An interview with Joanne Lockwood, Founder & CEO of SEE Change Happen and Chris Merrifield, Founder of Burnout Fighter about stress and burnout.
Burnout is often described as a workplace phenomenon and can be dismissed as something that will magically disappear. As a result of this people often do not know the warning signs, or do not feel able to ask for help, should they need it. Research has shown how detrimental stress and burnout can be to a person’s physical and mental health – often affecting their whole lives and there is not one quick fix.
Chris’ aim is ‘for burnout to be recognised for what it really is and for treatment to be accessible and affordable to everyone’. He explained to me that currently a person’s mental health outlook can be influenced by their finances, with therapist costs often prohibitive and current NHS waiting time for counselling/therapy incredibly long. He told me that ‘the NHS only offer 6 counselling sessions, as though that is the magic ‘fix’ number.’
I asked Chris about his work on stress and burnout and he has, through his research developed strategies that he calls ‘the three m’s of burnout’, which act as both signposts and keys to coping. He described them as: Misconception; the idea that we may not understand who we are, or we struggle with identity change, so the concept of who we are has not changed as situations have. Maladaptive action: where we lack understanding of the way our mind, body and mood reacts to certain situations; and Mishandling; where people struggle to filter through the bombardment of information we receive.
In Chris’s quest to help those suffering burnout, Joanne suggested he advertised himself as ‘a stress buster for all people’, emphasising that he has worked with trans people in the past, which shows a level of authenticity and understanding. Joanne explained that a lot of trans people are locked in the ‘can’t’ phase – a vortex of stress where they cannot move forward or backwards due to fear of what may happen if they either do or don’t transition. She believes they could benefit from having someone to talk to who can help them unlock their pathway and work out what they are trying to solve.
In the fight against stress and burnout people need to be able to identity their triggers, often this can be a preoccupied mind, with constant noise. It is important to find a way to move out of this headspace, trying to find a vector and a velocity away from where you are. This may be achieved by going back to a routine where you have some control, focusing on the positives and then trying to move forward from there. You can break it down map out the options, the brick wall and look at available avenues. It is easy to become stuck in the ‘can’t’ phase and it is about trying to work past this – sometimes with the help of a counsellor/life coach.
I asked Joanne to describe pivotal stressful moments in her life and she said ‘there are two that I can pinpoint, the first was when I used to run an IT company, working long hours in a very high-pressure environment, shouldering the responsibility of the company’s success. I developed a reputation for not being a nice person to be around, both at work and at home. The second was when I wrestled with my gender identity, what this meant for the future and the impact it had on those closest to me. Looking back I know that both of these events have helped to build my resilience and allowed me to develop my own self- help system, so if not able to control a situation, I quickly move to acceptance. I now live by the mantra ‘control, influence, accept’.
Joanne also explained how it felt to be trans and transition and said, ‘it can be stressful and there are moments on the journey where people may experience rejection, stigmatisation, fear of losing jobs and entire loss of sense of self. I don’t believe these are any more stressful than other significant events that others go through, but in the moment, they can cause a lot of trauma.
I do think that trans people would benefit from GP’s having a better understanding of trans identity and how to signpost and support people.
If you would like more information on burnout or challenges affecting Transgender people then please reach out to Joanne Lockwood and she will be able to assist or sign-post resources for you.