Burnout – Don’t Suffer in Silence

Burnout. Burnout doesn’t discriminate. Whether you’re in healthcare, education, a caregiver or the corporate world, burnout can impact anyone.

It can often be a silent struggle. Many who are on the path to burnout or who are already there have personality types that lean towards honouring independence, not wanting to burden anyone, people pleasers, or people with huge amounts of kindness and empathy that take on the hard jobs, perfectionists, and “do-ers”. These people are often not used to putting their hand up and asking for help.

On my latest episode of De-Stress for Success, I explore what burnout feels and looks like, what the subtle signs are that may go unnoticed, and discuss strategies for both managing and recovering from it.

Burnout shares some common traits of stress but in reality it is very very different.

Burnout is a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by prolonged and excessive stress, often related to work or caregiving responsibilities. It is characterised by feelings of cynicism, detachment, and a sense of ineffectiveness or lack of accomplishment.

Burnout can manifest as a result of chronic workplace stress, demanding job expectations, a lack of control over your work, or an imbalance between work and personal life. You will likely feel overwhelmed, fatigued, and struggle to meet the demands responsibilities. It is recognised by the World Health Organisation as a serious health condition that can have a massive impact on your well-being and your ability to perform across most aspects of life.

It can feel like “your brain has powered down”. Like “you can do simple things to keep you alive and safe, like stack the dishwasher and get the kids to school, but more complex tasks via email, life admin and key work performance tasks are impossible” I’ve heard it said “your brain is in a fog, your limns are heavy, you are a shadow of your former self”.

Common contributors

Common contributors to burnout are:

  1. Excessive Workload: Being consistently overworked, having unrealistic job expectations, or facing unmanageable workloads can lead to burnout. This often includes long working hours, tight deadlines, and a lack of resources or support.
  2. Lack of Control: Feeling a lack of control over one’s work or decision-making processes can contribute to burnout. When individuals perceive a loss of autonomy, it can lead to a sense of helplessness and frustration.
  3. Lack of Recognition and Rewards: Not receiving acknowledgment for your efforts and achievements, or feeling undervalued in the workplace, can contribute to burnout. Recognition and positive feedback are crucial for maintaining motivation and job satisfaction.
  4. Poor Work-Life Balance: An imbalance between work and personal life, where work demands encroach on personal time and space, can lead to burnout. A constant feeling of being on-call or unable to disconnect contributes to sustained stress.
  5. Unclear Job Expectations: Lack of clarity regarding roles, responsibilities, and expectations can create confusion and stress. When individuals are uncertain about what is expected of them, it can lead to a sense of inadequacy and frustration.
  6. Mismatched Values: Misalignment between an individual’s personal values and the values of the organisation can contribute to burnout. Feeling disconnected from the purpose or mission of the work can diminish motivation.
  7. Lack of Social Support: A lack of support from colleagues, supervisors, or a sense of isolation in the workplace can contribute to burnout. Having a strong social support network is essential for coping with stress.
  8. Job Insecurity: Fear of job loss or constant uncertainty about the stability of employment can create a persistent state of anxiety and stress, contributing to burnout.
  9. Caregiving overload: Looking after family members, parenting children with special needs, feeling stressed and emotionally on edge and unsafe in our own home. It can feel like you are in survival mode, contributing to overwhelming stress and anxiety.

Professions

While burnout can affect individuals in various professions and roles, certain jobs and work environments are more commonly associated with a higher risk of burnout due to specific characteristics of the work. Here are some of them:

  1. Healthcare Professionals: Doctors, nurses, and other healthcare workers often face high-pressure environments, long working hours, and emotional strain, contributing to a higher risk of burnout.
  2. Caregivers: looking after family members, parenting children with special needs, feeling stressed and emotionally on edge and unsafe in our own home.
  3. Emergency Services Personnel: Firefighters, paramedics, and police officers frequently work in stressful and high-stakes situations, leading to a higher likelihood of burnout.
  4. Social Workers: Those in social work roles, dealing with challenging cases and often facing limited resources, may experience emotional exhaustion and burnout.
  5. Educators: Teachers and professors can face significant stress due to large workloads, classroom management challenges, and changes in educational policies.
  6. Human Services and Non-profit Workers: Individuals working in roles that involve helping marginalized or vulnerable populations may face emotional strain and burnout due to the intensity of their work.
  7. Customer Service Representatives: Dealing with challenging customers, repetitive tasks, and high call volumes can contribute to burnout in customer service roles.
  8. Information Technology Professionals: Long hours, tight deadlines, and the pressure to keep up with rapidly evolving technologies can lead to burnout among IT professionals.
  9. Corporate Executives and Managers: High-level executives and managers may experience burnout due to the pressure of decision-making, responsibility for the success of the organisation, and demanding work schedules.
  10. Entrepreneurs and Small Business Owners: The combination of high responsibility, financial pressures, and the need to wear multiple hats in a small business can contribute to burnout.
  11. Journalists and Media Professionals: Constant deadlines, high-pressure environments, and exposure to distressing news can lead to burnout in journalism and media roles.
  12. Legal Professionals: Lawyers and legal professionals often face demanding workloads, high expectations, and the emotional toll of dealing with legal issues.

Clearly burnout does not discriminate. Factors such as organisational culture, job demands, and personal resilience play a significant role in an individual’s susceptibility to burnout.

 It’s Often a Silent Struggle

Burnout isn’t just about being tired or stressed; it’s a multidimensional experience that affects every aspect of your being. It’s a relentless exhaustion that seeps into your bones, a persistent feeling of being overwhelmed by even the smallest tasks. You may find yourself questioning the purpose and passion that once fuelled your work, leading to a sense of disillusionment.

Recognising the Signs

Recognising the signs early and taking proactive steps to address these contributing factors is crucial in preventing and managing burnout.

In fact, recognising that you may in fact have it is the first step toward recovery. Its that recognition that this is beyond your every day feeling of fatigue, that it is prolonged, not going away by itself and it is not your fault. You are not simply being lazy, unmotivated. It is something quite different that needs pro-active help and change.

Signs may manifest physically, emotionally, or behaviourally. Physical signs include persistent headaches, fatigue, and changes in sleep patterns. Emotional indicators may range from heightened irritability to a pervasive sense of cynicism. Behaviourally, you might notice increased absenteeism, withdrawal from social activities, or a decline in productivity.

Here’s a breakdown of what may happen to you mentally and physically when you experience burnout:

Mentally

  1. Emotional Exhaustion:

   – Constant feelings of fatigue and being emotionally drained.

   – Difficulty coping with daily stressors.

   – Emotional numbness or a sense of detachment.

  1. Cynicism and Detachment:

   – Developing a negative and cynical attitude towards work, colleagues, or life in general.

   – Feeling emotionally distant or detached from others.

  1. Reduced Sense of Accomplishment:

   – Diminished feelings of competence and successful achievement.

   – A sense of ineffectiveness and a lack of satisfaction in one’s accomplishments.

  1. Impaired Cognitive Function:

   – Difficulty concentrating and making decisions.

   – Memory lapses and forgetfulness.

   – Reduced creativity and problem-solving skills.

  1. Increased Irritability and Frustration:

   – Heightened levels of irritability and impatience.

   – Difficulty managing interpersonal relationships.

  1. Loss of Motivation:

   – Decreased enthusiasm and passion for work or previously enjoyed activities.

   – Feeling demotivated and indifferent towards personal and professional goals.

  1. Depersonalisation:

   – Treating people as objects rather than individuals with emotions.

   – Developing a sense of emotional withdrawal and distance from others.

Physically:

  1. Sleep Disturbances:

   – Insomnia or difficulties falling asleep.

   – Disrupted sleep patterns, leading to poor-quality rest.

  1. Physical Fatigue:

   – Persistent feelings of physical tiredness and weakness.

   – Generalized fatigue, even after adequate rest.

  1. Headaches and Muscle Tension:

   – Increased frequency of headaches.

   – Tension in muscles, leading to pain and discomfort, especially in the neck and shoulders.

  1. Gut Issues:

   – Digestive problems, such as stomach-aches, indigestion, or irritable bowel syndrome.

  1. Weakened Immune System:

   – Increased susceptibility to illnesses and infections.

   – Slower recovery from common illnesses.

  1. Changes in Appetite:

   – Changes in eating habits, such as overeating or loss of appetite.

   – Weight fluctuations due to altered eating patterns.

  1. Cardiovascular Issues:

   – Increased risk of cardiovascular problems due to prolonged stress.

   – Elevated blood pressure and heart rate.

  1. Compromised Mental Health:

   – Increased vulnerability to mental health issues such as anxiety and depression.

   – Higher risk of developing chronic conditions if burnout persists.

Unhealthy coping strategies – such as alcohol.

Alcohol often goes hand in hand with high stress and impending burnout. Alcohol is an “easy quick fix” to numb, de-stress, cope and self-medicate with stress, uncomfortable feelings and unhappiness. It can also be used to try to seek energy to pick you out of a slump to do the heavy lifting and get through the chores and … well… life.

In reality, alcohol fuels burnout and vice versa. A burnout / alcohol cycle is a fast track way to a train crash. Please listen to my earlier episode on alcohol and stress to learn more about the alcohol and burnout connection.

 Managing and Recovering From Burnout

Managing burnout addressing both the symptoms and root causes.

Establishing boundaries is crucial – learn to say no and prioritise your time is important. This can be a really hard task if your willingness to go the extra mile, to do the hard tasks to keep the peace or to take on the caregiver role in your family – has been how you operate and how others see how you operate. So it can take a lot of work, confidence building, role playing and experimenting with various ways to establish boundaries.  A whole episode can be formulated on this alone!

Learn to Say No: Recognize your limits and don’t be afraid to decline additional responsibilities or commitments when you feel overwhelmed. Saying no is an essential part of self-preservation.

Regular breaks, even short ones during the workday, can make a significant difference: By this it is firstly becoming aware that taking a break is not a selfish act. Rather it is an act of survival. Checking in a few times a day and asking yourself how you are feeling, how stressed are you on a scale of 1 – 10. So many people that I know operate on a scale of 8 or 9 all day for the moment they wake up and walk through the door. But stress is accumulative. You need to release the valve through the day before you walk in the door. A cup of tea in the sun, breath exercises, a walk outside in some greenery with a mate, a laugh, an exercise, or as Prof Selena Bartlett says – to view a panoramic view.

Check your self talk: what do you say to yourself, are you ruminating, catastrophising or are you talking down to yourself. This can greatly impact your mood and behaviours. Try to be gentle and talk to yourself like you would to your nearest and dearest. With kindness, compassion and motivating love.

Delegating tasks is a skill, it is a part of boundary settling and it involves seeking support from colleagues fosters a collaborative environment, lightening the burden on you.

Another critical aspect of managing burnout is revisiting your goals and expectations: Set realistic targets and celebrate small victories. Quality should triumph over quantity, and finding purpose in your work can reignite the passion that burnout has dampened. Redefining what success looks like for you.

Joy in the little things: Make time for hobbies, spending time with loved ones, and activities that bring you joy and relaxation.

Regular Exercise: Incorporate regular physical activity into your routine. Exercise is a powerful stress reliever and can contribute to better mental and physical well-being.

Mindfulness and Relaxation Techniques: Practice mindfulness, meditation, or deep-breathing exercises to manage stress. These techniques can help you stay grounded and focused.

The Road to Recovery

Recovery from burnout is a process, not a destination and it is often not linear. Seeking professional help, such as counselling or even coaching, can explore the root causes and develop coping mechanisms. Taking a break, whether it’s a vacation or a sabbatical, can offer distance to gain perspective. But it won’t fix burnout. Those strategies designed above will set you on the right path.

Building a support network is equally essential. As is self compassion. Go slow. Be patient and kind to yourself.

Time to Recover

The average time it takes for a person to recover from burnout can vary significantly based on individual factors, the severity of burnout, and the effectiveness of coping strategies and support systems. There is no one-size-fits-all answer, as recovery is a highly personal and nuanced process. However, here are some general observations:

  1. Mild Burnout:

   – Individuals experiencing mild burnout symptoms may see improvement within a few weeks to a couple of months with proactive self-care, lifestyle adjustments, and support.

  1. Moderate Burnout:

   – For those with more moderate burnout, recovery may take several months. It often involves a combination of addressing workplace stressors, implementing coping mechanisms, and seeking professional support.

  1. Severe Burnout:

   – Severe burnout, characterized by profound physical and mental exhaustion, can lead to a more extended recovery period. It might take several months to a year or more to regain full functioning and well-being.

  1. Chronic Burnout:

   – Chronic burnout, where symptoms have persisted for an extended period, may require a more prolonged recovery timeline. Addressing underlying issues and making significant lifestyle changes may be necessary.

  1. Ongoing Maintenance:

   – Even after the acute phase of burnout, individuals may need to continue practicing self-care, maintaining a healthy work-life balance, and implementing stress-management strategies to prevent relapse.

Factors such as the presence of underlying health conditions, the level of social support, the effectiveness of coping mechanisms, and the ability to make positive changes in the work environment all contribute to the timeline for recovery.

Ultimately, the key to recovery from burnout lies in recognizing the signs early, addressing contributing factors, and adopting sustainable lifestyle changes to promote overall well-being.

Preventing burnout is crucial for maintaining overall well-being and sustained productivity.

By implementing these tips, you can proactively address stressors, foster a healthy work environment, and reduce the risk of burnout. Remember that preventing burnout is an ongoing process, and it requires consistent effort to maintain a sustainable and fulfilling work-life balance.

Conclusion

In a world that often glorifies hustle and constant productivity, burnout can sneak up on you. So try to getting early and recognise some of these symptoms before you are forced to do so. By acknowledging the silent struggle, understanding the signs, and actively managing and recovering, we can reclaim our sense of balance and purpose. Let’s cultivate a culture that values not just productivity but the holistic well-being of individuals.

Labelling drinking or not drinking as “good” or “bad” can set yourself up for a stressful ride and perhaps failure

 Drinking is not good or bad. It just is.

When trying not to drink or to drink less, it’s easy to fall into the trap of labelling not drinking “being good” and drinking occasions as “being bad.” However labelling drinking as “good” or “bad” can set yourself up for a stressful ride and perhaps failure.

Here is why.

The All-or-Nothing Mentality: Guilt, shame, demotivation and deprivation!

Labelling drinking as “good” or “bad” tends to foster an all-or-nothing mentality.

When we perceive a drinking occasion as “bad,” a single slip-up can trigger feelings of failure. This mindset discourages resilience and makes it challenging to bounce back from setbacks, hindering long-term success from reflecting on what happened constructively.

Likewise, when we perceive our non-drinking phase as “good”, we can feel under pressure to perform, be “perfect” and keep up the hard work, attracting feelings of deprivation. What can also happen is that when your goal is achieved (ie 2 “good days” in a row, 100 days or FebFast), you can feel a sudden urge to relax, cave in and reward yourself with a few.

Rather than viewing your alcohol-free goals as something that has a start date and end date or an event that is to be “won” or “lost”, view it as something that can either lead you to feel more energetic and healthier or fatigued and unwell. Can you think of it as the new normal that you strive for with no “win” or “lose” values attached to it?

Rigidity and Unrealistic Standards is exhausting!

Labelling yourself good or bad if you drink or not can contribute to the establishment of rigid and unrealistic standards. This rigidity makes it difficult to maintain a balanced and sustainable approach to your health goals around alcohol.

It’s exhausting to be perfect all the time! Anxiety and stress becomes proportionate to whether you are meeting your self-imposed standards and may overshadow the positive aspects of adopting healthier habits. The pressure to adhere to these standards may lead to burnout or abandonment of the pursuit of a not drinking, leading to a big drinking session.

Attaching moral judgements to our drinking choices can be counterproductive. 

The fact is you are a good person now. You are a good person if you drink. You are a good person if you do not. Attaching your self-worth to an external substance is mis-directed and it gives alcohol way too much power in determining your happiness and stress levels. We are much more than a person who drinks or doesn’t drink. We are humans doing the best we can striving to live in accordance with our values.

So, let’s break free from this good / bad, success / failure paradigm.

Reframe

Instead:

  • Acknowledge. Recognise when you notice yourself labelling your not drinking days as “being good” and any data points as “being bad”.
  • Feeling-based goal. Go-back to your feeling-based goal around alcohol. My goal each day is to feel “calm”, “energetic”, “self-confident” as opposed to “my goal is to not drink for February”. You know what yours is!
  • Know this. Your desire to drink is powered by your subconscious mind and all of the beliefs that it has gathered over the course of your life in your internal and external environment around alcohol that has told you that this external substance will enhance you.This is not true. These beliefs are not your fault. Your beliefs around alcohol do not determine if you are a good or bad person. You are human and are doing your best.
  • Reframe. Instead, go with compassion and get curious about your limiting beliefs and all of your personal internal stories that you have been exposed to that is fuelling your desire. Put them on trial and turn them around using the ACT technique.
  • New mantra. Try saying. “My goal is to feel stronger, healthier, happier and I know that I feel better when I am not drinking. I know I feel better waking up without a hangover. This is based on evidence. I am a good person. I will always be a good person. Drinking or not drinking is not a reflection of whether I am good or bad. It just is.

Does this resonate with you?

Book in for a confidential free no obligation chat if you would like to talk about your drinking or not drinking goals: Book here.

Kind regards

Isabella

Why Knowing Your Core Values is Key to Curating A Successful Life

It’s easy to lose sight of what’s truly important to us. In my latest podcast episode of De-Stress for Success, I discuss how our personal values have a profound impact on our journey towards a fulfilling life.

We all stand at a crossroad in life at some point, questioning the essentials that shape our existence and future. In these moments, understanding and aligning with our core values can be the lighthouse guiding us through uncertainty. The earliest values we adopt often serve as benchmarks for our satisfaction, and it’s crucial to recognise that daily actions in sync with these values can significantly reduce stress and inject meaning into every facet of life.

My discussion centres on the tools necessary for living a life that’s harmonious with what matters most to us, ensuring that each day echoes our innermost beliefs and vision of success. This is not just about self-discovery but also about applying this newfound understanding to make decisions that resonate with our values, releasing us from undue stress and moving us towards purpose and meaning.

Values are often innate, tracing back to our childhood inclinations and the fundamental traits that define us. However, they can shift as we navigate through different life stages. What might have once been valued—money, status, possessions—can later be eclipsed by the pursuit of family time, work-life balance, health, or creativity.

Defining your values begins with reflection on your life’s proudest and most fulfilling moments. By analysing these experiences, we can discern the common threads that define what we hold dear. The exercise extends beyond mere identification; it requires us to deeply consider which values resonate with us, giving us a sense of purpose and pride.

Think of experiences have made you feel truly alive, empowered, full of excitement and like ‘everything feels just right’. What were you doing in these moments? Who were you with? What were you thinking? How did you do it? You may have several examples, but you only need 2 or more to undertake this exercise.

Some examples that I know of that have been sourced from conversations I have had with others include:

  • Travelling to Nepal,
  • Breaking up with my partner just before the wedding,
  • Volunteering for Lifeline,
  • Volunteering for a youth mentoring organisation,
  • Standing up for a friend, studying overseas,
  • Undertaking a painting course,
  • Studying for my Masters on Environmental Law
  • Giving up Alcohol

What are the common themes in the examples that you came up with? Resilience? Creativity? Justice? Empathy? Creativity? Honesty? Friendship? Collaboration.

From these pool of values, choose the 3 top values that you feel truly resonate with you, feel right and excite you. Would your closest friends agree? Would you feel like these vales could guide you through tough decisions.

As we continue on this podcast series, I’ll emphasise the importance of curating a life that aligns with our definition of success. Identifying our values is foundational to this process, serving as a blueprint for crafting a life that feels authentic and fulfilling. When we understand our values, they become a powerful tool in decision-making, helping us choose paths that lead to a less stressful, more rewarding existence.

I encourage you to engage with this episode actively, to reflect on your core values, and consider how these principles can guide you in daily life.

It’s a starting point for positive change, for making informed choices that align with who you are and who you aspire to be.

As we gear up for 2024, let this episode be your catalyst for embracing a value-driven life—one that answers the questions of passion, purpose, and personal success. Remember, understanding your values is just the beginning. The real transformation happens when you align your life with them, creating a harmonious and satisfying journey.

Join me as I uncover the role of values in defining success and how living true to these values can be the essence of a life well-lived. It’s time to bring your personal values to the forefront and set the course for a stress-free and meaningful path forward.

Listen to this episode here or on your favourite podcast platform.

Secret Drinking Red Flag Alert: Sneaking a Cheeky Pour to Drinking Home Alone

In our latest Not Drinking Today Podcast episode, we tackle the topic of hidden or secret drinking.

It’s underground. It’s shameful. It’s dangerous and it is happening in households all around us. Many hiding their drinking look great on the outside (for a while, for years even) and many do not know why they are doing it. They want out, but it’s a really hard behaviour to fess up to. It’s very personal, runs deep and very confusing.

In this episode, I chat about the reasons behind this behaviour and its potential consequences. From using alcohol as a coping mechanism to feeling misunderstood, we uncover the triggers that contribute to hidden drinking at home.
Secret drinking… can be as ‘small’ as:

👉 Sneaking an extra cheeky glass without your partner knowing

👉 Drinking a glass or 2 before a party and denying it

👉 Hiding your glass (in the pantry? Behind the toaster?)

and it can turn into:

👉 Hiding a bottle (under the sink? in a drawer?)

👉 Hiding empties (and waiting until bin day)

👉 Drinking in a coffee cup to hide the alcohol

👉 Drinking home alone and denying it

Then grow into something quite serious, like

👉 Drinking in the morning when your partner and kids leave

The list goes on.

Hiding things, being dishonest about your drinking, no matter how small at first, can lead to feelings of emptiness (as no one truly knows who you are and what you are doing – even yourself) which contributes to the cycle.

Secret drinking often starts with sneaking an extra glass here, having a few drinks before social gatherings there. However, it can easily and quickly spiral into a full-blown hidden drinking habit that leaves you unrecognisable even to yourself. The way out can be fraught with challenges, but you are not alone! There is hope!

Hidden drinking often stems from a complex web of emotional needs, silent protests, and coping mechanisms. For some, it’s an expression of autonomy, a misguided adventure into the illusion of freedom. For others, it’s a reaction to feeling misunderstood or overwhelmed by societal and personal pressures. These motivations are often compounded by the dangerous cycle of secrecy, which can erode one’s sense of self-worth and perpetuate further drinking.

Through the podcast, I share my personal experience with this but also provide professional advice on how to recognise and address these hidden drinking behaviours. I really want to emphasise the importance of seeking help when physical addiction becomes a concern, and how vital it is to view the secrecy surrounding one’s drinking as a red flag signalling the need for change.

One of the more powerful aspects is addressing this type of drinking behaviour is radical honesty. This transformative approach involves being candid about all aspects of life, not just alcohol consumption. Radical honesty can foster awareness, create intimate human connections, and lead to a truthful autobiography that holds one accountable (see Dr Anna Lembke’s book Dopamine Nation). By embracing this level of openness, individuals can step out of survival mode and into a life of authenticity.

The episode also touches upon the societal disconnect between public personas and private struggles. Many who secretly drink may maintain a façade of perfection or success, while internally battling with their relationship with alcohol. My personal journey highlights the importance of aligning one’s life with true values and desires, a step that can lead to a more fulfilling existence.

If you have a story to share on this topic, please let me know! It creates hope for others. It invites those who might be silently struggling to step forward and begin their own journeys towards sobriety and self-expression.

Recognising the need for change and the desire for a life that resonates with one’s true self can be an exciting realisation. It’s a journey that can be taken independently or with support, but it always begins with the first step of acknowledging the issue.

For those seeking to understand the silent struggle of hidden drinking, this episode serves as a beacon of hope. Hopefully my openness and honesty can provide one person with a pathway to follow, shedding light on a subject that too often remains in the shadows. My message is clear: living authentically and in alignment with one’s values is not only possible but also deeply liberating.

Link to this episode is here

Being Magnificent in Midlife With Emma Gilmore

On my latest episode of the De-Stress for Success Podcast, I talk to Emma Gilmour of Hope Rising Coaching about the stresses that we face in midlife and how to tap into our magnificence.

Navigating midlife can often feel like a tumultuous journey, one where the burden of perfectionism and societal expectations weighs heavily on the shoulders of many women. It is within this context that Emma shares her transformative story on the podcast, offering hope and a path forward for those seeking solace in sobriety and self-care.

Emma’s tale is not an uncommon one. As we age, our bodies and minds often demand a shift in how we approach stress and self-care. What once worked in our youth — the adrenaline-fueled activities, the constant push for achievement — no longer serves us in midlife. Emma speaks candidly about this transition, explaining how her engagement in high-intensity workouts and corporate life gave way to gentler practices. Walking, swimming, and dance therapy became her new sources of rejuvenation, each offering unique benefits to both her physical and emotional well-being.

Perhaps the most compelling aspect of Emma’s journey is her candid discussion around the role of alcohol in coping with the pressures of midlife. The narrative that a glass of wine serves as a deserved reward after a long day is pervasive, yet for many, it masks a silent struggle with dependency. Emma addresses this with honesty and vulnerability, shedding light on the often unspoken challenges women face in this regard. She delves into the harsh internal scorecards that many maintain, the self-imposed metrics of success that lead to overreliance on substances like alcohol.

Giving up alcohol, Emma reveals, opens the door to a new kind of freedom — a life lived with clarity and presence. Sobriety brings into focus the richness of everyday experiences, the contentment found in moments previously overshadowed by the haze of intoxication. Emma’s narrative illustrates the unexpected delights that come with a sober lifestyle, encouraging listeners to envision the possibilities that await on the other side of recovery.

We also discuss the benefits of Koya dance, a therapeutic form that facilitates a deep emotional connection and release! For women who have traditionally been taught to suppress their emotions, Koya offers a space to express and process these feelings in a physical and healthy way. It’s a form of self-care that fosters self-awareness and acceptance, crucial components in the journey towards sobriety and overall wellness.

The episode is not just a personal account but a beacon of hope for those facing similar struggles. Emma’s transformation serves as a powerful testament to the resilience that can be found in softer, more nurturing self-care practices. It’s a reminder that stepping away from the chaos and noise, and into serenity and mindfulness, can yield profound benefits in the quality of one’s life.

For those curious about the profound lifestyle shift that saying goodbye to alcohol can bring, or for anyone seeking to understand the deeper complexities of midlife stress and self-care, Emma’s story offers an inspiring perspective. It is a narrative that champions the beauty of living a life unfiltered by intoxication, a life where every moment is fully experienced and treasured.

Link to the episode here

Binge Drinking Like Your Teenage Self?

How can you re-anchor freedom and adventure with healthier behaviours?

Meg and I had terrific downloads and emails responding to our Binge Drinking Podcast episode and I’ve being thinking about it a lot of late.

A quick recap, binge drinking is defined as drinking more than 4 standard drinks in one session and  is characterised as drinking quickly with the intention of getting drunk.

So there really exists that desire to escape, numb out, abandon yourself and your responsibilities to some extent.

Drinking for the majority of us (not all though) started with binge drinking. We tended to knock it back quickly within limited time-frames without parents knowing. There was a hint of secrecy about it and it often came with a rebellious and adventurous feeling that embedded us within our tribe, and appealed to our need to spread our wings and operate autonomously from our parents and society.

In counselling speak: our feelings of adventure and freedom were anchored / attached with binge drinking behaviours.

It’s no secret that binge drinking is embedded within the fabric of Australian society. The cultural incentives, like pub promotions and discount nights, are designed to lure in the young and impressionable, further entrenching dangerous drinking patterns.

As we get a little older and our kids become more independent, many of us long to tap into something more adventurous and fun to escape the routine and drudgery of life.

So is it any wonder, our instincts are to go back in time to when we last felt adventurous and carefree, when possibilities felt limitless (or to go back the the behaviour where those feelings are anchored?). If alcohol was always involved in these formative moments, then it’s no wonder that we use alcohol now to try to tap back into that wild side.

I certainly found myself drinking like a teenager with my mum’s groups at long lunches, trivia nights and school fundraisers. It was honestly like being back in my wild crazy years on the dance floor and smoking the cigarettes. Ouch…

In hindsight, I was craving freedom, adventure, validation and laughter. Not to get too deep here … but my inner child needed a bit of expression! It certainly didn’t need endless bottles of champagne, sleepless nights and spiralling self confidence. I needed something purposeful to do as well.

What’s more, and I say this often, there is nothing more rebellious in my books than not drinking!

So if any of this resonates, just a query – in what other ways could you source adventure in your life that allows you to honour the autonomy and rebellious freedom you may be seeking?

Comedy nights? Bands? Early morning swims? Singing? Dancing? I’d love to hear them!

How can you re-anchor your adventurous spirit to new healthier (yet perhaps still a little crazy) behaviours?

Yours faithfully

What is ‘secret drinking’ and why is it important to know?

Secret drinking…

… can be as ‘small’ as:

👉 Sneaking an extra cheeky glass without your partner knowing

👉 Drinking a glass or 2 before a party and denying it

👉 Hiding your glass (in the pantry? Behind the toaster?)

and it can turn into:

👉 Hiding a bottle (under the sink? in a drawer?)

👉 Hiding our empties (and waiting until bin day)

👉 Drinking in a coffee cup to hide the alcohol

👉 Drinking home alone and denying it

Then grow into something quite serious, like

👉 Drinking in the morning when your partner and kids leave

The list goes on.

Hiding things, being dishonest about your drinking, no matter how small at first, can lead to feelings of emptiness (as no one truly knows who you are and what you are doing – even yourself). If you are hiding the amounts that you are drinking from others, it can be a way of attempting to hide it from yourself. If no one knows, then no one can give you support, offer a cautious word of advice and point you in the right direction for help. It can be incredibly lonely drinking alone.

Importantly though, the quantities and the speed at which you drink can rapidly escalate. It can become dangerous to your health and those around you (if you are looking after young kids).

So – being radically honest about when and how much you are drinking is important.

If you are noticing some sneaky habits creep into your alcohol use, then treat this as a red flag.

There is nothing to be ashamed of here (it is more common than you think) but be aware of where this can lead and reach out for additional support if you need it.

It also can be helpful to get curious and ask yourself why you are doing this? Is it for a reward? Does it make you feel connected to yourself? Does it help you do the ‘heavy lifting’ around the house? Does it help you transition from work to kids to work again? Is it an attempt to medicate depression? Are you looking for something else? Are you unfulfilled? Unmet needs? Is it an act of rebellion?

*This is a tricky message to deliver and can be quite confronting to address, but I believe this behaviour needs to be discussed more.

Do not hesitate to book into a 30 minute no obligation chat with me if you would like to discuss your drinking habits with me.

Booze-Free Starter Kit!

Everybody’s starter kit is different, but this is the one that I recommend to clients seeking to drink less:

1. Read This Naked Mind (@thisnakedmind) by Annie Grace

2. Listen to Making Informed Choices: The Truth About Alcohol and Stress (Ep. 2 of De-Stress for Success Podcast)

3. Listen to Jolene Park (@jolene__park) on Nourishing Your Nervous System and Neurotransmitters (Ep. 22 of Not Drinking Today Podcast)

4. Listen to Neuroscientist, Professor Selena Bartlett (@prof_selena_bartlett) on stress, alcohol, neuroplasticity and brain health (Ep. 34 of Not Drinking Today Podcast)

5. Listen to De-Stress with Breathwork and Yoga Nidra Meditation With Danni Carr (Ep. 3 of De-Stress for Success)

6. Download an app like @mindthe.sip

Huberman Lab’s 2-hour podcast on alcohol and its impact to our brain and bodies is also a great resource for those that want to take a deep dive into the topic.

Once you know the science around alcohol, what it does to us, why it gives us a dopamine boost for 30 minutes, following by hours, days, weeks of increased stress hormones, fatigue and the rest – you just cannot un-know this.

So if the desire to drink less has been present for a while and if it is on your New Year’s Resolution list, consider starting with this list here.

I would also highly recommend you back it up with a The Alcohol Revolution, my online self-guided 6-week alcohol-free program to change your mindset around alcohol to sustain long term changes.

Also, do not hesitate to reach out for additional one-on-one support.

It’s worth it!

Isabella

Christmas Special – Navigating Christmas Day with Less Angst Around Alcohol

Less than a week!

You may be eyeing off the 2023 finishing line and thinking “I’ve got to cut back the booze!”.  For those of you who have been finalising endless deadlines and pushing through never-ending work events, this thought is more common than you think, and for good reason.

Alcohol use can dramatically increase this time of year as a source of energy, social lubrication and relaxation. You may feel compelled to partake more than you want, nervous that you may miss out professionally if you drink less or abstain all together.

Alternatively, you already be alcohol free and want to remain that way for the foreseeable future. Your commitment can be tested at this time as alcohol just seems to be EVERYWHERE (more so than usual anyway….).

Drinking less at professional and social events now is a great decision if you want some fuel left in the tank to spend with family and friends over the holidays.

Here are seven tips that you can start now that will allow you to continue to enjoy the festivities but wake up hangover free. 

1. What does a successful Christmas Day look like to you?  

Play the tape forward and keep your eye on the prize. Consider ahead of time what a successful day looks like for you? Is it about socialising, circulating, being articulate, adding value to conversations, having a laugh (not being the laugh) and leaving before things get messy? Then keeping to the alcohol-free options is the way to go.  

The key here is to visualise a successful event. If you do this in a calm moment and visualise each step of the day, the limbic area of your brain doesn’t know if this occurred or not! So when you are there on the day, a successful alcohol-free day is more viable, do-able and stress-free.

A related tip is to set feeling-based goals. Would you like to feel refreshed, regret-free and energised at the end of the day? Feeling-based goals are more effective than behaviour-based goals, so think about how you want to feel afterwards and the morning after. More than 2-glasses will hamper this goal. 

2. Know that you will encounter ‘difficult people’  

Whether it’s a family member (or a few!), a colleague or someone in your social circle, there will always be someone around that will push your buttons. These people, for whatever reason, can activate your nervous system and increase those stress levels. In these moments we may want to seek refuge in a drink to soothe and numb. They may even try to bully / shame you into having a drink – nothing worse!

Have an escape plan that limits your exposure to this person. Plan some boundaries that keeps your psychological safety safe, even planning what you may say if they cross a line, and then find a friend to debrief with. Why comprise your health for this one interaction? Think of what your goto stress release techniques are (breath-work? a quick walk? hit the dance floor?!). Easier said than done sometimes but remember, you are in this for the long game.

Dr Rebecca Ray’s Difficult People is worth a read for extra tips. Alternatively, listen to my podcast with Dr Ray!

3. Delay your first drink (if you are having one) until after the meal 

Stress, no food and alcohol do not mix! You will be more susceptible to cravings if you’ve been working / running around all day, and you enter an event on an empty stomach (this includes coffee!). Work/family-stress on an empty stomach increases the release of stress hormones in your system. So, your blood sugars will be depleted, you will be tired and stressed and you will crave alcohol more. Prepare by eating foods rich in proteins and fats throughout the day, starting at breakfast.  

Another tip is to drink alcohol-free options for the first hour (call ahead to see what’s offered) and keep pushing back your first drink in 30-minute increments. You’ll eventually think ‘what’s the point?’.

4. Game Plan

One or two-hours spent at an event is enough time to circulate, network and leave vaguely refreshed. Certainly nothing good happens after four hours!

Family gatherings are harder as they can drag on and on over the holidays. So set some game rules. Exercise before the event if possible, take your favourite alcohol free options (I love the flavours of NON this time of year), and, if it’s a long family gathering, certainly take time to go for a walk. Also, create something lovely to go home to, like fresh sheets, dessert, a good Netflix show and an early morning exercise. Set a ‘go home’ time if you are hosting – honestly.

5. Getting over FOMO

Many people actually feel anxiety-related FOMO now in relation to not drinking on Christmas Day. Keep these thoughts in check by asking yourself what are you really envisaging when you think you will be missing out? Are you romanticising alcohol? Perhaps you are simply super keen for a fun and fabulous day with family and friends and you have never tried an alcohol free Christmas before. Think – what can alcohol possibly do to add anything positive to your day?

Reframe your FOMO and play the tape forward two ways. First of all visualise a Christmas Day in which you drink. Visualise it step by step, knowing that one glass will likely be many, will make you fatigued and lead to a hangover. Now visualise an alcohol free day. You will still be present, laughing, connecting, clinking a festive mocktail and doing all the things that everyone else is doing except for the one thing that will lead to a bad sleep and a dusty Boxing Day. I know which option I’d prefer!

6. Up-skill your alcohol knowledge

Read quit-lit, such as This Naked Mind. Listen to a podcast, such as Not Drinking Today. Join an online 6-week alcohol-free challenge designed to change your relationship with alcohol. Download an app, such as Mind the Sip. All of these things help bolster your motivation to change your habits.

7. Team up with an alcohol coach  

Why not join forces with an alcohol coach to help you reach your goals through this festive season and beyond? Most of us want to drink less, and seek out to do so, but if you keep breaking your moderation goals, a coach can help to strategise events with you, boost self-confidence, and change your drinking behaviours long term. Profound improvements to your life can be achieved by drinking less long term. 

Good luck out there!

You’ve had a big year, and you certainly deserve to celebrate and relax. Does alcohol really need to be a necessary part of this?

The fact is, it increases stress in the long run and impedes your long-term health goals. Why let your festive events hamper your achievement of these goals? By setting goals, being prepared and prioritising personal well-being, you can enjoy the holiday cheer without a hangover.

PS – Annie Grace, author of This Naked Mind will be our guest on Not Drinking Today on Christmas Eve!

PPS – Meg and I will be co-hosting our January 2024 episodes together to bring in the new year – tune in.

Happy holidays!

Isabella

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Introductory call

If you would like some support with your alcohol use book in a 30 minute confidential free chat with me below and we can make a plan together. Book now.

6 Week Alcohol-Free Online Self Paced Course

Are you ready to take a break from alcohol? Why not try my 6 week alcohol challenge (called The Alcohol Revolution), an online self-guided course designed to help you drink less. It’s not your usual run of the mill program. In addition to reframing your beliefs, we go deep into topics such as your attachment style, unmet needs and the need for radical honesty. Plus you get access to The Alcohol Freedom Library. Click this link below to learn more.

Finding Sleep in the Face of Stress: Expert Advice from Professor Michael Gradisar

Our day-to-day lives seem to be increasingly plagued by stress and sleep deprivation. Endless lists, spinning many plates…. I don’t know about you, but switching off in the evening is often hard and can require a strategic approach.

In my recent De-Stress for Success podcast episode, Professor Michael Gradisar, an acclaimed sleep expert and clinical psychologist, discusses the intricate connection between stress and sleep, offering practical tips to improve sleep quality amidst stress.

Professor Gradisar explains that stress often triggers physiological and mental hyperarousal, inhibiting the relaxation necessary for sleep. In contrast, insufficient sleep impedes the body’s capacity to manage stress, creating a detrimental cycle. Recognising these interrelations is key to improving sleep patterns and managing stress effectively.

Interestingly, Professor Gradisar debunked some common misconceptions about pre-sleep rituals, such as the impact of late-night television or alcohol. Contrary to popular belief, watching TV has a near-zero correlation with sleep disruption, whereas alcohol, while initially promoting relaxation and sleep onset, suppresses REM sleep, crucial for developing resilience to stress.

Professor Gradisar further highlighted the importance of sleep education, underscoring the need for reliable resources. From renowned sleep apps like SleepCycle to Matthew Walker’s podcast, credible information about sleep is pivotal in managing sleep patterns and coping with stress.

Sleep deprivation has far-reaching implications, from reduced work performance due to presenteeism (attending work while sick) to life-threatening situations, particularly for individuals in high-risk occupations. Professor Gradisar suggested several coping mechanisms for sleepiness, including strategic caffeine intake and mindfulness body scan techniques, to improve sleep onset time.

One key takeaway from the discussion was the significant role of cognitive therapy in managing sleep and stress. Unhelpful thoughts, excessive worry, and negative reflections often disrupt sleep. Cognitive therapy, while requiring time and practice, offers an effective method to counter these unhelpful thought patterns, promoting better sleep.

Finally, Professor Gradisar provides practical tips to enhance sleep quality, including the beneficial effects of natural light exposure and maintaining a healthy diet. He also emphasised the significance of resilience in managing stress and creating an environment conducive to sleep.

In conclusion, managing stress and improving sleep quality require an informed, multifaceted approach. Whether it’s debunking common myths or providing practical sleep tips, insights from sleep experts like Professor Gradisar can significantly contribute to our understanding and management of stress and sleep, leading to healthier, more balanced lives.

PROFESSOR GRADISAR

To learn more about the Professor Gradisar’s services, goto: https://winksleep.online

SLEEP CYCLE APP, SLEEP PODCAST, AND MIND BODY SCAN (AS REFERRED TO IN THIS PODCAST)

Sleep Cycle app: www.sleepcycle.com

The Matt Walker Podcast: https://spotify.link/1TG2QQyK3Db

Body Scan for Sleep: https://youtu.be/Euy4YsK_Bgc?si=uxYL7pHD68qQJErw

ALCOHOL AND SLEEP

To learn more about alcohol and sleep, head to episode 8 of the Not Drinking Today Podcast.

ISABELLA FERGUSON

To learn more about my services or to book in a no obligation 30 minute chat, head to: https://isabellaferguson.com.au