Stress solution: How to beat burnout

TIME OUT: Author and psychotherapist Siobhán Murray says we need to learn to be selfish

Siobhán Murray seemed to have it all but it came at a price. Now a psychotherapist, she has written a definitive guide on how to beat burnout, writes Clodagh Finn

THERE was a time when Siobhán Murray went to bed at 5.30am, now the Dublin-based psychotherapist and author gets up at that time.

“I love the quiet of the morning. I relish the peace,” she tells Feelgood, explaining that her life has gone full circle since her halcyon days in the music industry and later the buzz of being the head of communications (Ireland) at the fast food giant McDonald’s.

Those were the days when she was always switched on, always performing, and always ready to take on a new challenge. “I just kept saying yes to everything,” she says.

For a while, that can-do attitude brought her a lot of success; a first job with concert promoter Denis Desmond at MCD led to another in the same industry in London where she counted Elton John among her clients. At 24, she bought her first house and later moved back to Ireland to become the first sponsorship manager for the Ronald McDonald house. She raised €3.5m in just three years.

From the outside, she looked like the poster girl for the ‘yes, we can’ generation.

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5 Things To Give Up.⠀ 🤔 Doubting yourself - Did you know you are probably your biggest critic? If you're best friend told you their dreams and vision for the future, would you knock them back and tell them you doubted they could achieve them? Or would you support them and tell them to 'go for it'? Stop doubting yourself, whatever it is, give it a shot!⠀ ⠀ 😣Negative Thinking - Our thoughts can influence how we feel and behave. When you start thinking negatively about situations and events check in with yourself - are your thoughts based on fact or opinion? If they are fact then work through how you can change how you feel, if they are opinion based on no facts whatsoever then look at how you can reframe how you think.⠀ ⠀ 😳 Fear of Failure - 'Bliss lies on the other side of Fear', Will Smith. Most of the time we attach a feeling of fear to something we haven't yet experienced. Fear of failure, fear of judgement, fear of the unknown. Don't worry about what others think! Everyone will always have an opinion of you, let them! Be Brave.⠀ ⠀ 🤐 Destructive Relationships - So often we feel compelled to stay in friendships and personal relationships out of a sense of duty even when they are destructive for us. Be around people who lift you up not drag you down. Being involved in destructive relationships stops you from having time for positive friendships❤️ ⠀ ⠀ Putting Others First - When you are on a plane part of the safety announcement goes something like this 'in the event of an emergency an oxygen mask will drop down, please attend to your own mask first before attending others'. If you don't look after yourself first you won't have physical and emotional energy to deal with others. 😍 ✈️⠀ ⠀ What are you going to give up?? ⠀ ⠀ #burnoutsolution #fearoffailure #destructiverelationships #othersfirst #selfcare #breakingyourglass #positivethinking #oneday #youronething

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In 2005, she had her first son, Sean, and found herself with a demanding job, a mortgage, gym membership, a car — and a new baby. Two years later, her second son, Charlie, arrived yet she continued to push herself beyond her limits.

Looking back on it now, Murray says she was spurred on by a secret that she spent her adult life trying to hide: She left school without doing her Leaving Cert.

She says she managed to succeed with a “bit of white lying on her CV” and by always — always — saying yes. The pressure of coping with a severe case of imposter syndrome led to another significant contributor to her burnout: She began to use alcohol to get by.

“I would drink a bottle of wine to settle myself, to push down feelings and to be able to walk into a place with a smile. A drink allowed me to go out after work and be able for the next thing, a work function, a launch whatever…”

But something had to give. “I was like a swan, gliding on the top of the water but paddling furiously underneath.” The end — or rather, the beginning — came after one particularly boozy Halloween when she decided to give up alcohol for one month.

That was 11 years ago and she hasn’t had a drink since. Giving up alcohol was the biggest turning point in Murray’s life as it allowed her to understand who she really was and why she was putting herself under so much pressure. “I have never said I was an alcoholic but I was definitely alcohol-dependent. I couldn’t have cut down, I had to stop completely which I was able to do without any difficulty,” she says.

She began to reassess her life around her two non-negotiables — her sons, now aged 13 and nearly 12 — and enrolled in a six-week introductory course to psychotherapy.

There was no stopping this woman, Leaving Cert or no Leaving Cert. She went on to get a diploma, then a first-class honours BA in counselling and psychotherapy. Other qualifications followed, mindfulness and coaching among them. In 2010, she established a psychotherapy clinic and now runs behavioural change and mindfulness workshops and helps people to deal with, among other things, burnout.

She has first-hand knowledge of the chronic stress that leads to complete physical and emotional exhaustion and draws on that experience in her new book, The Burnout Solution, an easy-to-follow, frank and humorous guide to finding a calmer you in 12 weeks.

Lesson one: Get selfish. “I want people to start being selfish. We are a nation of obligers; we don’t want to put other people out, but it’s OK to say no,” she says.

The book covers different topics over 12 weeks, helping readers to recognise burnout, examine its causes, and then develop strategies to cope.

What’s arresting about the narrative is the author’s complete honesty. On page 9, Murray comes right out with it and admits that her life was deeply stressful around the time she wrote the book. She even lists the stressors and says the experience brought her close to burnout again.

This time, though, there was an upside. Feeling deeply stressed helped her write more vividly about burnout, but, crucially, she knew what to do and she sets it all down in black and white in a book that translates the lived experience into practical, doable tips.

(Top tip: If you don’t already, start to journal).

“I would love to have had a book like this myself in my 30s. [Siobhán is now 48] If it clicks with just one person it will have been worth it. Ideally, I want people to read it before they reach burnout. If you are starting to feel overwhelmed, you need to start looking after yourself.”

The Burnout Solution by Siobhán Murray is published by Gill Books, €16.99

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Reveal! I am delighted to reveal the cover of my book ‘The Burnout Solution: 12 weeks To A Calmer You’ which will be available from your local book stores and online from January! 🏔 We live in an era of ‘yes, I can’. We tell ourselves that whatever we want to achieve, if we work hard enough, we can do. But sometimes this results in something very different indeed – ‘no, I really, really can’t.’ 🏔If you recognise yourself in these lines, you may be on the verge of, or suffering, from burnout, a state of chronic stress that leads to physical and emotional exhaustion, cynicism, detachment, feelings of ineffectiveness and lack of accomplishment – many of the same symptoms of depression. 🏔Through my own experience of burnout and my work as a coach and psychotherapist helping people overcome burnout, I developed a 12-week plan for preventing and overcoming this condition. ‘The Burnout Solution’ walks you through a week by week path from understanding the difference between good stress and bad stress, towards renewed clarity of mind and an ability to prioritise the important things in your life. 🏔Learn the beauty of saying ‘no’ rethink your boundaries, find your ‘non-negotiables’ and regain your power, passion and sense of purpose. #TheBurnoutSolution #burnout #recovery #selfcarerocks #newauthor #coverreveal

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FIVE WAYS TO A CALMER YOU

1. Don’t underestimate the power of sleep. It gives you clarity and energy and lifts your mood.

2. Back it up by detaching from technology. Do not bring your laptop, your phone, Netflix to bed. Read a book (“Read my book”, Siobhán Murray says with a selfdeprecating laugh).

3. Become a bit more mindful of your alcohol consumption. If you are becoming more dependent on alcohol as a perceived destressor then it may be time to look at how you view your relationship with it.

4. Exercise. That does not necessarily mean joining a gym. Great if you have the time and the money, but exercise is as simple as going for a walk. Everyone can go for a 15 to 20-minute walk, or take two 10-minute walks.

5. Know your boundaries. Learn to say ‘no’.

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