationships, but these often turn out to be superficial and unsatisfying relationships. We may have hundreds of Facebook ‘friends’, but how many of them are real friends we can confide in and call upon in times of need? 

What is loneliness, anyway?

We all experience loneliness from time to time – some occasions like Christmas and Valentine’s Day can be extremely hard if you’re feeling lonely. There’s also a difference between loneliness and being alone. Although we are naturally geared towards the need for social contact and relationships, many people enjoy solitude and alone time. On the other hand, it is possible to be surrounded by people but still feel disconnected and alone. Psychologists often describe loneliness as a state of mind; if you feel alone and isolated, then you are – no matter what your circumstances. 

What are the dangers of loneliness

Loneliness is a universal human emotion, and its chronic or persistent effects can be damaging to our health. Feeling lonely can increase our stress levels which, in turn, can interfere with our immune system. Stress can cause us to eat and sleep poorly, and exercise less. Chronic loneliness can lead to alcohol or drug abuse, and has been linked to depression, suicide, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, stroke and the progression of Alzheimer's disease. In short, loneliness makes us feel bad – and is bad for our health.

So, what can we do about it?

While jumping online and drumming up some more social media ‘likes’ can be a quick fix, as mentioned above, it’s not really the answer. If you’re feeling isolated and lonely, the solution is far more likely to be found in putting some work into establishing real social relationships. Here are a few things to consider:
 

  • Join a group or class and enjoy ticking something off your bucket list while being in a group of like-minded people

  • Volunteer for an organisation and enjoy the real benefits of meeting and helping others. The added bonus is a sense of satisfaction and gratitude which can lead to increased happiness.

  • Seek out existing people and networks in your life – change starts with you!

  • Don’t be ashamed to admit that you’re lonely. It can be a useful sign that some aspects of your life need changing. There is plenty of help available through community-based organisations and your doctor.

  • Assess how loneliness affects you and makes you feel, both physically an emotionally.

  • Be open to meeting new friends. Lonely people sometimes grow to expect rejection and can unconsciously push people away, so keep those positive vibes flowing!

  • Consider getting a pet. Dogs and cats, in particular, can be wonderful companion and will give you more things to talk about when you meet other pet lovers.

  • Put a smile on your face and make an effort to say hello to new people, even when you’re not feeling as lonely any more. You don’t know how isolated other people are feeling.

    We are social creatures but chronic loneliness is increasingly common in our community. This is a reminder that we need to get more socially connected and make positive, enriching changes to our own lives, and perhaps those of others.

If persistent loneliness is causing you stress and you've decided it's time to turn things around, please take advantage of my free 30 minute clarity call - contact me today at info@megancolliercoaching.com or check out my “Work With Me” page for more details.

 

Sleep and Stress

We're not healthy unless our sleep is healthy! 

Are you getting the required 7 - 9 hours each night (children and teenagers need more)? If you answered no then you're not alone, with more than 1 in 5 Australian adults getting insufficient sleep - and insufficient sleep has a strong relationship with stress!

It’s well known that being stressed can make it hard to get a good night’s sleep. Most of us will know what it’s like to toss and turn in bed, with stressful thoughts and worries. The sleep–stress association, however, isn’t just a one-way street. While stress can definitely cause sleep issues, lack of sleep can also cause stress, and these related problems can gain momentum and lead to increasingly serious consequences. 

Consequences of sleep deprivation

Sleep is an essential requirement for human health, and the lack of it can cause all sorts of direct and indirect problems, which can include feelings of irritability, anger, sadness or an inability to cope, being unable to concentrate, a compromised immune function, and even increased risks of high blood pressure and heart disease. Tiredness is a cause of reduced productivity at work or school, absenteeism and road accidents. Did you know that a lack of sleep affects the body in a similar way that drinking alcohol does. Research found that after 17 hours without sleep, our alertness is similar to the effects of a blood alcohol concentration of 0.05%. Sleep deprivation has also been shown to lead to increased comfort eating and poorer choices of food and drink. It’s no wonder that we feel so miserable when we’re not sleeping well.  

Why aren’t we sleeping?

There are lots of factors that can lead to a lack of, or poor-quality sleep. Speak to any new parent and they’ll tell you all about one of the leading factors! While baby-related sleep disruptions are almost inevitable, there are many things we can do to foster better bedtime habits and increase our likelihood of getting a good night’s sleep.

Bad habits

One of the major culprits is the use of digital devices when we should be winding down and getting ready to sleep. Late night use of computers, tablets and phones is extremely common, and sleep experts say it’s a major cause of sleep problems. The blue light emitted by the screens of our favourite devices causes disruptions to sleep hormones and our brains can be over-stimulated by the sensory bombardment of images and sound. The use of digital devices should stop at least 90 minutes before bedtime.

Sleep tips

We schedule time for other important activities in our day-to-day lives and sleep should be no different. Develop a sleep routine - go to bed at the same time each night and wake up at the same time each day.

Make sure your bedroom is a comfortable temperature, suitable bedding for the season and remove the TV!

Stop eating and avoid stimulants like alcohol and caffeine at least 2 hours before bedtime.

Create some wind-down, relaxing time before bed: have a bath, reflect on the day and plan the next day ahead, meditate.

A bit more sleep will help to lower stress levels and make us better equipped for the demands of daily life and this, in turn, will have a positive effect on the amount and quality of sleep in the nights to follow. 

While tiredness and our never-ending ‘to do’ list can seem overwhelming at times, even small lifestyle changes can help break that increasing sleep-stress spiral.

If you have decided that it's time to prioritise YOU and take the small steps needed to make your dream future a reality, then please take advantage of my free 30 minute clarity call - check out my “Work With Me” page for more details or email me at info@megancolliercoaching.com