A really enjoyable session where I presented the subject of stress and burnout by firstly exploring a diagram I presented called the Human Function Curve.  In this initial discussion I spoke about how we need activity in our lives in order to thrive and how having nothing to do is actually detrimental to our mental health.  We explored together the “Goldilocks zone” of human function where we have enough activity going on, combined with good wellbeing and self-care strategies to work at our best.  We then travelled past this point and considered what happens when we have too much to do and the impact this has on the way we think, feel and behave.

We did a 2-part activity in small groups where we looked at the Cognitive, Physical, Emotional and Behavioural symptoms of stress and tried to group these under these headings.  We then brought this subject back to us and looked at the symptoms and discussed how we experience stress – Do we experience one of the groups more than others or is this spread across all groups?  Some personal reflections were shared during this part of the session and it was great to see people fully engaged with the subject.

After considering stress I then spoke about burnout and specifically what makes a person glorify how stressed they are as if they are wearing a badge of honour.  We discussed a person’s need to feel needed, respected and feel valued by those around them and how a worrying response to “How are you?” is frequently “Busy, you?”.  This could suggest that a person is linking how they feel with being productive, as a way to communicate something about themselves to others.

I then discussed how people can find it difficult to say no and how having a lack of self-confidence, can mean people take on more than they can handle.

In groups we also spoke about the cultural impact of “what’s expected around here” in organisations but we also discussed the individual’s responsibility to challenge this and not collude with a toxic work ethic.  We then briefly discussed what we as individuals could do in the organisations we work in.

Overall a fantastic workshop where I felt that all participants were engaged in the subject and felt comfortable to reflect on their own experiences of stress and the impact to their wellbeing.

Finally, next time someone asks “how you are” and you’re tempted to say “busy”, consider saying how you really feel #itstartswithme.

Emma Campolucci

Lecturer for Counselling and Wellbeing courses