peek into our current issue

how to kick burnout in the butt
Milly Bannister and Caroline Kell

how to kick burnout in the butt

By

We chat to two creative ladies who have figured out how to overcome that dreaded work fatigue.

Burnout is a state of being that, sadly, most of us know all too well. But despite its prevalence, burnout is hard to catch. By the time you realise you need to slow down, the damage has already been done (to the point where even coffee is not enough to bring that motivation back to life). To help you get back on track, we asked Milly Bannister, content creator and founder of mental health not-for-profit allknd, and Caroline Kell, the business and leadership coach behind Blak Wattle Coaching, for some advice on tackling burnout.

KNOW THE SIGNS To stop burnout in its tracks, it helps to know what it actually looks like. But this can be tricky if you’re someone who tends to show up for other people, or who simply cannot leave a task unfinished. “Typically, very reliable and trustworthy people become burnt out, which means it can be difficult to spot,” Caroline says. “In some cases, it’s high-functioning and can look a lot like ‘thriving’.” The tell-tale signs to look out for include extreme fatigue and exhaustion, irritability, a negative attitude towards work, emotional dissociation from colleagues, cynicism, criticism towards yourself and others, and even physical ailments, like headaches.

SET BOUNDARIES AND PRIORITISE So, you’re deep in the burnout ditch and you’re struggling to climb back out of it. This can be particularly tough if you’re facing pressure in both your work and home environments – but it is possible. “Ask yourself, ‘What is urgent and what is important today?’ Often, we conflate the two,” Caroline says. “Ask yourself, ‘What do I need at this moment?’ It’s OK to honour your needs. Sometimes this will mean stepping away from your responsibilities.”

Setting boundaries with both your time and your emotions is also important for protecting your wellbeing – even if it feels uncomfortable to do so. “It’s OK to set boundaries and to say no,” Caroline says. “Almost all humans are hardwired to say ‘yes’. This is particularly true when it comes to women or gender diverse communities.” Identifying your values, thinking about what you actually want to say ‘yes’ and ‘no’ to, and starting with small boundaries can help alleviate this discomfort, Caroline says.

It seems obvious, but prioritising a healthy work-life balance can also prevent burnout. If you work from home, this might involve establishing a dedicated workspace so that it’s easier to ‘leave’ work at the end of the day, or something as simple as making sure you have a comfy office chair to work from. “Ask yourself how you can make your workday better,” Milly says. “Look at the physical comfort and ergonomics of your home office equipment, clear clutter, and establish a routine to ensure you’re addressing all elements of your wellbeing.”

REFLECT ON YOUR EMOTIONS Knowing how to escape burnout is all well and good, but not falling into it in the first place would probably be better. (As old mate Desiderius Erasmus wisely said many moons ago, prevention is better than cure.) Luckily, there are a few ways to prevent all that exhaustion and fatigue long before it strikes. Caroline suggests regularly reflecting on how you’re feeling and why you’re feeling that way, and engaging in activities that will nourish you. “At an individual level, it means understanding your emotions and connecting to your body; finding ways to signal safety, usually through joy and pleasure,” Caroline says. “This can look like scheduling in regular exercise, journaling, breathwork… It also looks like accessing care and support when you need it. A GP is the best place to start. Counselling and coaches also help.”

Milly recommends identifying the things that have previously caused you to feel burnt out so that you know what to avoid in the future. “It can also be worthwhile to track your stress levels and monitor your anxiety so you’re more aware of your stress patterns and behaviours,” she says.

CHECK IN WITH THE PEOPLE AROUND YOU Letting yourself be vulnerable in front of others can be scary, but talking about your struggles with your friends and other small-business owners can protect you from future bouts of burnout. If you work in a team, don’t be afraid to lean on your colleagues. “I know it seems daunting, but it’s important to talk with your team if you’re not feeling supported, so they are aware and can hopefully change their behaviour accordingly,” Milly says. “We can’t just assume that everyone knows how we’re feeling, so it’s important to have these discussions at work to ensure everyone is feeling, safe, comfortable and supported.”

SEEK PROFESSIONAL HELP IF YOU NEED IT If you feel that your burnout is worsening, don’t ignore it. “Burnout is no joke and long periods of chronic stress can be serious,” Caroline says. “Ditch the ‘hustle and grind’ mentality and find ways to build check-in time and downtime into your business and your life. Check in with yourself regularly. Move your body. And seek assistance from your GP or holistic health team, as you need.”

For more advice on tackling burnout, read this and thisFor more small-business stories, visit frankie.com.au/strictly-business, or sign up to our monthly e-newsletter.