You know that feeling of dread when you wake up in the morning, knowing that you’ve got a long day ahead at work and at the end of the day you know you’re going to feel like you’ve achieved very little but will have been incredibly stressed out and busy doing it? It’s a physical feeling, in the pit of your stomach that doesn’t go away. You drag yourself out of bed, go through the motions of your morning routine, all the while with that horrible feeling of really just wanting to crawl back into bed and hide but you can’t because you’ll be letting people down.

This is what burnout felt like for me. I was working with the homeless community in Christchurch during the first Covid 19 lockdown. Every day was like walking into a war zone. Everybody wanted something from me. I would go to the motels where my clients were staying in the morning. The doors would open and the demands would come. I stood in the car park, listening to the onslaught of complaints, requests for food and housing, fights over drugs, parties causing noise and disturbance, motel owners upset because they have no idea how to work with people experiencing mental health or addiction issues. There was no regard for social distancing. I didn’t have the support of my colleagues because we were working from home. I felt isolated and completely overwhelmed. I was also incredibly anxious about bringing the virus back home to my family.

Then I reached the point where I had absolutely nothing left, I had given it all away – my energy, my passion, my sense of humour, my ability to communicate my needs, my ability to give a shit, I crashed. I took an overdose of sleep medication because that’s all I wanted to do…sleep and make it all go away. I woke up in a respite facility and spent the next year rebuilding. It was during this time that I developed these 6 easy steps to prevent burnout. They are the things I wish I’d known before I took a handful of sleeping pills!

It’s not all about “self-care”. You can’t banish burnout by lighting a candle or taking a bubble bath!

The steps:

Set your boundaries

Know what your limits are. What are the behaviours you will accept or not accept from other people?  Emotionally and physically?  I had clients who would yell at me, I had others who liked to hug me.  I even had one who wanted to “hook-up”.  What are the things that you will absolutely not accept?

When you know your boundaries, communicate them. 

Get rid of expectations

Let go, things will happen anyway, or not, it doesn’t matter.  I would have expectations that my clients would absolutely listen to my advice and stop taking drugs. When they didn’t, I was disappointed and hurt.  They didn’t care, they had no idea I had these expectations of them.  It was going to happen anyway, or not, regardless of my expectations. 

Get trigger happy

Know your triggers. What are the words and/or behaviours that upset you or make you angry?  Triggers are our mind’s way of letting us know that there’s something we need to learn.  Notice where you feel it in your body, acknowledge it, ask what it has to teach you, take the learnings then let it go.

Imposter reveal thyself

This one was a biggie for me.  Presenting one face to the world while inside you’re feeling something completely different.  Thoughts like “If they only knew…..” or “Any minute now I’m going to be exposed as a fraud”, going on inside your mind.  I carried on as if I was absolutely fine, looking as if I had my shit together and my life was wonderful.  I felt anything but wonderful.  When I learned to be vulnerable, to say out loud what I was really feeling, I could be authentic, not hide anymore and get my needs met.

Change your mind

This is my bread and butter work.  I love it! Change your mindset, it’s literally a brainchanger! We all have core beliefs that drive how we interact with the world around us and with ourselves.  Sometimes these beliefs are harmful. For me, believing that I was not of value was a big driver for how I was behaving in the world.  When I changed that belief to a more helpful one, my life changed.

Be the boss of you

It’s your mind, you’re in charge.  Your brain is lazy, it’ll take the path of least resistance when making decisions, regardless of whether they’re healthy ones or not because that’s what it’s always done.  Take control, tell you brain what you want and direct it away from those easy, default patterns.

Ruth Kenny is a Mind Coach Practitioner based in Christchurch, New Zealand with a background in human resources, mental health, addictions and trauma.  Ruth’s mission is to hold hope for people and use her experience to show there is a way forward.  Get in touch with Ruth to see how she can help you with your coaching needs [email protected],




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