How to deal when you're feeling burnt out

Stressed, overwhelmed, and over it? Here's how to bring more balance into your life.

Written by Beatrix Coles
Depressed woman in bed with hands on face

Rachel Service is the founder of Happiness Concierge, a company that helps workplaces boost their company culture.

The idea for the business came from Rachel’s own experience in dealing with burnout, caused by her early career in PR. As she says, “I spent years battling anxiety, depression, burnout, overworking, over exercising and under eating. It all came to a head when I realised work was nearly killing me.”

To deal with the ensuing anxiety and depression, she looked to unconventional strategies to manage her mindset and wound up walking a new career path.

Rachel worked hard to restore balance to her own life, “with professional help, and the support of my family and friends”, eventually landing on “a sustainable life I love”. She took the tactics that had been useful for her, sharing her tips through a blog which eventually became the basis for her first series of workshops.

Now in its seventh year, Happiness Concierge has expanded globally, supporting workplaces across the world.

We sat down with Rachel over a coffee to find out what your first steps should be if you’re beginning to feel overwhelmed, and to ask, what’s up with all this work stress?

"The most commonly overlooked activity which can instantly make you feel better is exercise, whether that’s a walk around the block, a gym class with friends or a trip to the park with your dog."

What is the most common problem you see people facing?

Most of my clients feel overwhelmed, out of control and feel there’s a disparity between their ‘work’ self and their ‘real’ self. They feel pressure to say yes to everything, and are unclear where to next. Many have ambitions to progress in their career, but have had some stumbling blocks, or confidence knocks along the way. In the more serious scenarios, they feel at odds with the lives they are living and can feel lost.

What can someone do when they begin to have these feelings?

I believe that reaching out to talk to someone is the first step. This works to restore perspective. Perceived scarcity robs us of perspective, so when we feel we ‘have no choice’, we’re more inclined to make poor decisions.

Next is to make a decision as to whether you’d like to improve the situation. No one can help you if you don’t want to help yourself. And the third step is reaching out to family, friends and professionals who can help you find the courage and resources to keeping working to make things better.

Is this a problem for a particular generation or time of life?

I work with people at all levels, from interns to CEOs. And often they’re facing similar challenges in terms of how they are feeling. We have more choice than ever in our careers and many people come to me because they feel a pressure to ‘make the most of every opportunity’, be an entrepreneur, be a great friend, get the pay rise, the promotion and still have a work life balance.

How can someone take steps to restore balance?

In my opinion, the first step is learning how to create boundaries around your work and workload, and your personal life. If you aren’t able to enjoy your personal life due to thinking about work after hours, it can become all consuming. I often counsel exhausted clients to take some time out. Annual leave is there for a reason – use it.

So many of my clients map out their week with me and I see zero time for themselves scheduled in. For some people that might mean scheduling an hour to themselves; for others, thinking about whether they could work less to give themselves some breathing space.

A ‘Digital Defrost’ is another strategy I use with my clients. It allows you to stop reacting and start being present. It lets your brain chill out, and it lets you focus on what’s at hand. It’s simple to do – create a rule like ‘no phones after 9 pm’, or ‘phones away at the dinner table’ and make sure to stick to it.

And of course, the most commonly overlooked activity which can instantly make you feel better is exercise, whether that’s a walk around the block, a gym class with friends or a trip to the park with your dog. The cognitive benefits of exercise, even for 10 minutes a day, will make you feel more chill and able to think clearly.

What’s the biggest thing you’ve learned since starting the business?

My business is only successful if I practice what I preach. I’m a reformed workaholic. I’d work all day on Happiness Concierge if I could, but I know that ultimately a ‘successful’ life for me is about having rewarding relationships, where I’m able to look after myself and others. I can’t do that if I’m sending emails at all hours.

I think that’s been my biggest learning lesson. You know you’re doing something right when you feel the way you present yourself on the outside matches what’s in the inside.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, seek help

And remember that you’re not alone. If you need support there are people and organisations you can reach out to.

Medibank Mental Health Phone Support 
Members with Hospital cover* can talk with a mental health professional over the phone in relation to any mental health or emotional concern, 24 hours a day 7 days a week. Call 1800 644 325.

*OSHC members should call the Student Health and Support Line on 1800 887 283.

Written by Beatrix Coles

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