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Posts Tagged "resilience training"

Care of the Carer: Preventing Burnout and Maintaining Performance

Posted on April 10th, 2013 by julie

Are you in the Human Service Industry?  Do you care for your fellow man in some way? Professions such as, firefighter, police, ambulance officer, nurse, doctor, mental health professional, aged and disability care all fall under these categories

Let me say straight out: these are special people. They give and give and give and often they give more than they really have to give which sometimes leaves them burnout.

Now “burnout” is a term that has been around a very long time (since the 1970’s) and as often happens, we become desensitized to commonly used terms and often brush them off particularly if it applies to us. But I can tell you burnout is alive and well in the workplace (and it is not solely the ownership of the caring professions but for the purpose of this article that is what I am talking about today)

When I was in private practice, I would sometimes see up to eight clients a day for counselling. I always said it was like sitting an eight hour exam but it just kept on going day after day, week after week. One week, I worked with two women who had been raped. At this time of my life I had 3 young children and had become an expert in not taking my work home. But this week was different. I found myself thinking about the sad situations of these lovely young women. It didn’t take me long to figure out that I was burnout and if I was suffering in this way my performance was as a consequence compromised

So What is Burnout?

According to Wikipedia, “burnout is a psychological term for the experience of long-term exhaustion and diminished interest.”

Maslach and her colleague Jackson first identified the construct “burnout” in the 1970s, and developed a measure, the Maslach Burnout Inventory, that weighs the effects of emotional exhaustion and reduced sense of personal accomplishment

Maslach and her colleague, Michael Leiter, defined the antithesis of burnout as, engagement, characterized by energy, involvement and efficacy, as opposed to burnout which is characterised by exhaustion, cynicism and inefficacy

This in turn can affect job performance, physical health, mental health and relationships

As you can see, it would be much easier to prevent burnout rather than try to repair it

So let’s have a look at:

10 Steps to Prevent Burnout and Maintain Effective Performance Within the Helping Professions:

1.       Watch for your personal warning signs –

Your unique radar that tells you something is wrong within you system. This can be physical, behavioural, mental, emotional or relational. The sooner you catch these signs the better as the longer you let it progress the greater the possibility that your self awareness will diminish. It is common to have others pointing out the changes within you while you are busy denying these changes

2.       Know and implement your personal and professional boundaries

Personal boundaries are the physical, emotional and mental limits we establish to protect ourselves from being manipulated by others or simply to protect ourselves from a busy work and life schedule.  They allow us to separate who we are, and what we think and feel, from the thoughts and feelings of others. Their presence helps us express ourselves as the unique individuals we are, while we acknowledge the same in others.

It would not be possible to enjoy health, peak performance and healthy relationships without the existence of personal boundaries, or without our willingness to communicate them directly and honestly with others.

To learn more about this important topic read my blog:

“Organisational Skills for Busy Professionals: Developing Personal Boundaries in the Workplace That Save Time, Energy, Money and Relationships”

3.       Develop cultural intelligence

Here cultural intelligence refers to both the organisational culture you work within and the various ethnic and socio economic groups you work with.  Culture is always about “the way we do things around here”.  If you are at odds or incongruent with the culture you find yourself working within, it will take a toll on your mindset and wellbeing. We need sensitivity and the ability to adapt our behaviour to perform effectively while still being true to our own values and identity

4.        Understand your professional identity

This can be particularly difficult if you are new to your profession. It does take time and experience to develop. My suggestion would be to put it on your awareness radar and make it part of your professional agenda to pursue this.  Understanding and then being true to your professional identity will allow you to stand with feet firmly planted when the storms come to blow and blow they will

5.       Have a clear role definition

This is clearly linked to your professional identity but role definition translates more into what you do rather than how you see yourself.  Role definition gives clarity and with that comes confidence and assurance. Are you trying to be all things to all people? Of course this is not possible and simple revisiting your role may clear this up

 6.       Have both a preventative and crisis stress management strategy

Yes, they are different! Self care is truly about putting into yourself on a regular basis so you actually have something to give out. Crisis management is for those unexpected times that life and work can throw at us

For more on the topic of self care have a look at my blog:

“Achieving Work/Life Balance: The Secrets to Vitality and Success”

7.       Build your resilience

Resilience is a wonderful term that at its most basic means: “bouncing back when the going gets tough”.  Let’s face it, work and life does not always go the way we want it too. When times get tough, the question is always: “which road should I take, the road to being overwhelmed or the road to bouncing back?”

If you are interested in increasing your resilience skills then you may like to read my ebook:

“Thriving Not Just Surviving a Life Crisis: How to Bounce Back and Find Happiness Again”

8.       Monitor your self confidence and self esteem

When our self belief is down, our confidence goes down. When our confidence is down it is more difficult to make decisions, enjoy life, communicate our needs and protect yourself. Do a quick confidence check every so often just to know that you are on track

9.       Know your limits and your strengths

Knowing your professional limits will protect both yourself and your client. You cannot be all things to all people and you do not need to be.  Knowing your strengths allows you to give the best of yourself to others. If you are not sure about these things then ask a trusted colleague or your professional coach or supervisor

10.   Regular supervision or coaching

The helping professions can be lonely and taxing. When you make a mistake, it can have grave consequences for your client and most of us take this very seriously.  We need the opportunity to debrief after events and strategize before certain situations. Coaching or supervision gives you someone to bounce off, to give you another perspective, to learn from, to download with. Why wouldn’t you cultivate this very important relationship?

You may be wondering what I did when faced with burnout in my personal story that I shared previously?  Well I took rather drastic action and downsized my private practice. I knew myself and knew the warning signs were severe for me. My non negotiable was taking work home and I was determined to protect my family from my work. As life would have it, taking care of myself and my family led to other amazing career opportunities

If you would like further help for yourself or your organisation or to attend my upcoming course see below:


  • Personal and professional boundaries
  • Preventing vicarious trauma
  • Role definition and professional identity
  • Knowing your limits: Know your  strengths, manage your weaknesses
  • Resilience Building
  • Preventing burnout

 Just email me for further information at julie@sigmamindset.com  or phone 0430186415

Until next time

Julie Spain




Empowering Women Through Self Esteem and Self Efficacy for Professional Advancement

Posted on March 13th, 2013 by julie

Early in my career, a very successful middle aged woman came to see me for coaching. I must admit, after listening to her list of achievements – she was very well educated and held a high position in a company -I truly wondered why she was coming to see me. Then she told me that her life was a lie and she was terrified that her staff would find out how low her self esteem really was and how afraid she felt every day of her life

Over the years, I learned this was an extremely common problem.  Although some people seemed able to reach a certain level of success, they felt inadequate and knew that they were not truly reaching their full potential. Others were always held back by issues of self esteem and self belief

One study by a Sydney woman shows that when women are confused about their identity, at any level of leadership, they may have trouble advancing in their career

According to Suzi Skinner, a Sydney based business coach of SelfTalk who  conducted a three-year study on women in leadership that was supported by the Institute of Coaching at Harvard University, many women are confident about their ability to do their own job but question their leadership ability

Although there has been an increase in the number of female directors from 8 per cent in 2010 to 9.7 per cent in 2012, this still means the split is 90-10 in favour of men

Suzi explains, “the research I did showed that when it comes to leadership identify, we have been great at recognising a skills-based approach is important but not so good at recognising the importance of knowing how a person views themselves in that role. This is the area that I feel really needs developing if we are to have more successful female senior managers.”

Self esteem and self efficacy have an important part to play in women’s leadership identity and empowerment within the workforce

In looking at self esteem and self efficacy as a means of empowerment for professional advancement, let’s start by gaining an understanding of some terms:

Self image is about how we see ourselves.

Self esteem is about how we feel about ourselves.

Self worth is about the value we place upon ourselves.

Self belief is the trust that we place in our own abilities.

Self respect is about how we treat ourselves.

Self efficacy is defined by Albert Bandura as a belief in our own ability to succeed and our ability to achieve the goals we set ourselves

This belief has a huge impact on our approach to goal setting and our behavioural choices as we work toward those goals

According to Bandura’s research, high self-efficacy results in an ability to view difficult goals as a challenge, whereas people with low self-efficacy would likely view the same goals as being beyond their abilities, and might not even attempt to achieve them

So what are the benefits of high self esteem and self efficacy?

  • They contribute to how much effort a person puts into a goal in the first place, and how much she perseveres despite setbacks.
  • They increase self confidence which in turn engenders behaviours that will more likely lead to success in the workplace
  • With an increased comfort zone we experience less fear which means a greater willingness to give new things a go
  • Increased self confidence increases our resilience to not run from a challenge and not give up when the going gets tough which is one of the major factors in success
  • With high self esteem comes not only the feeling of being approved by others but also much more importantly, we approve of ourselves

So how do we increase self esteem, self efficacy and self confidence and enjoy all the above benefits at home and work?

The bad news is there is no quick fix to issues of low self esteem and self efficacy

The good news is that self confidence can be learned but it does take some effort.  I remember when I told this to a young client looking for career advancement. She looked incredulously at me and asked “I thought you only had to set goals and do the work for things such as career and finance?” This young person was unwilling to put in a little bit of work to change how she thought and felt and ultimately change her outcomes

In writing this article, I’ve really struggled to answer this question? I want to give readers “tips” but I also don’t want to trivialize what I truly believe to be one of the most important topics for us all.

Self belief is a little like pain – when pain is absent we do not even notice it but when present, it occupies our every thought. When self belief is strong we step out with confidence, when it is low life can be extremely difficult and achieving our goals virtually impossible

So here are a few things that I have found worked to help women increase their self esteem and empower themselves:

  • Raise your self awareness about specific ways you think and act. You can only change specifics not generalities so initially take some time to think this through
  • Put a gap between a situation and your response. It takes us a while to learn new ways of thinking and we need to exaggerate the learning process
  • Spend time educating and motivating yourself – talk to people who you admire, read biographies that inspire, listen to speakers who encourage
  • Get one on one help if necessary. One of the things that really saddens me, is how long people suffer before seeking help. The client that I mentioned first in this article, came to me on the 6th session and said “I don’t know how you did it but I am a different woman”  Just a few sessions and she left confident, able to enjoy life and move forward in her career
  • Understand and accept that you are not alone – most people have insecurities like you regardless of how they come across. We can find comfort in this truth and humans simply do better when they feel supported
  • Keep a journal for this specific purpose where you note situations, your reactions, what you said to yourself, how you felt and what you could say differently to yourself that would give you the results you wanted
  • Just doing something can increase our confidence. To quote Anthony Robbins, “Do what you fear, and the death of fear is certain.”Consider these two ways of increasing your comfort zone:
    • Systematic desensitization which simply means we take “baby steps” out from the inner core. We can do this by trying something new but small, staying in that place for awhile and when we feel comfortable, moving on to the next step. An example of this could be you would like to increase your professional networks but find building new relationships too confronting. Try tagging along with a friend you trust to networking events. Set a goal to introduce yourself to one new person each time and ask them a question about themselves. As people respond, your confidence will grow
    • In vivo flooding. This is exactly the opposite of systematic desensitization and involves jumping in the deep end with no “warm ups”. An example could be that you have been wanting to speak in public for work but are just too afraid. You may decide to give it a go, put up your hand to chair the next week’s meeting and trust that the nerves will abate sometime during the meeting

Try to remember that this is a journey or marathon and we train very differently for a marathon than a sprint. That being said, with the right help and tools, very quick results can be obtained in specific areas

This is an extremely big topic but if you would like further help you may be interested in one on one coaching or my course below:

“Women in the Workforce: Developing a Powerful and Positive Self Image for Professional Advancement”

  • Discover your values and beliefs: discover yourself
  • Unlocking emotional and mental blockages to success
  • Conquering fear and anxiety that stops you moving forward
  • Empowering yourself through ownership
  • and responsibility
  • Positive personal boundaries
  • Know your strengths: manage your weaknesses
  • Adapting to Change: The Essential Factors to Success and Moving Forward

Just email me for further information at julie@sigmamindset.com or phone 0430186415

Dealing with Fear and Anxiety in Business

Posted on May 15th, 2012 by julie

“I think that maybe inside any business, there is someone slowly going crazy”

Joseph Heller

In a recent study, 62% of BRW Fast Starters identified anxiety as the biggest personal problem to running a business

Basically, this anxiety was about the fear of the unknown

I know, we all put on a brave face to the world to show that we have everything under control and this is not necessarily a bad thing. Certainly, we want to exude confidence in our business dealings. But the reality of life is such that we do and will face difficult times. The question has to be how do we deal effectively with these difficult times and in particular feelings of fear and anxiety.

While I was writing this article someone phoned me and we got to talking about how difficult it is for businesses right now. Unfortunately, for many, they suffer in silence and isolation, never asking for help or support. The question posed during this conversation is why don’t business owners seek help and support?

Behind every fear there is an issue of safety and when we do not feel safe we go into flight and fight mode – a natural instinct meant to protect ourselves. This fear, anxiety and feelings of being unsafe, often cause us to make decisions that we may not necessarily make as we struggle to regain a feeling of safety, I suppose in some way to build our world of the known.

But business is by its very nature, unknown. This is in fact part of its allure, as entrepreneurs love a challenge but we need to be equipped to handle the fear and anxiety that can surface when problems arise in business and they will arise.

Here are six keys that if you implement will help you get through the other side of fear and be able to move forward:

Key #1: Accept that fear will always exist if you live a life worth living. The positive is, it can keep you on your toes. Fear is a normal and natural part of life. We are programmed to respond to threatening and unknown situations with fear. Learn to accept this, flow with it and move into the more rational parts of the brain to respond. For example, just stop and ask yourself “What exactly is happening here and how is it affecting me?”

Key #2: The only way to get rid of the fear of doing something is to go out and do it. After the first step, the fear will subside. As the unknown becomes familiar the fear will dissipate.

Key #3: You are not alone. Others feel this way. Network and find support. I can tell you right now there is someone who wants to listen to you and help you. But you must put the work in to find them. Do not give up

Key #4: Revisit your reasons for starting the business. Get out of the micro and into the macro – The Why! The Dream!  Fear can make us naval gazes and this only serves to cover up the problem and expand the fear.

Key #5: Use coaches or mentors – people who have experience with your issues. Every day I work with people having exactly these problems. I cannot count the number of times that people have left a coaching session with a completely different perspective and as a consequence a different feeling.

Key #6: Information is power – it will reduce anxiety and help you make better decisions. 80% of our decisions are made with 20% of the information – this is a recipe for disaster. Collect as much information as possible before making important decisions

Don’t allow fear and anxiety in business to cripple you. Rather face it head on and work with it and through it using the suggestions above.

If you want more help, this is one of the topics covered in my upcoming one day program: The Entrepreneurial Mindset Exposed

Until Next Time

Julie Spain

Business Mindset Strategist

Entrepreneurial Business Success – Don’t Quit, Think About Why You Started!

Posted on April 10th, 2012 by julie

What do you think the biggest enemy to your business is? Cash flow? Staff problems? Venture capital? No plan or goal? No effective systems? Of course they are all important but for me there is a much more sinister threat that is not often discussed in all those hugely successful business books. Of course by now you are asking – “What is it?”


You know that feeling when nothing seems to go right. When no matter what you do and how hard you work it is just not happening. You pour everything you have into this great new idea – your time, love, money, energy, passion. You give up all the things you love to focus on making your dreams come true. Isn’t that what all the good books say?

That you have to stay focused. Block out everything else in your life and give everything you have to your dream. This is how the winners do it. If you don’t believe me read Napoleon Hill’s very famous book “Think and Grow Rich”.

You know what? I believe them but it just doesn’t stop that terrible churning eating away at your stomach until you start to think – why am I doing this? It is just too hard.

Every so often I have days like this. Do you? If so, what keeps you going? We all realize that of course, if we do not keep going, then our dreams will not come to fruition. There is this wonderful experiment that was performed a number of years ago with preschool children. The children were taken into a room and told by the person looking after them that they had to leave the room. They put a marshmallow in front of the child and told them that if they could wait until they came back and not eat the marshmallow in front of them that they would receive two marshmallows when they came back. The worker then left the room and watched them through a window. Some children put the marshmallow straight in their mouths, others just licked them and put them back and others simply did not touch the marshmallow and promptly received another when the worker came back. This longitudinal study followed these children up later in life and found that the children who were able to delay gratification had achieved more success in their lives than the ones who could not delay gratification.

The immediate is not always easy and there is always something more enticing to do with our time than work. But history does show that the more we can delay gratification the greater our chance of success.

So what are some ways that I use to deal with discouragement so that I can keep moving my business forward?

1. Make sure you have good support networks. Sometimes you will really need to download a hard day with a very sympathetic ear

2. Give yourself some time out to enjoy your favourite activities

3. Try to mix with likeminded people

4. Have a mentor or coach (see my coaching page at http://sigmamindset.com/services/leadership-development-and-coaching ) it really is a prerequisite for success

5. Everyday come back to your commitment. What is it that you are trying to achieve and do you still want it just as much as you did originally?

6. You must have a strong belief that you can do this

7. An attitude that every problem has an answer – just make sure you look in the smartest places for an answer

8. One that I try and apply everyday is an attitude of gratitude regardless of the circumstances. There is always something to be grateful for

Until next time

Julie Spain

Business Mindset Strategist


Achieving Work/Life Balance: The Secrets to Vitality and Success

Posted on June 27th, 2010 by julie

Let’s face it – generally, we are not that good at caring for ourselves! Others maybe but often when it comes to our own wellbeing, we run out of time, energy and resources.

In over 26 years of working with staff and managers in the workforce, there is one theme that keeps recurring more than anything else – a loss of vitality due to feeling overwhelmed and experiencing burnout.

In fact, I was spending so much of my time with people going through basic self care and biochemistry that I put a video (How to Super Charge Your Energy and Your Life) online and now just regularly send client there

During a time of personal crisis (my divorce), I did something that is probably exactly the opposite of what most people do during crisis – I started a program of determined self care and balance. At the time, I had a very busy job with approximately 150 staff but I had a deep drive motivating me – to take responsibility for my children and knew, that there was really only one way for me to achieve this – I had to put into myself so that I could achieve the goals I had set myself – to take care of my children and build a new life better than the old. I found the time and resources to exercise, eat correctly, find emotional and practical support and yes, even have fun.

Think of a balance wheel made up of your five parts – emotional, physical, mental, spiritual and relationship (includes personal and work) and ask yourself the question “Where does most of my finite daily supply of energy go? Many people will answer that nearly 80% of their daily energy supply goes into the work section. Of course, this only leaves 20% to deal with all other areas of your life! No wonder we hear people say things like – “I feel so overwhelmed”, “There is never enough time in the day”, “I’m not sure if I can keep going”. Maybe these are the sorts of things that you are saying to yourself?

If so, here are 7 tips for cultivating balance in your life, by caring for each part of yourself so that you can achieve the health and success that you dream about:

1. Take care of your body.

This requires both the right food and the right exercise. Eat as close to nature as possible, cutting out the processed foods. Small serves of protein three times a day to combat fatigue and if life is stressful for you at the moment, cut out stimulants such as alcohol, nicotine, caffeine and sugar (nicotine may be the hardest so start with the other three)

2. Take care of your fitness.

Amazing things happen biochemically when we exercise – we produce good chemicals, such as endorphins and serotonin, and get rid of “bad” chemicals such as adrenaline and cortisol. Just 30 – 40 minutes of exercise at 60 – 80% of your heart rate will do the trick

3. Deposit into a “support account”.

Research indicates that people recover from crisis or trauma better when they have psychological and practical support around them. Isn’t this the basis of our peer support programs? New research (Dan Beuttner “The Blue Zones” ) now shows us that belonging to a community or family that gives and receives love and support actually contributes to longevity and vitality. If you have not been born into this sort of network, you will need to cultivate it and develop supportive networks so that when you need someone to listen to you, a listening ear will be available

4. Tune in to the power of purpose.

Dan Beuttner’s research has shown a number of factors that contribute to longevity and vitality. He found 4 areas around the world where higher percentage than normal, live to over 100 years. We have mentioned three of these important factors already: eat food close to nature, keep moving, give and receive love and affection and the final one is have a sense of purpose. Life purpose gets us up in the morning. It motivates us to press forward and do the best we can. In fact just having a job to get up to, helps us live longer than those who don’t. If you want to explore this spiritual aspect further I’d suggest Rick Warren’s book “Purpose Driven Life”

5. Unblock your mental and emotional blockages to health and success.

Our brain works with our thoughts and feelings on two different layers or levels, the conscious and the subconscious. The accepted belief is that only 10% of our mind is the conscious brain. Our thoughts, feelings and senses are greatly influenced by our subconscious. The subconscious is thought to make up 90% of our mind. Did you know that it is generally accepted that success is 90% determined by the mind and only 10% by the actions we perform. At this point we might start to realize the huge effect the mind with its thoughts and emotions, has on the outcome for our life.

6. Recognize and when necessary deal with your emotions

Did you realize that negative emotions can make you sick and keep you locked into the past? Yet positive emotions are synonymous with good health and success. Although we need to feel our emotions, they are not meant to control us. Take notice of them and deal with the situations that may be causing negative emotions. One way to do this is:

7. Keep a personal journal

Journaling has a number of benefits including:

  • a cathartic experience that allows you to experience and release emotions
  • the opportunity to concretize your thoughts and allow you to hopefully make more informed decisions.

There really are more tips for cultivating life balance than I can fit into this article but my hope is that you will choose just one of these and start yourself on the road to self care, vitality and success.

If you feel you could use some further help, then you may be interested in my one day course:

Achieving Work/Life Balance: The Secrets to Vitality and Success

We will be covering this topic and many others such as:

  • Understanding the importance of balance when it comes to dealing with stress
  • How to increase your energy and vitality
  • Taking control over your mindset and life
  • Actually leaving work at work
  • Dealing with emotions that can rob you of your joy of life
  • Increasing your performance and productivity at work and in life

Just email me for further information at julie@sigmamindset.com or phone 0430186415

Until next time

Julie Spain