Some of the professionals and businesspeople I coach have been close to a burnout or have had to take sick leave due to burnout. Before hitting the wall, and taking sick leave, they were putting in long hours, unable to cope with crushing workloads, chronically exhausted and empty of hope.
Watching someone lose his or her zest for life and become more fearful, anxious and depressed is heartbreaking.
The circumstances and conditions leading up to feeling burned out, or overwhelmed and stressed, are different for everyone. But the similarities are striking with respect to feeling depleted of energy, unmotivated ("what’s the point of it all?"), and in a fog of self-doubt and insecurity regarding on-the-job performance and competence.
I have a longstanding personal and professional interest in health and medicine. This includes working in healthcare research, designing educational programs to improve chronic care self-management strategies, and developing continuing medical education programs designed for family physicians, specialists and oncology pharmacists.
Research has shown that medical students, residents and physicians are at an especially high risk for burnout. Over and above long hours, they face clinical challenges in settings and situations where mistakes carry significant consequences.
“As physicians, we are perfectly capable of 'running on empty' and continuing to see patients long after we are completely drained and exhausted. Building this capacity to work despite complete exhaustion is a core component of our medical education. Learning how to keep going no matter what — is part of surviving residency.This survival mechanism makes sense if you have a defined end point … like graduation. However, once you get out into private practice … your whole life stretches out ahead of you. There is only so long that you can continue to practice on empty before something bad happens. And empty is just the beginning for many of us”
We know that sustained high stress over time undermines our health seriously. It is a risk factor for depression, anxiety and many chronic diseases. Existing physical or mental health issues (and their symptoms) also become more marked and intense due to stress.
Things just get worse under stress!
We do less or no exercise when stressed. We eat more and it tends to be fattier, saltier and sweeter. Smokers smoke more. Drinkers drink more.
Our bad habits get badder!
And, when you hit the wall, you have some choices
Endless online resources and books have great suggestions on how to protect yourself against stress and burnout. And you can't let yourself go. Because once you are in a depleted state, with little or no surplus energy, the simplest task or change feels impossible.
When I need to boost my energy, I have a talk with myself:
By becoming more aware of what zaps, and what boosts, it's easier to fire the energy-drainers and hire the energy boosters.
Some weeks you can do more and others less. And remember: When you're approaching the wall, you do have choices.
With a zap and a boost,
I AM A COACH, NOT A BRANDING EXPERT. But anyone who offers a service or sells a product knows that personal image is crucial. At the very least, it needs to be positive.
And if you have a coaching practice you have a brand image, like it or not.
My brochure needed a new photograph. A good friend was kind enough to spend a morning shooting photos of me in her home studio, where she spends much of her free time.
After only two hours in the heat of lights, posing on demand, interpreting what was wanted in terms of position of chin, head and shoulders, not to mention my smile, I decided the work of a model is unexpectedly tough.
At the end of the shoot, we reviewed all 80+ photos, quickly eliminating the unacceptable shots. The second round of culling was more demanding. Viewing non-candid, posed photographs of oneself, trying to be natural and authentic, is mostly a terrible experience (except if you are a model perhaps). You tend to see the unflattering elements – unwanted lines, grey hairs and asymmetry.
Finally, we settled on the four best photos – finalists for the brochure. One I liked was disqualified after my photographer friend said, “I’m not sure if you laughing this hard is the right image to project as a coach.” And I will ask the brochure’s graphic designer (who I’ve worked with for years) to weigh in with her preference – because image is her line of work.
That brings us to the big question: What is the right image? And who says it’s right? How do we know? Our persona is in part the image we present to the world. I remember reading an article on a portrait photographer who said something on the lines of, ‘the surface is very important because it is often all you get from someone.’
Image and branding raise sticky and tricky questions:
We know that first impressions matter – in both the physical and digital worlds. Sometimes we retract our initial judgments once we get to know the person and, other times, we are pleased to confirm that our initial impressions were correct. More often than not, none of this matters past the first minutes, as long as the person has qualities you like or admire.
When we display or publish an image, we are not there to interpret the image for the viewer.
For example, in two pictures I eventually disqualified, I appear (to my eye) either:
I have no conclusions – except that I hope you will like my new photo. I did find the exercise of being photographed and editing the output to be an interesting one.
And it raised more questions than answers.
Enjoy the days and weeks ahead,
not, Model Minda
Photographer: Danielle Charron
My family, relationships, movement, nature, flexibility of mind, exploration of alternative perspectives & openness are central to my life.