Archive for the ‘Burnout’ Category


February 4th, 2018 No comments


Here is a beautiful illustration of a human pyramid, and having spent a cold, winter’s afternoon with my three oldest grandchildren (ages 7, 9 & 11), I had the clever idea that we could build a pyramid. I, of course, was on the bottom, and as I felt their bony knees digging into my back, I held my breath, not wanting to be the one who brought the youngest child crashing down from the top. The parents were out and I had images of rushing one or more of them to the ER for stitches. We did not stand up. This was an on all fours pyramid and a wobbly one at that.

We tried different variations–two of us forming the base, then one, and the smallest again on top. No matter what we did we laughed so hard that the structure shook and collapsed. The dog thought it was a game and licked as many faces as he could reach. There is a certain kind of joy in destruction. I’m sure that’s why people like to watch buildings implode.

Build to crumble. Make something that can’t last. Fall down with it. Roll on the floor like a kid. Or a dog. Mess up. I haven’t had so much fun in ages, and no one was hurt in the making of this memory.

(Image courtesy of Adobe Images)

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January 16th, 2018 No comments

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Henry and Rudy waiting by the door, watching the geese in the field.

I don’t  know about you, but I’m terrible at waiting. I don’t like to do it, whether stuck behind a car that has suddenly stopped for no reason, or in line at a restaurant. It makes me twitchy. But I recently heard a sermon about emptiness–really about how we have to tolerate “no” before we can get to a “yes”, and that helped me look at waiting a little differently. (And by the way, Henry and Rudy are really good at this.)

Emptiness is scary. It can make us feel alone, useless, uncertain. But the sermon I heard helped me see it’s also a creative time–a time of possibilities. It’s time when we can reflect, pause, breathe, and let go. It forces us to be present, and like meditation, gives us the gift of the here and now.

That’s my goal for the New Year. To wait, consider, take my time, see what happens.

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December 21st, 2017 No comments


My best and oldest friend, Nancy, makes these elegant ikebanas. They are a form of meditation and invite us to contemplation. Wishing all of you a good holiday and some moments of quiet to help you prepare for the New Year.

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December 1st, 2017 No comments


That’s no easy thing, is it? Believing we are enough just as we are. With what we have. Without someone else telling us how wonderful we are. Here’s what made me think of this.

I had an incredible fall. I was asked to speak to diverse groups, from an insurance association to library groups to assisted living professionals. Topics included stopping burnout, presentation skills, lessons from an unlikely therapy dog, and included a workshop on customer service. Then I got to go back to my college and give a presentation for English Majors:  “What You Have, Where It Will Take You.”

I was preparing, researching, creating PowerPoint presentations, rehearsing and finally getting myself to the conferences and giving the talks.  It was exciting and exhausting. I was running on super drive. And then, the engagements stopped and my phone was silent, and I told myself that this was good–that I needed to recover. (In the middle of all this I caught a virus and lost my voice–just to add to the drama.)

But after a few weeks, I was hungry for affirmation. I wanted someone to call me up and ask me to speak. I wanted to fill my calendar. I wanted someone from the outside to do the work I needed to do on the inside. That made me stop. As a flaming extrovert I like noise and excitement and affirmation, but I also know I can’t depend on it. So in this busy holiday season, in this time when the afternoons are dark by 4PM, when it’s getting colder, I’m watching, waiting, seeing what happens if I don’t need all that busyness.

My new dog, Rudy (a puppy nine months old), has the right idea. Stretch out on the couch. Take it easy. Enjoy walks in the brisk air. Pay attention. And he too likes to be told, “Good dog,” but I think he knows it even when the house is quiet and all you can hear is the cat snoring.

(Top image courtesy of Adobe Images.)


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November 16th, 2017 2 comments


As we approach the holiday season, I thought a little poetry might be a good gift. A way to pause, breathe, slow down. Here are a few lines from Rumi, the 13th century Persian poet, translated by Coleman Barks. This is the last stanza of a poem titled “A Bowl.”

“The universe and the light of the stars come through me.

I am the crescent moon put up

over the gate to the festival.”

(Image courtesy of Adobe images)

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September 17th, 2017 No comments

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How bad could it be? San Diego, the Del Coronado hotel, and an international group of life insurance professionals. Earlier this month, I had the pleasure of speaking to this group on two topics:  How to Stop Burnout, and Presentation Skills. As I stood on the stage in the Crown Room–underneath an impressive crown–I felt so lucky to be there and grateful for what I learned from this audience.

Some of the issues that were leading to burnout included:  trouble sleeping, feeling tired and sometimes afraid, losing weight, feeling overwhelmed and lacking in confidence. As we went through strategies to lessen burnout, individuals choose to exercise, keep a sense of humor, listen to music, learn how to turn work off, and to team up with others so that they weren’t facing work challenges alone.

For the afternoon breakout session, “Stand Out Every Time You Talk”, we practiced solid eye contact, and how gestures make your ideas come alive. Everyone had a chance to see themselves using gestures to describe, differentiate and emphasize key points. We talked about how to run an effective Q&A session, and what to do if the audience tunes out or is distracted.

Lastly, it was a magical place. I had never given much thought or attention to palm trees, but I fell in love with their variety, elegance, and delicate fronds dancing in the wind. The place itself–with flowers everywhere–was an amazing burnout buster. I hope everyone went home energized and ready to use their new connections and knowledge to have their best year ever.

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July 11th, 2017 1 comment

I was reading an article recently about mood boosters, and one of the suggestions–familiar to all my stop burnout buddies–is to practice gratitude. But when the dog pees on the floor, you have a problem paying a bill,  your children act up, work piles on more work, how can you be grateful? How can you get yourself out of a really bad mood?

This made me realize that each of us has a happiness recipe–something or some things that lift our spirits, make us laugh, give us perspective. One friend of mine uses humor, and her laughter muscle is so well developed, that she can laugh at almost everything. I find that being outside, taking a walk or zipping around on my bike, makes me feel better. Not 100% better, but less likely to snap. For others it’s giving back, and for still others it might be writing in a journal or painting a picture or taking some amazing photos.

Challenge:  take five minutes today, no matter how busy the day is, to think about  your happiness recipe. When you look at all the burnout busters, we know the things that help, whether it’s exercise, wine, time with grandchildren, giving back. The trick is to give yourself the time, the gift of turning yourself around. Ready for the challenge? Can you take a swim after work, or go the park for a picnic with your kids? Have a clear image of what works for you. Here’s mine–floating in the water with my twin grandsons! IMG_2765 (1)

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June 21st, 2017 1 comment

I love all the seasons, but being a bit of a speed freak, summer is a good season for me as it slows me down. I’m content to sit outside and enjoy the warmth, listen to the birds, mess about in the garden. It’s exciting to harvest the first vegetables, and this year, thanks to a lot of rain, my roses are amazing. Summer is also a nostalgic time for me as I remember my childhood summers:  long days of swimming, playing with my cousins and brother and sister, eating outside, going barefoot, hanging my legs over the side of my father’s boat as we explored the Connecticut River.

One of the lessons I’ve learned from summer is that slowing down doesn’t mean dropping out. In fact, taking time can allow the things that are most important to surface. For example, yesterday I had an endless of list of things to do to continue promoting my book, but because I wasn’t in a rush, because I sat outside and thought about what really matters to me, I decided that those things could wait. And instead I worked on a new book–one for children–called “Bella and the Cat Who Thought He Was A Dog.” And this story, came from an amazing thing my childhood cat did when one of our dogs was attacked by a neighbor’s dog. He rushed into the fray, scratching and biting the other dog, until he fled howling.

Where it goes is anyone’s guess, but it felt good to complete it and submit it to my publisher. As I told a classroom of high school seniors a few months back, there are many ways to give yourself the gift of time. One habit I’ve taught myself, is to arrive for appointments about ten minutes early. I know, I can already hear you thinking to yourselves–That’s crazy. I can barely make it on time! The challenge I gave the seniors was to do it for a week–get to school ten minutes early. And then notice how the day goes. Notice how your relationships change. Be aware how kindness blossoms when you’re not in a rush. It’s summer. Take a deep breath and enjoy it.


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June 6th, 2017 2 comments

I don’t know about you, but in my world, “chaos” is a bad word. It’s something I try really hard to avoid with my spreadsheets, calendars, lists (yes I know I wrote about this in my last post). I even plan our menus for the week so that I don’t have to run to the store at the last minute.

But last week, my husband, who volunteers at a local animal shelter, fell in love. There was something about this puppy that got to him. The next day, we brought Bella, our ten-year-old therapy dog to meet the puppy. She basically ignored him so we thought, “Oh, this will be easy.”

It’s not. Last Thursday Rudy came home. He was so frightened in the car that he threw up and pooped. Once we got him cleaned up, we walked both dogs so that they could meet again on neutral territory. Bella was puzzled but okay. But once Rudy came into the house (and he’s only allowed in the mud room and kitchen until he’s house trained), Bella snarled at him through the gate. She wasn’t any friendlier outside, but now, day six, we see small signs of detente. We had them both loose in the back yard and there was some avoidance, but no snarling. The ice might be melting. Our cat, Henry is stunned but won’t defend himself when Rudy knocks him over. Yes, we’ve got chaos. But it’s strangely okay.

I’m trying to take a kind of Zen approach to it all, to see what happens and to untangle myself from my normal expectations. Okay, not much work gets done. So what if the kitchen floor is dirty? He’s sweet. He likes to fall asleep in my arms. Maybe charm really is stronger than chaos. One day I hope he’ll be a therapy dog like Bella. I hope he’ll be able to comfort people who are hurting. Yesterday, when Bella and I were at our local hospital, we visited a boy in the emergency psych ward. He was only 11 and was in a room by himself. I asked him if Bella could get up on his bed and he nodded. She curled up next to him. He touched her velvety ears and for those few seconds, I thought he looked less alone and unafraid. After several minutes, we said goodbye, and as we walked past the armed guard outside his door, I knew we would make it through the chaos.


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May 17th, 2017 2 comments


Okay, why is there a photo of beautiful Stonington harbor in a blog about not letting lists run our lives? Because this is where I live, and when I free myself from the “must’s”, “should’s”, and “gotta’s”, I can sit quietly and look as the harbor fills with boats.

A little background. Come late fall, most of the boats are gone. By December it’s empty as the cold winds sweep through. But here we are in May, and the boaters are a hopeful bunch and are busy getting ready for the summer season. It’s like a migration and the tall masts are back, swaying in the spring breeze.

We talk a lot about mindfulness and how important it is to be present. And those of you who have attended my “Stop Burnout!” talks, know it’s a powerful stress buster. But here’s the catch for me. I’m a doer, a list maker, and I love the satisfaction of checking things off my list. And the things I don’t get done are like mosquitoes–they follow me around, they buzz in my ear, they demand attention. But yesterday as I walked my dog, Bella, I made a conscious decision to ditch the lists, to stop and smell the lilies of the valley that are growing at the side of the road, and when we got to a huge boulder, we climbed up it and sat in the sun. We stopped. We weren’t in a hurry.

I gave a talk to a group of high school seniors on Monday, and I asked them how many of them either rush into school just as the bell is ringing or are late? All the hands went up. I then challenged them to get to school ten minutes early for a week. To do it and pay attention to how they feel. How does that relaxed time change the whole day? How does not being in a rush foster kindness?

Yeah, I know, most of them won’t try, but maybe you will. Maybe, like me, you’ll find some special moments where the lists are in the background, out of the way. Give it a try!

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