How to keep burnout at bay

In an edited ex­tract from her new book, ‘ The Burnout So­lu­tion’, psy­chol­o­gist Siob­hán Mur­ray de­tails her 12- week plan to a calmer you

The Irish Times Magazine - - BOOKS -

Ad­her­ing t o your per­sonal bound­aries can be dif­fi­cult un­less you are very clear about what they are and are com­mit­ted to them in or­der to pro­tect your self- care. There will al­ways be sit­u­a­tions and events that will pop up un­ex­pect­edly, in your per­sonal and work life, that will chal­lenge you and cause you to for­get your bound­aries, in turn risk­ing tak­ing on too much and cre­at­ing un­nec­es­sary stress. That is why know­ing what your bound­aries are, why they are im­por­tant to you and how you are go­ing to im­ple­ment them is es­sen­tial. Know­ing what your per­sonal bound­aries are is all very well, but hav­ing the con­fi­dence to im­ple­ment them can be dif­fi­cult.

Per­sonal bound­aries

Per­sonal bound­aries set the tone for what we al­low to hap­pen ( and par­tic­i­pate in) with our own and oth­ers’ be­hav­iour. Per­sonal bound­aries de­fine how we al­low our­selves to be treated ( by oth­ers, and by our­selves). Set­ting per­sonal bound­aries is in­trin­si­cally linked to our self- es­teem. If we feel dis­em­pow­ered or taken ad­van­tage of by the re­la­tion­ships around us, our self­es­teem is im­pacted. Low self- es­teem can im­pact our health, our stress lev­els, our per­sonal re­la­tion­ships, as well as how achiev­able we feel our goals are.

Pro­fes­sional bound­aries

Set­ting pro­fes­sional bound­aries can feel more daunt­ing due to the hi­er­ar­chy of au­thor­ity and struc­ture of most work­places. There is a phrase I hear more and more often in re­la­tion to how peo­ple work – the “in­stant work en­vi­ron­ment”. A good ex- am­ple, which I think most peo­ple can re­late to, would be if you were in the mid­dle of fin­ish­ing off a task for some­one else and you re­ceived an email with a new re­quest, which was fol­lowed by a text mes­sage with an­other re­quest, and at the same time your phone rang. This type of work­ing en­vi­ron­ment makes us feel that we need to re­spond im­me­di­ately to all the re­quests that cross our path. If you are not ad­her­ing to your bound­aries, you can be­come over­whelmed by the con­stant de­mands and it can also cre­ate an en­vi­ron­ment that al­lows the “in­stant” de­mands to con­tinue.

Set­ting your pro­fes­sional bound­aries, and com­mu­ni­cat­ing them, al­lows you to take con­trol of your time at work. Be clear in what you are able to do. For ex­am­ple, if you’re i n t he mid­dle of f i nish­ing an im­por­tant task and you are asked to do some­thing else, ex­plain that you are will­ing to do it but that ei­ther ( a) you have to fin­ish the task at hand first or ( b) if you start work­ing on the sec­ond task, it will mean the first will not be fin­ished in time. Be c l e a r i n c o mmu­ni­cat­ing y o ur bound­aries. It gives you con­trol.

Learn­ing to set healthy per­sonal and pro­fes­sional bound­aries puts you on a road to bet­ter health and well­be­ing and can help de­crease the chances of burnout. Just think about this – 80 per cent of chronic ill­nesses are caused by life­style- re­lated is­sues. Set­ting per­sonal and pro­fes­sional bound­aries is a sim­ple way to em­power your­self, take con­trol of your life and pro­tect your self- care.

Say­ing no

If you feel the need to please oth­ers and put their needs be­fore your own, it can be a very daunt­ing thought to as­sert your­self to say no. How­ever, say­ing no is pow­er­ful and for those who are peo­ple pleasers it can be a game changer. Re­claim­ing your voice and us­ing it with kind­ness and self- re­spect – what could be bet­ter?


Eighty per cent of chronic ill­nesses are caused by life­style- re­lated is­sues. Set­ting per­sonal and pro­fes­sional bound­aries is a sim­ple way to em­power your­self

Here are some top tips on how to say no with­out feel­ing bad:

Be po­lite

Just be­cause you are say­ing you are not go­ing to do some­thing does not mean you have to be rude about it! A sim­ple, “I’m sorry, I’m not able do this right now” is per­fect. You don’t need to be overly apolo­getic or de­fen­sive about it, ei­ther. Once you start learn­ing to say no, you will re­duce the stress and the like­li­hood of burnout. Re­mem­ber what I said about the way you think about your­self re­flect­ing how you feel about your­self? Well, the same is true here – you teach peo­ple how you want to be treated. Stand­ing firm and say­ing no is a way to show oth­ers you’re not at ev­ery­one’s beck and call, both at work and at home.

You can think about it

If you are un­com­fort­able with the idea of say­ing no im­me­di­ately, take your time and think about it. If you want time to think about the re­quest, or just sim­ply have some time to see if this is some­thing you want to do but you don’t have the time right now, sim­ply say­ing, “I need to check my di­ary;


■ Once you start learn­ing to say no, you will re­duce the stress and the like­li­hood of burnout. Left, Siob­hán Mur­ray.

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