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Standing on the precipice of burnout: By Dr Bec Bennett


It feels like standing on the edge of a cliff, toes over the edge, the full force of the wind behind my back pushing my centre of gravity further towards the abyss. If I lift one foot to step back onto solid ground the driving force of the wind will push me over the edge. I’m trapped within a perpetual balancing act.   

You see, I’ve always been a hard worker. But I’m also a people pleaser. Not a good combo. And so, I tend to say yes to everything... and then try my hardest to do it all. And so it goes in cycles. I say yes yes yes, which in my world looks like lots of kids activities / craft / baking, lots of school social events and family commitments, lots of work projects, collaborations and conference presentations... little sleep and no time for self-care. I enjoy it all so I keep going, I feel the overwhelm build over the weeks, months... and then I crash. I get tonsillitis again. My body forces me to rest.


There is no one trigger for burnout in my world, it’s a combination of pressures.

Pressures I put on myself. My family is full of fabulous feminists who have been wonderful role models for me. And so I set out to do and be everything I want to be. I have a wonderfully successful career AND I am primary carer to three wonderful children. But I tend to put the needs of both of these roles before my own needs and this had me on the path to burnout.


Addition rather than subtraction.

For me, burnout was not just about having too much on my plate, but also not having enough of the things I needed. So, I did a mind map of my life to work out what needed turning down and what needed turning up.


One of my good friends and mentors, Dunay Taliaard, says that


“When saying yes to one thing, you are also saying no to other things”


And so, while I was saying “yes” to lots of work and family things that I enjoyed doing, things that truly filled my cup, in-doing-so I was also saying “no” to spending time on my own social, health and wellbeing needs.

My life map looked a little like Figure 1.



A circle showing outer and Inner circle. Inner circle; work, social, family and health and wellbeing. Outer cirlce with Bec Bennett's specific maps.
Figure 1. Mnd Map for Dr Bec Bennett


Going through this process helped me to see where I could cut back on things, but more importantly it helped me to realise what I needed more of in my life. For example, I realised that although I had made lots of acquaintances through my kid’s school, I hadn’t invested time in developing deep friendships and to be honest I was kind of lonely. So, I reached out to my friendship circle and built stronger connections and now feel fulfilled in this space.


We create our own life experience through our interactions and attention.

Balancing out my life activities was important, but equally important was how I was perceiving my interactions. I believe that we can focus on the challenges, ruminate on the tough moments and heighten our negative life experiences, or we can focus on the wins, relive the wonderful moments in our mind and heighten our positive life experiences.


One of my besties, Bec Loxton says “Success is having what you want, but happiness is wanting what you have”. I love this. For me, I don’t want to pin my happiness to the unattainable. I find happiness in each and every day. Sometimes these are a big wins, like grant success, and other times they are small (but equally as important) wins, like enjoying the sunshine on my skin while pushing the kids on the swings. I find practicing gratitude with my family simple yet immensely beneficial.


I am still on the journey of addressing those self-sabotaging habits that lead to burnout, but with the principles of self-care and gratitude to guide me, I am confident that I can face future challenges as they arise.


~Bec Bennett


Connect with Bec:

Twitter: @BecBennett8 Linked in: https://www.linkedin.com/in/bec-bennett-97a15297/


*******


Mind map as a list:

- Family

o Kids health and happiness

o Kids schooling

o My relationship with my kids

o Relationship with my husband

o Husbands work-life balance

o Extended family

- Work

o Primary employment

o Volunteer work

o PhD supervision

o Other projects with external collaborators

- Health and wellbeing

o Exercise

o Rest

o Mental health

- Social

o Social catch ups with family/school friends

o Close friendships

- Community

o Audiology community

o School community

o Local sunshine coast community


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