Let’s talk Burnout with Mark Butler
me&my health up podcast episode #68 – Transcript
Anthony Hartcher 0:00
Welcome to another insightful episode, and in particular an exciting episode of Me&My health up with your host Anthony Hartcher. A healthy man according to my kids, aka clinical nutritionist and lifestyle medicine specialist.
The purpose of this podcast is to enhance and enlighten your well being, and today, we’ll be chatting with the number one international bestseller co-author of What the hell do we do now? Mental health expert and strategist, clinical specialist trainer, facilitator, certified resilience coach, Mark Butler… Drumroll and we’re going to be talking on his new white paper that he’s recently released on burnout.
Mark helps leaders to be able to talk about mental health in a meaningful way, combining his clinical and commercial experience Mark works to upskill leaders to promote open and caring conversations, create psychologically safe workplaces, effectively reduce stigma around mental health and get in front of those issues that hinder peak performance.
So welcome. Hey, Mark, how are you doing today?
Mark Butler 1:13
Very good. Thanks, Anthony. How are you?
Anthony Hartcher 1:16
Excellent. So great to have you on the show again, because Episode 51, which we did together, which was on mental health and stigma was a great hit. So really keen for, you know, sharing with the listeners, the new topic that you’re? Well, you’ve just written the right white paper on and that that being burnout.
So let’s, let’s start with what is burnout?
Mark Butler 1:42
Yeah, it’s a very interesting question. Burnout is what the World Health Organization calls an occupational phenomenon. When they fought in 2019, it’s the first time it was ever kind of publicly acknowledged as being an issue and people jumped in it and said, all it’s a diagnosis.
Now there’s a diagnosis of burnout, but it’s not it’s, it’s and we have to be clear around that it’s recognized in some of the safe psychiatric models, etc and the classifications that physicians use, it’s seen as an occupational phenomenon, and by that they mean it’s real, and it exists and it’s close and possibly closer than we believe, or then we think, but you can’t go to your GP and get a diagnosis of burnout, but if you were burned out, you would go to your GP because of the physical effects and ramifications of being burned out and can cause significant and lasting mental health, physical and mental health conditions.
Burnout itself is recognized as a sort of a complex interaction if you like between three sorts of domains, that the domains being exhaustion, and you can break exhaustion down into mental physical, and emotional exhaustion.
So there’s you on the one hand exhaustion, the next sort of domain is something called cynicism and I think a better word is probably resentment. So that somebody who is experiencing burnout, and as a result of will say, chronic stress in their workplace or in their on their role, they’ll develop a level of cynicism, and it’s kind of stop caring, you know, and actually start to resent either the organization, or their boss, or their team, their peers, or even their customers, and the client base, and that’s when it gets really dangerous for an organization.
The third aspect of burnout then is what they call efficacy, or what I would probably again, a probably a better word would be our ability, or ability to do our job diminishes, even with the best will in the world that we want to do a good job. We’re just at that stage where we’re not concentrating properly, and we can’t give our best to the role.
In my experience, I have a lived experience of burnout from some years ago, and I found two things that are going to be that were very important to me, and the first one is I was the last person to recognize it or to notice it in myself and I think for your listeners, that’s a really, really important point because if we fail to recognize it in ourselves, we’re just going to carry on and not change anything, not change anything in our environment.
So you know, if I can just get to Friday, I’ll take the weekend off. If I just get to one then the boss will be off my back. If I can just get to the quarter You know, and then we’d be able to if I can just get to the financial end of the financial year if I can just get to Christmas and these, we just keep moving the goalposts on ourselves.
So as a result of that, we tend not to see what’s actually starting to happen for us and that was my experience was actually a took another one of the executives in the organization to pull me aside after a meeting one time and say, Man, it just works, don’t worry about it and I said, What do you mean? And she looked at me, I actually spoke to this person just last night, we were talking about this experience and I said, I said, So what do you mean? And she said, she looked at me said, You better go to the bathroom.
So I went into the bathroom, and I had a look, and there were tears coming down my face and even then I was looking at it, and looking at me like I was somebody else because I couldn’t make I hadn’t made the connection between this physical manifestation of burnout and what was going on in my head, and even then I got Jesus, What’s all that about? But it was at that point in this is some years ago that I said, Something’s got to shift here. Something’s got to change, and, and I did make the sort of changes that I needed to make to recover from it.
Anthony Hartcher 6:16
And those three areas sound very interconnected. So you mentioned the first area being the mental, emotional, physical, and the other exhaustion, and then you’ve got that cynicism, cynicism? And then the third, which I’ve just escaped my mind, so it’s efficacy. efficacy. Yeah, yeah. So like, if you’re physically exhausted, or mentally exhausted, or emotionally exhausted, then yeah, that’s gonna result in natural, you’d be more cynic about things because that’s the exhibition of that sort of how you feel right? And then, And then if you’re so physically, mentally, or emotionally exhausted, then your productivities obviously going to be lower.
Mark Butler 7:09
And actually, yeah, and what I found that I started to forget people’s names, even people I was working very, very closely with, and that’s just, you know, my brain was fried. You know, I spoke to somebody the other day, who said that he lost the ability to spell, you know, he was writing words that and he’s looking at them, and I go, what was it? What was I thinking, putting that in there? And then they start to question, am I being dyslexic? Or am I, you know, being you know, what’s going on here, but that’s actually what it is, is just our ability to function effectively is greatly diminished as a result of the sort of the trifecta here of exhaustion, and that sort of resentment and cynicism, and ability to do our job.
Anthony Hartcher 7:51
And it would all feed one another. So if you’re not doing your job, as you know, to the ability that you want to do it, too, then that’s going to affect your mental attitude, you know, in terms of I’m a failure I’m in I’m hopeless, I can’t do this and, and that’s gonna result in more cynicism and, you know, like, it just it feeds itself.
Mark Butler 8:13
It’s self perpetuating, it’s a bit like bushfires that are burning rapidly enough, kind of create their own wind by sort of burning off oxygen and creating the sort of that sort of flow effect, if you like. Yeah, so that’s really it is what happens and because it creeps upon us, we don’t tend to see in ourselves that quickly.
So somebody else is most likely going to spot it in you and actually, that, you know, there’s a great analogy here, that I often speak about coal miners, the greatest sort of risk or fear that anyone in the mining sector for hundreds of years, their greatest risk and fear was carbon monoxide. So in down the mine, something you couldn’t see, you couldn’t taste you couldn’t smell, you had no idea it was there until you actually seconded to it and you know, in my head, I immediately draw a line between carbon monoxide and stress in the workplace, right?
We don’t see it’s not something you can taste or pick upwards. It’s not tangible but to counteract that miners, pardon me used to bring a canary in a cage down the mine that the canary was always male because a male canary was seen indecisively in search of a female no matter where they are if there isn’t one around they will sing for one and so this was there, this was their way of testing their workplace.
So the canary came down with the mine with the miners during the shift and people listen out for the Canary and if you couldn’t hear the canary sing, and you went and checked on him to see how he was, and if he was kind of looking none, you know, not so good.
That was a warning. We’d better start thinking about getting outer here. If the Canary was on the bottom of the cage, right? Everyone dropped everything. We’re outta here, right? This is a dangerous toxic workplace and a problem for us, I think I draw the analogy between workers today and that Canary.
So we have to stop blaming the canary if, if our people are succumbing to workplace related burnout or stress, and we can’t, you know, our traditionally our response has been to build their resilience and make them stronger and more capable of, of facing the sort of stress at the coalface if you like and I think that’s the wrong approach.
Yes, it’s got a part to play but we have to stop blaming the canary and we have to stop looking for stronger canaries. You know, I think we have to start looking at the workplace itself and there are three, and that’s not to say we’re blaming workplaces, you know, there’s a business to be done and there’s work to be done, and it has to happen, but I think we have to look at job design suitability for the role does somebody are they clear on what’s expected of them?
Do they have some level of autonomy in their role? Do they? Do they have some sort of input? Do they believe that what they do matters? Do they have a sense of belonging to a team? Or are they isolated and now we’re starting to wander down into the hybrid works or the conversation, but I will say this, there is the three sort of main experts that I follow in this space, that is Chrissy Christina Maslach, and Michael leader, and another person called Jennifer Moss and their line, they all say that almost everything that causes workplace burn-related burnout is stems from organizational problems.
So, you know, burnout is about your workplace, not your people, and I think there’s a very, very strong element of that.
There are other types of burnout that people will present at work with, like parental burnout, caring for the elderly as special needs kids, etc. Or just taking on too many people can burn out from those things, and they don’t park that when they come into work. So So you know, but workplace-related burnout is an organizational issue, you can’t blame the canary for it, it’s we got to start looking at the distribution of the role and how that’s done.
Anthony Hartcher 12:32
And, you know, we’re still in the pandemic, probably over the worst of it. Have you seen more? More cases? Haha. Well, we, we both residing in New South Wales, I’m in Sydney. So I’m probably more recently you are?
Yes, it has been, you know, because it is given, you know, just hit all of a sudden, unexpectedly, you know, we didn’t really have a prior experience, one unless you live through the first pandemic, which there wouldn’t be many people alive, and so workplaces had to adapt quickly and that involves everyone pulling together working harder, longer to ensure the company stayed afloat.
So has there been an increase in the cases of burnout as a result of the pandemic?
Mark Butler 13:25
Yeah, significantly. So, and again, it does not just work-related burnout, in that case, you know, the increases in burnout, we’re seeing a is can be sort of aligned with the kind of blurring of the work-life relationship if you like, or, or became work, family harmony was the sort of new buzzword there for a while and haven’t seen that and come back for it a bit, but, but yeah, so that’s, you know, Can I switch off? Do I switch off, and if I don’t, you know, the organization is very flexible around me, sort of teaching the kids, whatever it is I need to do during the day, but then I have to play catch up in the evening, and now I don’t know the difference between when I’m working and when I’m not and I have to sort of be, be mindful of that, and be careful of that.
So So yeah, I think there has been an increase, there certainly has been an increase in the levels of burnout, and even in the levels of what people would consider being burnout. So as I said, you know, strictly speaking, you need to have exhaustion, cynicism, and efficacy in the mix in order for it to be sort of classified if you like as burn out, but, but if somebody says they’re burned out, then in my book, that means addressing and if that’s what they say it is, that that’s what it is, and we have to sort of supporting them around that.
Otherwise, it’ll just go underground and we’re back to that whole stigma and that sort of perceived sense of shame. The people have that the word good enough, that was my experience, you know, I should be able to do this job, I should be good enough to do it.
If I can’t, well, then I’m failing and we’re seeing that in the health sector more than anyone. Where else I think and again, it’s because you know, people enter into the health sector as a sort of a vocation or a calling, you know, and any first responder role really police, fire, ambulance, these are all people wanting to do good for their community, etc. and it’s in its enrolls in areas like that, that we’re sort of seeing burnout most of all.
Anthony Hartcher 15:38
Yeah, you just and you mentioned this lack of D linear – delineation between work life balance because of this new hybrid model. Have you got any tips on how to help people around this deadly delineation? So that yeah, so that, because I can see that as being a major contributing factor to potential burnout?
Mark Butler 16:01
Yeah, I think, and we all in our roles have to have to develop a mindset around knowing that we can switch off and knowing that we have to switch off.
I think Dan Siegel used to talk about what he called a healthy mind platter and by that what he was talking about is there needs, everyone needs to have some time where we tune out, and we turn off and we switch off, and we introduce some playtime and some introspective time and each of these different areas, and play was a very one, Dan Siegel was very, very sort of, I guess, you know, serious, he was, you know, some element of play has to take part and form a part of your day and that is when you’re doing something that’s joyful and brings you some happiness.
So, you know, the old adage, all work, and no play make Jack a dull boy kind of thing. There’s, you know, there’s a reason why it became a cliche, you know? So, in terms of tips, yeah, I think setting boundaries for yourself, and for others, you know, I, you might have seen this, I certainly have in emails in recent times, saying, I’m sending this at the bottom of the email a disclaimer, saying, I’m sending this at a time that suits me, there is no expectation on you to answer it until you are back in your workplace and I thought, that’s a nice idea, but it’s still as far as I’m concerned, you’re still alerting the other person to think about their role, unless they have switched off their phone and stuck it in a drawer, and I think we don’t really do that.
You know, scheduling times when you can switch off I think is very, very important and you need to have a strong boundary around that for both yourself and the organization. I think it falls on leaders to make that decision. I think it’s, it’s the law. Now in France, there are something like 12 hours in the day between 8 am and 8 pm are the only times you’re allowed contact your employees and if you fall outside of that, you’re in breach of you know, you’re breaking the law, which I think is a fantastic idea.
I’d love to see that introduced here, but of course, there are things like the gig economy here, globally now, is changing a lot of that and people are saying I want to work when I’m ready to work. Pardon me, which still view doesn’t necessarily suit the other party.
So being clear enough to be able to put your laptop and your phone in aircraft mode and just not receive messages. I think we need to be good at that but we also, we also need to look at things like sleep, diet, exercise mindset, you know, we talk about resilience, and organizations are probably bored of hearing about resilience as a subject, but I think it’s really important that we do, because I believe that resilience is how you achieve wellbeing, you cannot have, you know, a healthy lifestyle and a positive and constructive outlook, and a sense of momentum or happiness, unless you have a level of resilience that supports you to sort of advance despite adversity if you like, you know, not in not being an inclusive part of it, but so to me, well being is what but resilience is actually how you achieve.
And so, health is you know, sleep diet, exercise mindset, and we all know what we need to do. You know, we pay more attention to the battery on our phone and our laptop than we do to our own and that needs to shift I think.
Anthony Hartcher 20:00
Yeah, I absolutely agree with everything you’ve said, and you’ve touched on that point about scheduling time putting time aside prioritizing time and you know, you referred to that maintaining that resilience and to maintain that resilience, you need to be looking after your health and well being, and that needs to be a priority.
Mark Butler 20:22
If we don’t fix the foundation, no one, of the rest of its going to kind of slot into place, you know, and when you are more resilient, you’re much more likely to see stress in the workplace as just being that, you know, we’re going through a stressful period, or have got some budgets or deadlines to hit, and then got to hit them.
If that’s happening all the time, and we don’t have a solid, healthy base, we will succumb to that stress. Yeah, every single one of us has a correct as a breaking point, every single one and it’s just a question of how much and for how long that we face it, and because there’s a big difference between stress and burnout, they’re not the same thing.
Stress, you know, chronic stress will cause burnout but when you’re burnt out, you have no energy, you’re flat but when you’re stressed out, you’re probably your mind is racing, you’re energized, you’re bouncing from one thing to the next, you’re working long hours, and you did all of this stuff, there’s a different energy level to it.
You know, even thinking about it, you know, burnout is just but you know, even the phrase burnout comes from the sort of late 60s, early 70s, sort of around San Francisco, and it was hippies who were burnt out because they dropped out and they, you know, there was a whole chew nail, drop out all of that and that’s where the phrase came from and it was from that space that it was introduced into a sort of more corporate vernacular if you like.
Yeah, so there’s different energy between being stressed, and being burnt up, and, and we can tolerate stress if we are more resilient to it, and we have resources around us and both internally and externally. So we have to work on ourselves, and we have to work in ourselves and work around ourselves if we’re going to manage these things properly.
Anthony Hartcher 22:14
And, and you mentioned before the employer needs to set up that safe environment so that the employee actually can put aside the time to do exercise to get a good night’s sleep each night, you know, he or she is not interrupted during their downtime and, and so it’s really a two-way relationship that needs to, you know, make this successful, or in order to reduce cases of burnout, because like I mentioned, once an employee is burnt out, then the cost to the employer is enormous.
Mark Butler 22:49
Their salary and more, particularly if the cynicism kicks in, and they’d become disruptive to the rest of the team and become disengaged and sort of I looked away there, I actually had some notes here that I’d written that it was just listening to a suicide prevention podcast earlier on this morning and it was speaking to exactly that. You know, how organizations need to create an environment where people can feel like they belong, they have a level of autonomy, and that they have some impact on what they do matters, but some sort of control and how they actually perform their duties and how they do their role. Which speaks exactly to what you’re saying, I think, yeah.
Anthony Hartcher 23:33
I’m just picking up on a couple of words, you said, you said the autonomy piece and COVID have all the pandemic has certainly brought more autonomy around where employees work, you know, whether it’s at home, or they go into the office, but the other piece is escaping me at the moment. So
Mark Butler 23:56
Well, again, so it says, when I talk about is the autonomy, in other words, having some kind of say on how you perform your role and I think what organizations seem to be saying is when we had to shift very quickly to working from home, people found new ways of doing there, you know, completing their tasks, if you like and so, you know, I think, as we sort of progress into that hybrid sort of workspace, people are going to have to do a bit more than job needs to be done.
We’re not all in the office together, we’re going to have to figure out how to make sure that all of the roles and tasks are absolutely clear, and everybody knows what they need to do and if they find a different or better way of doing it when we’re not all in the room together.
There’s great value in that because people feel like that, you know what they’re doing is contributing. We’re a pack animal that we need to know that we’re doing that.
Anthony Hartcher 24:53
it’s just come to me the other point they are or what I wanted to pick up on was this sense of belonging which is very important for that work environment. So as much as there’s been some autonomy created, through, you know, where you work in terms of at a home or the office, this sense of belonging is something that the companies are having to grapple with because, you know, the more remote workers, you have that sense of belonging, there’s a disconnect, versus being in the office. So can you just share some thoughts as to what employers are doing in order to create better belonging in this hybrid model?
Mark Butler 25:33
Yeah, look, to me, belonging is an absolute, absolutely fundamental. When the, in fact, what’s his name Bessel, Vander Kolk, who’s a trauma specialist, and mental health specialist.
He says that the primary driver, the number one thing for all of us is to know that we are safe in the company of others. If you don’t have that, you’ve got nothing, you’ve got nothing to build on. Western society, rightly or wrongly, has always had this idea of being the best you could be climb over the top of everyone be at the front be number one, and perhaps there’s a cost to that I’m not sure.
As to, it’s a very, it’s a very big philosophical conversation but I can say that somebody who has a sense that they belong to a team is going to perform far, far better and somebody who feels like they’re not that they’re ostracized, or that they’re on the outside, and that they don’t have the same level of if they don’t have the same sort of level of connection that other people within the organization or with the team has, is going to feel like an outsider, and really, this old adage, it takes a village to raise a child.
Really, I think it takes a village, as a concept me, you know, it takes a team to sort of look out for each other, support each other and make sure everyone’s heading in the same direction and in order for that to happen, everyone needs to be clear on where they belong, and what part of the team they play, and it’s towards like for a leader, to be able to create that environment for people who are in the office for people who are not in the office that, you know, everybody needs to be involved, everybody needs to be sort of playing their part, if you like, a bit like a team captain running onto the football pitch, needs to know that everybody there is able to play the game and stick to the game plan and nobody is often you know, out of sight, sort of limping at the other side of the pitch, you know, because that’s just it’s going to affect the entire team.
So it does, it does take a village and it takes a village or it takes a village of the team of you know, your team is your village, if you like to support each other, and to ensure that everyone is able to contribute in the way they’re supposed to be able to do, and that takes clarity of job role. It takes a sense of belonging, it takes a sense of knowing that what we do matters, so like take a sense of impact, and for people to feel safe and if you’ve got all of those things.
So if they’re resilient, autonomous, impactful, safe, then you’ve got engagement. If you’ve got someone in your team who’s cynical and burning out, that’s like an infection because what we have this sense of belonging, if we’re feeling like that in the team, we’re probably going to try and recruit somebody into our cynicism so that we’re not alone, and we’ll start speaking, disparagingly about the boss or the team or other team members or the organization or the industry or the customers.
That’s a natural thing, and we’ll do it the whether we’re aware of it or not, that’s something that we will do, we will try and recruit somebody into our level of cynicism, and stuff like that spreads through an organization and through a team so quickly, you know, it causes disharmony, it causes rupture, and you people will be actively disengaged.
Anthony Hartcher 29:23
Absolutely. In terms of that, you know, you mentioned the importance of everyone feeling like part of this belonging that they feel supported by one another in this case of burnout identifying that someone is ideally you want to get it before they burnt outright so I guess is a tell-tale sign when someone is sliding off the slippery slope before it’s too late. Before it gets really bad.
Mark Butler 29:50
Yeah, look, there are and you know, and I usually talk about this probably well 10 or 12 questions that I would put in front of somebody if I was in this space around like, sort of things to notice in yourself? First of all, do you start to lose track of thought? Or do you no longer have to have time to engage with your family? Or in your favorite hobby? You know, Are you fully present in conversations? Or is your mind somewhere else? You know, are you? Are you getting enough sleep? Do you feel exhausted? Do you feel like, you know, you have a knot in your stomach all the time you’re eating or you’re not eating? Can you eat? Are you dropping the ball on commitments does that there’s a whole host of things, you know, where we find ourselves kind of detaching, if you like, from, from our outside world, the things outside of our little that would tell us that we are burning out.
And really then in terms of behavior, you know, can you push back? If you think you’re sort of succumbing to a level of burnout? Can you say no? Can other people say no to you, you know, if you’re a team leader, I hear this a lot from team leaders, where they say I know I have a great rapport with my team, we get on so well together, everyone knows that they can talk to me about anything, I have an open door policy, and we have beers on a Friday and lunch on a Wednesday, but that to me is actually a red flag. Because what that tells me is your people are so close to you that they don’t know where you end, and they begin, and they are going to be very, very slow to put their hand up and disappoint you, or let the side down or let the team down.
I was talking, I was at listening to a talk. I can’t remember the gentleman’s name, but he’s the mental health expert for the All Blacks, and he’s he was saying it’s incredible how many injured all blacks would run on the pitch and hide their injury because they didn’t want anybody else to wear the jersey even for the game just because of the risk of actually losing their place in the team, and when you got that level of commitment if you’ve got that with your own team and your organization where they feel that don’t wanna let you down or let the side down, you need to be smarter, far smarter at spotting when they’re probably struggling because you’ve got to have to spot it before they do. You know, so So if I was to give you a slogan, I would probably say burnout is everyone’s business. You know, and we need to be able to look out for each other.
Anthony Hartcher 32:25
Yeah, yeah. Because the colleagues around and may identify it’s before the manager does. and given that.
Mark Butler 32:32
Before the individual does, yeah, that was my story, and anyone else I’ve spoken to, I didn’t see your comment and didn’t know what it was when it was there. I just thought I’m under stress, I’m under pressure, but all of the other things started happening, and make no mistake, there is you know, there are physical costs, things like cardiovascular issues, digestion issues, immune systems, inflammation in the body, to say nothing of all of the mental health issues that can arise as a result of that sort of prolonged exposure to stressors.
Anthony Hartcher 33:12
What would you say to a listener, that’s thinking, Oh, this could be me, you know, I identify with everything, you’re saying, Mark, I’m feeling this and you know, that they’re working for the employer, they’ve got a major project delivery date or something they’re working towards, and all these telltale signs are emerging? what are your, I guess, top three recommendations to that person in terms of addressing before it gets too late?
Mark Butler 33:39
Yeah. To me, I think we have the first place you gotta go. Is your physical health, sleep diet, exercise mindset? Am I looking after myself the best way I can? So and that includes me switching off at nighttime, right? Deadline or not, you’re going to be of no value to yourself or your family or your organization, if you don’t take steps to ensure that that you can sort of managing yourself, that’s the first place you go to then the second spot speaks to your leader and try not to be afraid about it and you know, you can work this up using your own language, and it is that, you know, I’m not at my best and I think I’m succumbing to, you know, what looks to be burnout, or what feels like a level of burnout.
So I’m not able to perform at my best and I’m gonna need some help and support here and I’m giving you a heads up because, you know, this deadline is dependent upon it.
So a leader would much rather hear that than after the event, let’s say what happened, you’ve dropped the ball, right? So, if you manage those two things, first of all, then at least you’ve created the environment where you can reach in, you can get the support You need and you’ve acknowledged that something needs to shift in yourself and in your environment and if you do the first two of those, the next sort of part of recovering from burnout can actually occur and that is where you get your module back.
You address the issues that are causing the stress and burnout in the first place and you’re the best version of yourself. You can be. I say to people all the time, give it your best, but don’t give it everything you’ve got. It ain’t worth it. Yeah,
Anthony Hartcher 35:30
Yeah, well, you’ve lived it, and I guess and now you’re walking the talk because I could guarantee everything you’ve just said is what you apply on a regular basis in terms of you looking after your physical health? And is there any other gems that you’re doing that you’d like to share? That’s really helping you stop burnout because I know you’re in high demand in terms of the work you do with corporations and you know, supporting the mental health and well-being of their employees. So what is it? Is there anything that we haven’t discussed yet that you’re doing?
Mark Butler 36:05
I think, I would probably say, all elements of resilience, once you’re looking after yourself, all elements of resilience, I think are important things like having a vision, and goals, and they can be your own personal or they can be organizations and you know, regulating your emotions, etc. So that your composure and your tenacity, and the ability to collaborate with other people, I think these are all important aspects of resilience, but they require you to be healthy in the first place.
So as we said, that first place is held, second place is reaching out and getting the support that you’re going to need because you’re if you can’t see these things approaching, then you’re probably not going to be as effective trying to deal with it yourself. In terms of sort of, from an immediate perspective, I say to people all the time, breath, right, and that means switching off even for just a few moments.
You know, we might have spoken about this in our last session, I’m not really sure but there’s a friend of mine cash, and He’s based in Brisbane, and he had the task of teaching the Australian Federal Police around what he calls tactical composure, and they love that name because it speaks off.
Anthony Hartcher 37:31
We didn’t discuss it so please share it.
Mark Butler 37:34
So so, cash had to he was commissioned by the Australian Federal Police to teach sort of mindfulness and, and sort of composure and breathing exercises to the tactical response group. So Kashia arrived to present these guys and he’s you know, he’s looking at a roomful of big burly Federal Police, the tactical response to the black uniforms, the balaclavas, the rifles and all that, and they’re just kind of looking at this guy, and he was Jesus, what am I? How am I gonna talk to him, but his line was, I am going to teach each one of you what are called Tactical composure, and of course, the name tactical sit up and take notice.
Whenever everyone else around you was flying into a panic, and everything orders, high anxiety, and people aren’t thinking clearly, I’m going to teach you how to ground and center yourself and compose yourself so that you are calm and collected and in control. He said, and here’s the kicker, nobody around you is even gonna know you’re doing it.
So that sounds really attractive to somebody in a tactical response position and they said, great, what do we do? And he said, Well, let’s practice it here and now. So breathe in for a count of four, hold it for a count of four, breathe out for a count of four. Let’s do that a few times and they said, okay, great, no one else ad that’s kind of it really, and the point he was making to them was, this is the fundamental strategy for anybody who was in a heightened or anxiety, anxious state, or who was feeling sort of stressed out and a bit overwhelmed.
What’s happening is your fight or flight response in the body is triggered and it is designed to keep us alive. It’s a survival instinct and it doesn’t take any chances. If it thinks there’s any chance at all, you’re in some level of danger. This fight or flight response kicks in and what it does is it turns off the thinking part of the brain and it says I’ve got this brain and then it starts your breathing rapidly getting you primed, ready to fight or flee, and narrows your vision and you start to sweat and all of those things that we’ve experienced, you know, from time to time ourselves but the only way for your body to tell your brain that it’s okay, I’m back in control now is to slow the breathing down and that’s that breathing, that tells the body that we’re now out of danger and that we can sort of composing ourselves.
So when Cass was explaining this to, to the tactical response group, he said, every military organization and every tactical response group in the world uses this strategy and it’s called Box breathing, our combat breathing and, and even snipers will train themselves to shoot between breaths, and Olympians, actually, who was in shooting an archery etc, will. They’re so exclusively in control of the sort of pressure and stress of competition, that they actually train themselves to fire and shoot between heartbeats.
Right, so So you can’t do that if you’re breathing heavy right, so they train themselves to sort of slow down the breathing and to sort of trigger all of their senses, and this is what mindfulness is all about, but that’s, I think that’s a great story of teaching the people who are most likely to be in that space, that the most fundamental, easiest thing you can do, then, and is actually the most effective is to control your breathing because once you’re doing that, the rest of it’s locked into place.
So I teach people, those breathing exercises, that’s your goal to keep that in your back pocket in case you’re ever finding yourself stressed out and just learning somewhat, there are some other sort of slower breathing techniques. Tick, not Han was that Zen Buddhist, Vietnamese, Buddhist, he had a great one and there were eight words, and you repeated the words to yourself in your head, sort of, but so obviously, eight words, four breaths in four breaths and the eight words, I now use this all the time. In fact, I used it before we started here this morning, and so the words are, I’ll give them to your listeners. First word is in, so you breathe in on the in word out. deep, slow, calm, ease, smile, release, right. So that’s four breaths, and four breaths, and if you’re doing that, so in, oh, and so on and so forth.
You can do that two or three times, and it just brings your anxiety levels way down,
Did it for somebody yesterday who was in a panic attack in a bonding store? And we just did that three times and I said, Okay, good. I’m cool. I’m okay. Now. You know, it’s amazing, isn’t it, everyone’s looking for the magic switch, and the secret sauce and all the rest of it. Now breathing, if you can learn to control your breathing, you’ve got this.
Anthony Hartcher 42:57
And it’s free, and it’s with you 100% of the time. It’s magic. So great to chat with you again, Mark, another Super episode, and really keen for the listeners to know how to best reach out to you. If they’re, you know, an employee within an organization or they’re the leader, how to connect with you and get further support.
Mark Butler 43:21
Yeah best place probably send me an email would be the first one. So it’s mark at Mark butler.com.au. Or find me on LinkedIn, I’m always hovering around in there and I speak quite a lot actually around burnout and enrolling individuals can do.
So like on the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff for here’s what happens if you have succumbed, but also the fence at the top of the cliff, here’s how you can prevent it and then keep everyone back from the edge of the cliff that’s talking to leaders around how you can create the environment in your team, where burnout is everyone’s business, and we look out for each other takes a village to raise the village.
Anthony Hartcher 44:04
I love those concluding words mark, and I’ll certainly include the links will certainly your email in the show notes as well as the link direct to your LinkedIn page. So that will also be in the show notes. So the listeners can just scroll down and go directly to your LinkedIn page or send you an email.
Mark Butler 44:23
and just put my phone number on there as well. Yeah.
Anthony Hartcher 44:27
Okay, we’ll do Mark, and once again, I really appreciate your time because I know you’re in high demand. You’ve shared so much value today on the episode on burnout and yeah, I learned a lot and I love your storytelling. It’s it’s incredible.
Mark Butler 44:42
Yeah, it does bring it home, you know? Yeah. So and yeah, look, I am busy, but I manage my energy not my time. That’s kind of how I approach it. You know, I can’t dictate when people are going to ring and they’re in crisis mode. So I just make sure I manage my energy. We can all do that.
Anthony Hartcher 44:59
And yeah, We take you probably do that breathing exercise for the pro year I take the phone call, right? Yes. Yes.
Thanks again, Mark. I really appreciate it and to the listeners if you liked and found the episode really a value, please share it with others that could also benefit from Mark’s wisdom and stay tuned for more insightful episodes of Me & My Health Up.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai