This week on The LifeStyle Show, Tara Loughrey Grant speaks with occupational therapist and creator of lifestyleawareness.ie, Peter Connolly. Listen to the full podcast above.
How do you keep your up with your mental health?
As a starting point to do things well I focus on maintaining my energy, by which I mean my physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual resources. When things become more difficult its usually because one or more of those areas needs topping up.
I’m curious about practises to sustain well being and will seek out teachers and workshops to add to my learning.
I also continue to learn from those around me. I'm fortunate to work with and spend time with a lot of experienced & compassionate people that inspire me to improve and see that it’s possible to stay somewhere and continue to develop and grow as a person.
Lifestyle awareness is an extension of my role as an Occupational Therapist; I get to work with people earlier than in a crisis, as it’s more around prevention and sustainable living.
I also get to explore and write about lifestyle issues, talk with and collaborate with different facilitators by running events such as the Back to Basics and projects around social confidence.
Tell us a little about your work
In Saint John of God hospital I work as part of a multi-disciplinary team that provide mental health assessment & treatment to adults in mental health distress e.g. depression, anxiety and emotional dysregulation.
Through a combination of individual and group based interventions e.g. mindfulness, lifestyle management and creative activities such as zentangle, I support people to restore or improve their functioning so they can do the activities that are most meaningful in their lives (we call these occupations) and have a greater sense of what they need to do to keep well in the future.
How did Lifestyle Awareness come about?
I set up Lifestyle Awareness at the beginning of 2017 as a side project, to explore wider themes around lifestyle that I may not have the opportunity to do so in my full time role.
I think we haven't adapted to the lifestyle changes that have taken place over the last fifty years and this is a large part of our struggle with issues such as anxiety and burn out. Lifestyle awareness aims to explore different ways of adapting to these changes.
What is 'burn out'?
Burn out is a state of being where our energy is depleted and our ability to do the things we want and need to do feels broken. This is different from feeling jaded, frustrated or seeking a change.
These may be early signs but we can still function and enjoy aspects of our lives. In burn out we become de-personalised and cynical with a distorted view of how things are e.g. our role or who we work e.g. clients and see no value or importance as and seek self-protection to survive.
Why do we seem to be hearing about more cases of burn out recently?
The increase of burn out is a series of interconnected factors affected by how we are living, working driven by societal changes e.g. housing, our relationship with technology and the cost of childcare amongst others.
We haven’t figured out how to support people to meet their basic needs for rest and renewal, stay productive and continue to develop throughout the life stages.
There is also a need for skills that aren’t being widely taught such as emotional regulation, understanding and managing our thoughts and self-compassion.
Are there any steps we can take to prevent burn out?
1. Time out to conserve. Initially it’s about creating the space and time for restoring energy, without energy we can’t make changes. So at this stage it’s about retreating and reducing your demand to start the recovery e.g. stop, delegate and take time out.
2. Build energy. Within this time you need to increase your level of nourishing and positive experiences, if your energy is low start small and simple with good food, supportive company, fresh air, rest and positive experiences.
3. The third stage is around self-awareness. When we have had some time out to boost our energy we can begin to reflect on the factors and choices that have contributed to how we feel and what need to change. We may need to build skills or have clearer boundaries.
Is burn out a new phenomenon?
Burn out has been around for centuries. However, in the past we could retreat much easier to recharge, like our very own season of winter, this is when recovery and growth happens.
Today, our lives are more complex and fast and we have become disconnected from the wisdom of the past and the body, as we try to live and work in continuous spring and summer. This is not sustainable.
Will you be marking world mental health day?
We will be running a number of educational and fun events within the hospital. I will be out running an external workshop on sleep in the morning time and back for the groups in the afternoon. I will start the day with a swim and mediation.