Episode 167 | The Health Hazard of Burnout | Alison Coughlan

Burnout has become a crushing reality for many of us.  The pandemic has made burnout an overpowering reality for millions of us. The good news is that we’re talking more about it as a community.  We understand it’s causes more than ever. And we’re learning how to manage it more effectively as individuals and communities.

Thankfully we have wonderful people like Alison Coughlan thinking, talking and writing about it.  Alison’s work is fueled by a life-long desire to make a difference and almost 30 years’ experience in research and public health.

Her new book is titled The Health Hazard.  The book draws on Alison’s experience as an accomplished consultant and leader who took her own long, slow descent into burnout. From finding herself face down and wondering whether she would ever be okay again, Alison stepped forward one tiny step at a time and rebuilt herself and her life. In the book, Alison shares the lessons she learnt along the way and guides you through a series of steps to create insight, shift your mindset and build the energy reserves you so dearly need.

Burnout can be a torrid, all-consuming state.  But I share Alison’s optimism that our collective understanding, our willingness to talk about it and confront it in our lives, means that we’re in a better place than ever to manage it effectively.


Lessons Learned

Burnout is increasing

Before COVID workers were reporting burnout rates of around one-third.  Post-COVID that number has jumped to nearly 50%.  That’s an astonishing number.  Who is most at risk? People who are dutiful conscientious high achievers are often attracted to work in these areas. And it’s one of those things that can lead to people running on empty.

The double-edged sword of burnout

We often tell young people to choose careers they are passionate about. But the other edge of that is that if you care too much about it can actually lead to burnout because you can never do enough. You can never help enough people in whatever field that you’re working in. The very things that, that draw us to careers focussed on compassion and relief can absolutely put individuals at risk.

Alison’s 5 burnout tips

  1. Take control of what you can and let go of what you can’t.
  2. Practice self-compassion. Even if you’re driven to help others, you’ve got to start with yourself.  You are not good to anyone else if you’re lying facing down.
  3. Think about energy and wellbeing as a bucket. It’s got holes in it and the contents are trickling out at varying rates – but we can fill it. We’ve got to make a conscious choice to do so.
  4. Focus on resilience at the individual, team and organisation level. And now more than ever we need leaders who model and foster resilience
  5. We need to build resilience champions in the workplace.




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