Are you exhausted? Stressed? Burnt out? Beyond your capacity or just not coping?
Do you know friends and colleagues who would also say yes to these questions?
You’ve reached the end of your tether. We can all do it! We’ve all had those moments where our capacity bowl is so full that one bad bit of customer service, one smashed glass, one frustrating phone call with the electricity company or one set of unexpected roadworks can totally tip us over the edge. Until we are quite literally crying over spilt milk. I’m right with you… and it’s okay – we’re all human.
It’s one thing to recognise the symptoms of burnout or stress and to take time out to look after yourself. More and more we are seeing individuals and leaders who ignore or don’t recognise the stress signs and double down on their levels of overwhelm by putting on a public mask and working hard to make it seem they are coping fine. What we are calling the second pandemic – “the Pandemic of Pretence”. This pandemic is affecting those people and leaders who are ‘coping’ by putting on the jolly front, the positive facade, the happy face, who are feeling the necessity to act strong, motivate others, be the leader they feel they should be and push away or hide some of those very real feelings underneath.
The problem is that by putting on a front, we are actually doing ourselves far more harm than if we simply acknowledged that we are not entirely coping. The bigger the gap between how we feel we should show up in the world and how we are really feeling, the bigger our chances of even worse emotional burnout, mental fatigue and physical illness.
Not only that but in terms of your leadership skills, your performance and your creativity, you are far better off being in touch with what’s really going on for you than pretending. Pretence is neither a top performing, truly collaborative or highly creative space to be in. We are far more healthy, creative, connected and successful when we are in touch with our true selves and true talents. In other words, the real leader is the better leader.
So, if you know that you are putting on a front and inside you have a stressful or negative narrative that is a long way from that façade, then you might be contaiged by the pandemic of pretence. If you are only letting the world see your ‘turned out half or shopfront ‘ as psychoanalyst Donald Winnicott called it – then you are denying to others and to yourself what’s really going on and it might just be time to ‘get real!’ The more you close the gap between how you think you should be in the world and how you really feel the better you are serving yourself and others. So, let’s get real with some super practical tips on how to not only deal with burnout but deal with burnout bluff. Let’s say goodbye to the pandemic of pretence and get down with how we really feel – let’s get real.
Here are six tips to help you close that gap, reduce the pretence, get in touch with what’s really going on, be an even better colleague and turn up – not as a pretend leader – but as a truly Real Leader…in all 4 dimensions, all 2 contexts. The 4D2C of peak WellBeing, Leadership and Performance.
1. Physical Dimension
Slouch it! Tip one is change your posture.
Change your posture from stiff, upright and in fix, solve and ‘be brilliant’ mode to a posture that connects you more with your body and your self. Try moving from ‘solve it’ to ‘slouch it’. Lean over to your side, curl one foot under you and sit like you might sit chatting to a friend in the pub or on the sofa with a family member. Let your body tell you that you are relaxed, safe and simply connecting with your colleague or team member rather than bracing, fixing or solving all the time.
2. Emotional dimension
Open it! Take 20 seconds before your next meeting to check-in with the feeling in your belly.
Stop trying to push it away or hide from it but imagine it is a message that needs opening up and reading. Ask the challenging feeling in your belly or chest… What are you trying to tell me? What do you want right now? What are you telling me I need? The more we push our emotions away the more harm we are doing to ourselves. Emotions aren’t the problem, ignoring them is. Your emotions are simply messengers that are trying to tell you something. Is your feeling anger, sadness, frustration, or fear? If you grab that emotion and open it up – what’s the message inside? Do you need a break, do you need to call a friend, do you need some help? What’s the message inside the emotion? This is a brilliant tool for breaking the pandemic of pretence, helping you close the gap between who you think you should be and how you’re really feeling.
3. Intellectual dimension
We are really good when we are stressed and burnt out at gathering further evidence that things are difficult or going to go badly. We can start worrying and our intellectual dimension goes into overdrive with overthinking. Retrain your intellect to focus on safety cues… What is working well, who is helping you, who does have your back, what is fun about this project, what are the possibilities? When you shift from looking for danger cues to seeking out safety cues you’re changing your internal chemistry and closing the gap between your negative fear and your positive pretence.
4. Intentional dimension
So much of our education teaches us to fix and solve, to know and to be right. When we go into conversations with colleagues or burnt-out team members, trying to fix everything is just more stressful for them – and for you. Try going into these conversations and meetings with ‘curiosity.’ Set your intention to be curious and suddenly you take the pressure off yourself to know, to be right or to fix things. All you have to do is be open and explore and be curious. Curiosity is one of the best intentions we can hold to get our nervous systems in a really good place. Now we don’t have to pretend to be positive and know everything. We can sit in the far less stressful state of simple curiosity.
Context 1: The Environment
Move it! If your office desk has become a location of stress, then change your environment.
Try taking the next meeting on a walk or in your armchair or on your sofa. Use your environment to signal to your body that you are in a relaxed, calm and safe state. Our environment has a huge impact on our state. Your physical state is the foundation of your WellBeing, Leadership and Performance. Take your next call in a different place where you feel different. Where the Netflix watching, popcorn eating, laughing, joking version of yourself can chill out and be relaxed in conversation with colleagues!
Context 2: Relationships
What we mean by this is take 10 seconds before your next meeting to slow your physiology down. The more we run at a crazy rate the more our nervous system goes into fight or flight. When this happens, and the more harm we are doing ourselves and the more we are stressing out other people out around us. Slow it down. Imagine a parent shouting and screaming and stressing at a baby to eat its food. Imagine what that is doing to the baby’s nervous system. When a parent slows down and self-regulates, they teach the baby to regulate itself and that the world is safe. You too can do this for your colleagues and your team members. Slow it down, regulate your own pace and you will be doing incredible, wonderful things for your colleagues’ nervous systems. The biggest gift you can give is the gift of slowing it down. Nothing gets in the way of the pandemic of pretence more than slowing things down!
We hope you enjoy your six tips to go from burnout bluff and the pandemic of pretence, to being more of the real you and the real leader that actually has far more to offer is far more creative and much more inspirational than the pretend version of you. Have the courage and take the risk to close that gap, be real with yourself and real with others so you can really be the leader and the human being you know you can be.
For more information, please visit the workplace wellbeing page on our newly updated website – https://www.4dhumanbeing.com/training-programmes/4d-workplace-wellbeing/
Before you go…
Make sure to check out our most recent podcasts on integrating life and work – episodes include – Stay Well. Stay Creative, Creative Leadership interviews with 4 Theatre Directors, WellBeing with Jessie Pavelka, Fluid Living and Going Hybrid! Listen on Apple Podcasts and Spotify, just search ‘The 4D Human Being Podcast‘.