Preventing Burnout as a Leader and Changemaker

Preventing Burnout as a Leader and Changemaker

Do you feel like there are never enough hours in the day? Do you crave guilt-free time with family and friends without that “to-do” list nagging you in the back of your brain? Do you long for some time for you, to just “be”?

I understand. I’ve been where you are. In December 2012, I almost burnt out. I had been working on a one-year contract with a non-profit that promotes women’s and children’s rights around the world. When the opportunity came my way, I was excited as I felt so aligned with their mission and values.

As I flew to several African countries for project start-up, I felt energized and passionate; excited to meet the teams on the ground and learn about their needs and how I might be of support. 6 months in, I started to feel SOoo tired and that there was so much to do and so little time. Do you relate?

I was initially hired to be a Senior Health Advisor on 5 projects in Asia and Africa to reduce infant and maternal mortality. That morphed to 7 projects in 7 countries. I was initially to be a member of a multi-stakeholder working group of four non-profits that had received a large amount of donor funding to hire a research institute to evaluate the combined impact of all of our projects in Asia and Africa. Within a month of starting the position, I was informed that I was the Chair of that working group. The Chairperson position became almost a full-time job on its own.

I was working night and day feeling so committed to what I was doing and wanting to do the best job I could. Near the end of the contract the non-profit invited me to stay on for another 6 months in a reduced role, 2 days a week chairing the multi-stakeholder working group. I was close to signing the new contract and asked to sleep on the decision. I awoke the next morning feeling like a lemon that had been squeezed dry. In that moment I knew that I finally had to listen to my body and take a break. So I turned down the opportunity. The VP and Director I’d been working with were shocked and asked me why. I said “because I want to create more balance in my life”. At the time I had no idea what that meant or what my life would look like but, but I started 2013 with no work on my plate, committed to reconnecting with family and friends and spending a lot of time in nature. I studied mindfulness, started to meditate daily and continued with regular yoga practice. I slept 10, 12, 13 hours a night and after 4 months was still tired. So I went to a naturopath who put me on some homeopathic meds and within a month or so I started to get my energy back and feel more like myself.

About 5 months in, the 7 keys to what I call Creative Living; 7 keys to consciously cultivating improved health, happiness, fulfillment and inner peace in your life, came to me. I then began writing my first book Learning to Dance with Life: A Guide for High Achieving Womenwhich made #1 on Amazon on launch day. It is a guide for women, as well as men, who constantly “give” and “do” out of balance with “receiving” and “being”.

Burnout and adrenal fatigue are reaching epidemic proportions. In May of 2019, the World Health Organization (WHO) revised its classification of burnout from a medical condition to an occupational phenomenon. Their definition:

“Burn-out is a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed. It is characterized by three dimensions:

  • feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion;
  • increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job; and
  • reduced professional efficacy. ” [1]

The importance of this change in the WHO classification is that it acknowledges that organizations and their leaders have a role to play in reducing workplace stress; rather than burnout being perceived as a personal medical issue, a sign of weakness and something to be hidden and ashamed of.

To learn more about burnout, its symptoms and causes see: https://pamela-thompson.com/how-to-know-if-youre-burning-out-what-to-do-about-it/

Proven Strategies and Powerful Practices

How can we as leaders and changemakers turn this epidemic around?  It starts with us, and our own lives. Here are a few strategies I’ve personally found effective and have shared with coaching and consulting clients around the world.

  • Integrate mindfulness practices into your life daily.  Mindfulness practices help us get out of our heads and into our bodies. They originate from Buddhism. Body scanning is a good place to start. Each morning on awakening scan your body from the top of your head to the tips of your toes. Notice any areas of tension or discomfort. Breathe into those areas and release them. Imagine them flowing out of your body. Mindfulness walking meditations are another practice. I recommend initially doing these 3 times a week for 15 to 20 minutes a day; for example, at a lunch break or immediately after work. Ideally do this outdoors in a park or in nature if possible. Focus on all of your senses. Hear the crunch of leaves underfoot, smell the salty sea air, view the beautiful vistas surrounding you, feel the wind on her cheeks. When thoughts come in to your head, imagine they are clouds. Let them drift by and resume focusing on all of your senses. Notice what you notice during the walking meditations and after.
  • Listen to and Trust in Your Body’s Wisdom. This is one of the 7 keys in my book. What I know to be true is that our bodies always know the truth. Many of us were raised in cultures that value and focus on our rational, logical left brain and staying in our heads. Mindfulness practices help us get back into our bodies, and learn to listen to and trust them. Try something as simple as when you feel tired, go to sleep rather than pushing through that last task before heading to bed. When a decision doesn’t feel right, try going with your gut rather than rationalizing a decision. For more tools that assist you to learn to make decisions using your body’s wisdom check out chapter 4 in Learning to Dance with Life.
  • Tap into and Express Your Creative Side. Is there something you enjoy doing that when you do it you become immersed in it and lose track of time? Could be film editing, painting, writing, gardening, cooking … . Chances are when you have this experience, it is one of your passions, and when you tune into it you are tapping into your creative right brain. Usually you feel energized and positive while engaging in a passion. When you are filled with childlike wonder you also get out of your head and into your body. Regularly taking time to do something you enjoy that is creative helps reduce the stress in your body and takes your mind off work.
  • When you feel stressed Deep breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth consciously making a noise on the out breath. Do this about three times and notice what you notice. This practice stimulates the release of the hormone oxytocin that relaxes us and makes us feel good.
  • Set firm boundaries; i.e. learn to say “no”. In order to do this it is helpful to clarify your core values  (For more info on values see https://pamela-thompson.com/do-you-live-in-alignment-with-your-core-values/) – and ask yourself: Is this activity or this organization in alignment with my top 5 core values?  Another question to ask is: Will this activity bring me joy? Do I have time to add this activity to my plate?
  • Celebrate successes – big and small. Rather than checking a completed project or key activity off your list and quickly moving onto the next, take time to celebrate it with yourself and with other special people in your life. This can be as simple as taking a moment to go inside yourself and acknowledging the work you’ve done and feeling good about what you’ve accomplished. It could be treating yourself to a massage, bubble bath or pedicure or going out for a special dinner with a friend or partner.

I invite you to commit to integrating two or three of the above strategies into your life starting tomorrow. If you would like to learn more about how to stay happy, healthy and grounded while being successful in life and business check out my book Learning to Dance with Life – www.amazon.com/dp/B0145ZGDO2 which is backed up by evidence from neuroscience, eastern psychology and the health-promoting and healing benefits of the arts.

I welcome your experiences and comments below. What strategies have you found successful in reducing work-related stress?


[1] https://www.who.int/mental_health/evidence/burn-out/en/

Lessons Learned from Creating & Hosting My Own Radio Show

Lessons Learned from Creating & Hosting My Own Radio Show

Since I launched my weekly internet radio talk show – The Art of Change – http://boldbravemedia.com/shows/the-art-of-change/, a number of people have asked me about my lessons from doing it, so I’ve decided to write a post on just that.

Here are some key lessons I’ve learned:

  • Get clear on your WHY – e.g. in terms of my show to showcase inspiring women leaders and changemakers who other women could learn from and be inspired by; to create a safe space for aspiring women leaders and changemakers to listen, learn and phone in weekly with questions.
  • Identify your WHO for the show – i.e. your primary target audience; which for me is “aspiring women leaders and changemakers”. That said, my show is also relevant for men and women of a variety of ages and backgrounds.
  • If signing a contract (e.g. with an internet radio provider/media outlet) clarify when and how the sponsorship benefits kick in
  • Clarify how the station will be promoting you – e.g. on which social media platforms and how often?
  • Plan your show well in advance; e.g. at least 6 weeks out
  • Reach out to people you know, like and trust to be on the show. Select them from your own network, invite others to recommend folks to you, look for people on LinkedIn who you think might be a good fit, connect with them and plan a call via Skype or zoom to make the final decision and to plan the show.
  • When inviting people for the show give them a tentative date to be on your show.
  • Clarify your expectations of guests well in advance and reinforce them close to the show date.
  • Download all of your shows so you have them to repurpose at a later date; e.g. perhaps for your website.
  • When interviewing guests, be totally present and be conscious of what value you can add to their responses.
  • Have fun! (and set that as intention with your guests)

I welcome your comments and experiences below.

Letting Go in Business: How to Grieve

Letting Go in Business: How to Grieve

In a recent episode of “The Art of Change” radio show that focused on “The Entrepreneurial Journey” – http://boldbravemedia.com/shows/the-art-of-change/ – my guest, serial entrepreneur and Founder of the Westshore Women’s Business Network, Deb Alcadinho, talked about grieving in relation to shutting down a business; and she recalled one business in particular that was challenging to let go of. On reflection, it struck me that in business we don’t usually talk about grieving[1] and perhaps we need to.

In the third step of the Art of Change Framework[2], “letting go” is the work associated with the ending phase of a change or transition.  According to organizational theorist William Bridge’s work, when we make a change it is important to do the internal psychological work, which he defines as the “transition”, in order to readjust and reorient ourselves to our new external reality. How often do we do this in life let alone in business?

I’ve launched four businesses since the early 1990s and realize that I didn’t take time to grieve any of them. When I no longer felt “juiced” by what I was doing, a new opportunity would present itself or I would think “What do I really want to do now?” and then think of who might be someone in that space to approach. Then, I would be off and running to the next project, or iteration of my business. I really didn’t take time between those changes to get in touch with my feelings or to process my emotions. So I’ve started on a journey to do that, and am openly sharing with you insights gleaned along my journey.

At this point in my life I am choosing to only do things that are fun and bring me joy. I’m noticing with my new “Art of Change” radio talk show that I’m energized, excited and having fun. I appreciate having a new focus in business and it aligns with my core values of contribution, adventure, connection and love of learning.

I’m also consciously filtering opportunities that come my way through a new lens; that of will it bring me joy and is it in alignment with my core values? Do I have space in my life for this based on what else I’ve committed to?

I love the feeling of spaciousness I’m creating. I consciously spend time in nature and notice when my body needs a “nature hit”. I look forward to my bi-weekly Women’s Circle and include philanthropic opportunities and a Women’s Business group in my schedule. I make time, more and more, for friends, and continue to cherish special moments with my partner and my family.

I feel like my priorities are shifting and with that a sense of no longer wanting to strive (which I thought I let go of years ago), but rather to thrive. To me that means awakening each day with a smile on my face and a song in my heart; feeling strong, healthy and flexible in body, mind and spirit; learning and growing through reading and courses; creating the program for my radio show; beginning to write a memoir; consciously tapping into and asking my heart and gut: What do I really want to do now? What will fill me up?

I consciously choose to let go of worrying about things I cannot control and instead choose to focus on what I am grateful for and what I can “control”.

In summary, how can we grieve in business? Here are a few helpful strategies:

  • Take the time to tap into and express your feelings if you are shutting down a business or changing direction. Ask yourself – How do I feel about this? Relieved? Sad? Lighter? It’s helpful to journal about how you feel. If you have friends, colleagues or a loving partner, you may find it helpful to share your thoughts and emotions with them.
  • Ask yourself: What is my experience with endings? Do you find them difficult? Do they cause you pain OR do you typically “Just get on with it” and not take the time to feel or process those emotions?
  • Celebrate and acknowledge your accomplishments. This can include spending time journaling about what they are, inviting clients and staff (and/or contractors) to a party to celebrate the end of that business and how everyone has contributed to it. It can be a small gathering of friends and colleagues who respect and honor you; where they can share how much they value you, how you supported them and you can also share your gratitude for them and how they contributed to your business success.
  • Reflect on and write down the lessons learned from that business (i.e. what worked well, what didn’t and then build on your strengths and learn from/shore up your weaknesses moving forward).
  • Make a list of what you are choosing to let go of and consciously release those emotions and beliefs from your body.
  • Remember that grieving takes time. Give yourself that time to feel, heal and to rest.
  • Spend regular time in nature. Being among trees reduces your heart rate, reduces your blood pressure and increases the number of natural killer cells your body produces (i.e. strengthens your immune system).
  • Practice mindfulness (e.g. body scanning, mindfulness walking meditation, listen to guided meditations).  These practices get you get “out of your head” and “into your body”.

I’d love to hear from you about how you’ve grieved past businesses. Does this idea resonate with you? I welcome your comments and suggestions below.


[1] “Grief is the conflicting feelings caused by the end of or change in a familiar pattern of behavior.” (source: https://www.griefrecoverymethod.com/blog/2013/06/best-grief-definition-you-will-find)

[2] For more on “The Art of Change Framework” refer to: https://pamela-thompson.com/fear-change-overcome/

Be Careful What You ask for …

Be Careful What You ask for …

While vacationing in Mexico a few months ago, I was lazing by the pool and decided to do some journaling. I asked myself the question: What do I really want in my life? Here are some of the answers that came to me:

  • I want a new project
  • I want to have fun
  • I enjoy interviewing
  • I want to make a positive difference in the world
  • I would like someone else to promote me.

Within several weeks of returning home, I received a phone call from someone from an advertising and promotional company out of New York specializing in internet radio broadcasting. They have a global audience that surpasses 50 million listeners. The representative said that his analytics department had found me on the web and they felt that there was a niche that I could fill based on my background and experience. We set up a time for him to give me the details. He said that the niche included women entrepreneurs, leaders, women in business, high achieving women, and those aspiring to be leaders and entrepreneurs.

I was then offered the opportunity to host my own weekly internet radio talk show.  It was to be my show, my own intellectual property that would stream live on Bold Brave Media’s global network and Tunein Radio to start and would be archived on http://boldbravemedia.com/about-us/.

I was excited about the possibilities so I signed a contract and embarked on a new adventure as an internet radio talk show host! It’s been fun the last couple of months learning about radio and being trained by the Head of Production, an amazing guy with 40 years of experience in the business. My home office now is a studio with a huge microphone on a moveable arm, and some BIG headphones!

I’m excited to share that “The Art of Change” radio show launches June 5, 2019 and will be live weekly on Wednesdays from 3 to 4 pm Pacific/6 to 7 pm Eastern. The first show will lay the foundation for future shows and will focus on change, the impacts of resisting versus embracing it, and will walk you through a practical process and strategies to embrace change. In future shows, I will be interviewing inspiring women leaders and changemakers from around the globe and asking them questions about key changes they’ve made in their lives, key challenges faced and their lessons learned. You will have the opportunity to phone in to a 1-800# and ask questions.

The intention for the show is to create an informative, safe and supportive space for women to tune in to weekly and phone in (if they feel comfortable doing so) and get their questions answered about change, leadership, entrepreneurship, creating a social movement … .

I extend an invitation for you to listen to my first show on June 5th starting at 3 pm Pacific/6 pm Eastern and weekly thereafter at the same time. To access the show you can either download the Tuneinradio app on your phone (visit http://ww1.tuneinradio.com/ ) and listen there going to bbmglobalnetwork and then to the name of the show “The Art of Change”. You may also go directly to http://boldbravemedia.com/ at the scheduled time and click on the show on channel 100. If you’re unable to listen live, you may listen later or download the show from the boldbravemedia site under my name.

I’m excited to have you join me on this new adventure and welcome your thoughts and suggestions of topics to cover, questions you’d like answered and potential inspiring women leaders and changemakers to interview. Please share your comments and suggestions below or email me.

It’s Pamela Thompson signing off from “The Art of Change” radio show broadcasting live from bbmglobal network and Tunein radio!

What Are Healthy Organizations & Are They Possible?

What Are Healthy Organizations & Are They Possible?

In many organizations regularly working overtime is still a badge of honor.

I have a number of close friends who have been high achievers in academia, brought millions of dollars into their institutions, and who have been harshly mistreated by certain “higher ups”.

I have also experienced colleagues who have been undervalued and made to feel they are in jeopardy of losing their positions because they have proposed a creative solution in an organizational culture where maintaining the status quo is the norm.

Increasing numbers of high performing younger and younger women (e.g. in their late twenties and early thirties) are coming into my life having been diagnosed with breast cancer, mono, and/or on stress leave and antidepressants. Burnout and adrenal fatigue continue to be rampant and yet are often “kept under the covers”.

Since I launched my coaching business in 2009, I’ve coached a number of high achieving women and provided them with tools and support to change their lives from constantly driving and striving to healthier, happier, more balanced lives. I’ve recently realized that this is not enough. It is one thing to provide a person with tools and support, but if they return to a work environment that does not enable them to put those tools and strategies into action, it is rather like sending someone on a training and having them return to a workplace that doesn’t enable them to apply the new skills they’ve learned. It is frustrating, unsatisfying and doesn’t address all of the issues.

I realize that it is only part of the solution to provide high performing women and men with tools and the vision of a healthier, happier life. The other part of the equation is to change our organizations so they are healthier. 

I would like to start a conversation on this. What is a healthy organization? Is it possible to create healthy, successful organizations?

To start “the ball rolling”, here are a few characteristics of what I believe constitute a healthy organization. A healthy organization:

  • Treats their staff and management with respect
  • Is clear on their values and “walks their talk”
  • Values creativity and innovation and creates space to enable this to happen
  • Values and fosters collaboration within the organization and with outside partners
  • Is lead by balanced and mindful leaders ( See –https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/balanced-mindful-leadership-time-new-type-leader-pamela-thompson/ )
  • Recognizes that many of today’s issues are complex and require multiple disciplines and ways of thinking to address them
  • Embraces change and supports its staff and management to better understand and embrace the change process
  • Provides a physical environment that supports well-being; for example, a meditation room or garden, indoor plants, on-site gym, yoga and childcare
  • Makes a healthy profit
  • Gives back to the community

These are a few of my thoughts. I welcome yours in the comment box below.

 

 

The Power & Influence We Have as Women: How to Increase Yours*

The Power & Influence We Have as Women: How to Increase Yours*

Have you ever thought about the power and influence you have? I’m not talking about being the CEO of a company of 1000 employees, or a highly paid and sought after speaker, or best-selling author, although you may be. I’m talking about you as a mother, partner, sister, daughter, friend, colleague … . In your day-to-day life you interact with a number of people, and you have the power to influence them in positive ways.

Can you recall being in the presence of someone who really makes you feel like you’re important, that you’re being listened to and truly heard? What qualities make this person memorable? Do they look into your eyes, appear grounded and have their attention truly focused on you? Do they act genuinely concerned about your well-being? Are they truly responsive to what you have to say? Do they speak from their heart?

When we interact with others from a place of being grounded and from a place of compassion and inner peace, rather than thinking about the next thing on our “to do list” or reacting to something someone says, it affects the quality of our relationships and how people “feel” around us. It also affects how open they are to our ideas.

How You Can Increase Your Power and Influence

Here are some “tried and true” strategies:

  • Strengthen your relationship with yourself – A good place to start is to identify your unique strengths, talents and passions.
  1. Draw a chart with two columns. In the first column, write down all the things that you are good at, or things that come easily and naturally to you. They could be things such as, athletics, mathematics, writing, whatever you feel fits.
  1. In the second column, write down the things you enjoy doing. They could include being in nature, teaching others, using your body, playing piano…. If you feel challenged by this, think back to what you enjoyed doing as a child.
  1. Now look at both lists and circle the items that are similar or identical. Then review the circled items. Go inside and get in touch with the feeling each one evokes inside you. Does it excite you? Does it have little or no effect on you? Rate each item on a scale from 1 to 10 according to the level of passion you have around it (1 being “no interest at all” and 10 being “red hot”). I encourage you to do this from your body rather than your head.

When you take the time to “unearth” your unique strengths, talents and what you’re passionate about, you better understand why working and being with certain types of people and organizations light you up and others don’t. Then you can take steps to change your life so that you are working or involved with people, causes and organizations that “light you up”. You also inspire others with your passion.

  • “Do less” and “Be more” – When we are constantly “on the move”, with packed schedules and little if any “down time”, our minds are always active and thinking of the next thing on our “to do” list instead of truly being present and focusing on the person we are speaking with. Even if someone isn’t consciously aware that we aren’t focusing on them, their subconscious knows. It’s important that we create space in our days to “be”. Suggestions to help you to slow down and become more present include: spending time in nature, doing yoga, taking time to stretch and/or meditate on awakening instead of hitting the ground running, journaling regularly, listening to music you love and moving your body to it.
  • Give and Receive in a more balanced way – Many of us are socialized from a young age that it is important to give to others and to put ourselves at the bottom of the list. We are often made to feel guilty or selfish if we “give” to ourselves. Self-care is a “must”. We all need time to nurture our bodies, to relax and let go of the stresses in our lives. When we constantly give to others without giving to ourselves, we may become resentful and SOoo tired. When we are constantly “giving” and “doing”, our body is always in fight, flight or freeze mode and the stress hormones it pumps out eventually lead to burnout, adrenal fatigue, cancer or other chronic illnesses. If we want to positively influence those around us, it is important for us to look after ourselves and regularly take time for that bubble bath, walk in nature, lunch with a friend … .
  • Improve your relationships with others – When you take time for yourself, and are aware of how you interact with others, you can be present in your conversations, come to them with an open mind, and from a place of understanding rather than judgment.

Making a difference

I believe that we all want to make a positive difference in the world. It may be on a smaller or larger scale.

What are you truly passionate about? What problem do you want to solve and for whom? Perhaps it’s the communication challenges you’re having with your teenage daughter, or the frustration with a work colleague. It may be an issue you feel passionate about such as water conservation or climate change. Mine is building peace in the world.

Many of us have some fear around creating and effecting change, particularly when it comes to the bigger issues. By joining with like-minded souls, we become energized and are able to create movements that on our own are not possible. I love Margaret Mead’s often cited quote: “Never believe that a few caring people can’t change the world. For, indeed, that’s all who ever have.”

Here’s a poem I wrote that I hope will inspire and support you to be a positive influence in the world.

SACRED CIRCLES

We are all women

Connected through the ages.

From hunters and gatherers

To queens and ladies-in-waiting.

Despite our different origins and surroundings,

We all endure similar pain, anxiety, and joy.

Nurturing is what we’re known for.

Caring for the sick, the wounded, the children,

Tireless in our cause, to improve the lot of humankind.

Sitting in a circle with others, hands clasped,

I feel the energy of powerful women throughout the ages.

I feel their warm blood pulsing through my veins.

The time has come to right the wrongs.

The time has come for women to unite

And be catalysts for peace.

No longer can our voices be hushed.

The time for action has come.

Our feminine qualities of intuition, warmth and sensitivity

Enable us to intervene in areas of conflict,

To lead the way towards our vision of a nurturing and caring world,

A world with love, land and opportunity

For everyone.

Women in sacred circles have for centuries felt the energy and

Interconnection among themselves.

Now, more than ever, we need the courage to rise up,

To take action towards making the world a better place

For our families, friends, neighbors,

And future generations.

Will you accept the challenge?

Pamela Thompson, October 27, 2000

Here’s to YOU and to making a positive difference in the world!

I’d love to hear from you. What strategies have you found helpful to increase your power and influence? I welcome your comments and insights below.

*This article was previously published in the March 2017 issue of Eydis Authentic Living Magazine.