Hi everyone, my name is Dex Randall, and this is the Burnout To Leadership podcast, where I teach professional men to recover from burnout and get back to passion and reward at work. Hello, my friends, this is Dex, and I hope you're having a great day, and that you're surrounded by the warmth of other humans that you love. But for those of you who don't feel that, today what we're gonna do is talk about loneliness and how it plays into burnout and then what to do to expand your feelings of connection and belonging. And really, one of the reasons I'm doing this is I've been particularly susceptible to loneliness myself. In my childhood, I received my share of criticism, scolding, humiliation and hatred, and I did not receive very much approval, hugs, or smiles, particularly from my mum, she was very hands off, her interactions with me were very functional, or she would also unleash her pent up frustrations on me. But I think alongside that, she also taught me not to trust other people, she taught me not to make friends and allies, because people would basically... Once they knew me, they would want to hurt me. So, it's a bit regrettable, but when I think about her, all I can really speculate on is what kind of a punitive and unrewarding childhood she herself must have had. But anyway, the result of it really was that I spent my childhood trying my very hardest to do the right thing all the time, to avoid any kind of scrutiny and to avoid, in fact, people. And I was a very boisterous kid, full of energy, and so there I was trying to be wallpaper. Can't say it always worked terribly well. But anyway, anyone who knows me now would also know that although I generally feel very warm towards other humans, I still do struggle to form close relationships with them and I still experience loneliness, and loneliness was a really big factor in burnout for me, and I know, ironically, I'm not alone in that. Even for my clients who have loving families, good jobs, great friends, a sense of loneliness often still prevails, at least in a sense of being alone with their problems. Really, it's not feeling like you're seen, heard, understood, cared for, I think that's what's at the heart of burnout for many people. And the reason also, that I talk about loneliness here is that the way it contributes to the rate of suicide actually horrifies me. 700,000 people die by suicide each year globally, and in Australia, 75% of suicides are male. And the statistics from 2019 in Australia is that suicide is the leading cause of death for Australians between the ages of 15 and 44, and of course, it's much, much more than that for people from marginalised groups, communities, and those statistics, really, are one of the initial drivers that compelled me to do the work that I do now, and when I understood my own burnout and the needless levels of suffering of so many people, it became imperative for me to play my role in supporting others. Now it's not really my intention today to explore the connection between burnout and suicide, although some research does show a relationship, particularly in some areas, but clearly, if you or somebody you love feels at risk, please do contact support services and professionals who can help you out with this right away. My purpose today is to talk about the remedies of loneliness, so rather, what I'm suggesting is disconnection plays a part in all of this, and disconnection denies, really, a basic human need, the need for belonging. And by the way, our experience of belonging is proportional to our self acceptance and self belonging, which we'll talk about in a moment, but whatever your experience with disconnection and loneliness, if you suffer, I do implore you to take action that helps you reconnect where you can, and I will come in a second to what you're gonna do to help yourself out. Because as well, loneliness itself comes with associated health risks. And if you're interested in that, I'll put in the show notes the Lissa Rankin TED Talk that highlights some of the key facts here. But let's get on to this. Why are we lonely? Well there's a whole bunch of external factors, aren't they? It's particularly that it's expected of us that we leave our personal life at home when we go to work. There's this sort of professional read unemotional self, and then there's also a home self, but guess what? None of us is two different people. Then there's this ridiculously unattainable cultural template for what success looks like, that leaves so many of us feeling like we're failing it and we're the only person failing. If that was true, if that template was valid, then we can't all be in the top 1% of performers, right? Then, of course, the demands of our jobs or our other roles in life, don't really seem to leave us enough "me" time, and we also feel like, culturally, as over an evolutionary period, we are very disconnected from our roots, from our families, our village, our church, our communities. We now are dispersed all over the place, and the digital age has made it normal to disconnect. To only connect digitally and not to be popping around to each other's houses for a chat, for example. So we are kind of in a perfect storm of external factors for loneliness and disconnection, but also internally, and I think the biggest thing is we abandon and neglect ourselves and current conditions and why do we do that? Well, partly it's because we're afraid, particularly those of us in burnout or who've experienced burnout, that we're not fulfilling our role in society or at work or in our families, and then we feel ashamed and unworthy, and we do not wanna cough up and talk about it. And I think a lot of men see themselves in that category. We also haven't necessarily been taught to take care of ourselves emotionally, spiritually and even physically, so our needs can often come last after we do all of our duty to other people and I think women can more often relate to that one. And also, we just feel generally guilty and useless that we're not doing what we should be doing, and then in our embarrassment about that perceived failure, we intentionally withdraw from other people and kind of mind our own business. So I think there's quite a lot of things that we can do about loneliness and disconnection, and I'm gonna run through a bunch of them here, and I really hope you'll take some of these in and actually apply them, practice them, find ways you can use them in your life, because you are perfectly capable of working with loneliness, of combating loneliness, and creating deeper, more rewarding, and warmer connections with other humans. And indeed animals if you got any close by. And I think first of all, the first thing we can do is allow that the feeling of loneliness is normal, it's just a human experience, so if we have it we don't have to react to it with kind of self judgment or with aversion to the experience of loneliness, we don't need to push it out of the way. We can actually give compassion to ourselves in the experience of loneliness, and one of the ways that we teach in this coaching practice is just to notice that we feel lonely. Okay, right now I'm experiencing loneliness. We might know what we were thinking about ourselves or about our situation that caused us to feel lonely and then we can just notice inside our body what loneliness feels like, because loneliness as an emotion can be physically felt as a vibration in the body, we can maybe close our eyes, breathe into that, notice where the loneliness is in our body, notice the attributes, the features of it, is it hard or soft, can we see it? Does it have a shape, a color, a temperature, a style of vibration, is it fast or slow? We can actually be the watcher, seeing what's happening in our body and just going, "Okay, right now I'm experiencing loneliness, I'm experiencing as a feeling, and this is what it feels like to me." And that's normal. That's me being a human, I'm having a human experience. And that's okay. And I think when we do that, we can also, if we have any judgment about why we're lonely, we can choose actively not to judge ourselves for being lonely or for having the causes of loneliness, and then we don't abandon or neglect ourselves in that experience. We can just take a really kindly interest in ourselves in what's happening for us. And I think when we do that, we've kind of normalised the experience of loneliness. We said, "Okay, I'm a human, I can feel loneliness, that's nothing to be ashamed or concerned about. That's nothing to hide away." When we can accept that, it gives us a chance really to think about, "Okay, I'm lonely because my needs are not being met, so who am I right now? What do I need? What is the emotional need that's behind this loneliness?" And usually that's a practice that we haven't followed in burnout, we've forgotten to notice who we are, what we need, what we like, what's important to us, we're kind of... That self neglect is part of a burnout, but it doesn't have to continue. Because once we know we're lonely, once we know why, we can take steps to fulfill our own emotional well being, we can take care of ourselves in the way that comes to mind when we see what it is that we need, what don't we have, what is it that we need? And sometimes that's physical self care, sometimes it's even just taking a break or going for a walk in nature, you'll start to learn what it is that that helps you to feel better, and quite often for me it involves listening to the inner child. So I do listen to my inner child, this little wounded being that's still sitting in there going, "Everything's not quite okay, I don't really feel safe." And I listen to that and I let that child tell me, you know, sometimes he just wants to go out to play, sometimes he wants a hug, sometimes whatever it is whatever it is. But that kid in there inside you, if you're in burnout, may still be alive with need, unmet needs as a kid and may still not be getting enough love and support, and you'll know this because you'll know how much love and support you're giving to them, just be aware of yourself that, am I taking care of my little child or not? Have I been giving acceptance, love, and support or not? So that can really help you as a practice, maybe a bit clunky at the beginning, if you're new to it but as a practice, you can develop a trusting and connected relationship with your inner child and start meeting those needs. You start creating inner trust between the adult you and this little kid inside you. Inner trust and inner safety goes a real long way to creating a sense of connection and well being in us, and it's well worth the time to invest in it, even if you think it's a bit of an unusual thing to do for you, give it a whirl, nobody's looking. So the other thing is, obviously, if we feel lonely, many of us judge ourselves for that, but we don't need to judge ourselves, we don't need to feel bad about feeling lonely, I mean the loneliness is already not very pleasant. So we don't need to add on this layer of self criticism, because sometimes, if we are self criticising it, and if we feel like a bit of a failure, if that's what's causing this loneliness and self abandonment, self neglect, we actually try to, a lot of us, withdraw even further in shame about that, and we isolate ourselves inside it. And men listening, that may particularly apply to you, because quite often, we think we need to be the rock and we need to not admit to any difficulties, particularly emotional difficulties that we're having. But actually, we're still human, so when we deny it, it makes the problem even worse. And if you're suffering in silence at work, you're probably not the only one. If the work system is a bit difficult, other people are likely to be suffering and not speaking too much about it either. And in certain systems like physicians, healthcare, law, teachers, caregivers, business owners, the list goes on. Now it's pretty typical that many people are gonna be experiencing difficulties. And so it can be very helpful to stay connected to yourself and to others in just small ways. Finding out how other people are going, lending an ear, showing a bit of compassion to them if they're struggling. And helping them kind of normalise their experience can help you normalise your experience. But also, I think in loneliness, in self abandonment, what we really do is we lose sight of how we are fulfilling our role in life, whatever that is. We overlook or even wilfully ignore our own assets and the goodness that we have inside of us. We forget our wonderful motivation, our care, our willingness to serve, our willingness not to let other people suffer, our compassion for others. So really, don't assume, if that's you, if you're in loneliness and you're a bit withdrawn and if you're feeling a bit faily, don't assume people won't care for or support you. Really, we can just instead accept our feelings of shame, vulnerability, fear, self blame, failure as normal, "Oh, I'm having a normal human day right now," and really allow it to be the connector between us and other people, because if you're suffering and they're suffering, wouldn't it be better to share a little bit of that and take some of the pain out of it, some of the sting out of it. And to do that, of course, we need the courage, first of all, to feel our own and accept our own loneliness and then to be vulnerable and honest with others. So whether we're feeling that loneliness, the shame, self blame, failure, or fear, or whatever it is, when we allow that it's normal in us, and we can see that it's also normal in other people, it gives us a chance to just level up a bit with them and be a little bit vulnerable and honest, because that is the path to connection, really allowing ourselves to be fallible and go ahead and do all the normal things anyway. And really then, we could explore allowing that other people can and do love us with all our perceived flaws already. We can reach out to them, and we can let people in to our isolated world as potential allies. Be curious about other people, we can share war stories with them. And that's a skill that we can develop over time, the skill to be a little bit brave in our vulnerability. Because actually what happens is, what we all want is to be loved and respected, but people are gonna respect you for your status, your skills, your achievements, your worldly appearance, but they're gonna connect with you through your humanity and your flaws and your failures. So really, the best way to create a connection with people is just to show them who you are, and then you become... When you're brave enough to do that, you actually become a magnet. You become a role model for other people, an authentic leadership presence, whether you are a leader or not. You become a safe harbour for other people to come to and talk to you about what's bothering them and what they feel of that is too difficult to talk about with many people. You now become, you turned into a person who can support yourself and support others. So if I was gonna sum all of this up, really, number one, accept that you're not broken. You're perfect. You're all the human you're ever gonna need to be already. And then allow, allow the loneliness, the fear, the vulnerability simply to be there. Be in awareness of it, allow the humanity of it. You don't have to banish or judge any of your feelings. They can all just sit there, and you can keep living a perfectly successful life, and a perfectly connected life. And then dare to speak up about it. Dare to give people an opportunity to get to know the real you and also to be there for you. And then actively choose to endorse and support yourself, acknowledge your own worth, notice all the good that's in you, that's in your heart, and the care that you have for yourself and others. And then listen, finally listen to what you need. Take care of your inner child. Create trust and safety for that child by offering them unconditional love, unconditional acceptance, and that's an active process. If you like, you might try and develop a daily habit to tune into your inner child and see what that child needs, because really, when you work directly with your loneliness and you learn how to support your own well being, you become the champion of you, and then your burnout will drastically reduced. The experience of it will be much diminished, and you're gonna begin to flourish. You can't skip this step. You can't come out of burnout without going through vulnerability and dealing with your fear and your perceived failure. You can't get to recovery without going through the middle of that, because otherwise, you would have gotten to recovery already. And the relationship you have with yourself is the key supportive factor in beating burnout. It's not wishing external factors will change, because that may or may not ever happen. All of the power to recover already lies within you, to create and enjoy much more warmth for yourself and then bask in that warmth. I kid you not, this is exactly how it works. It's a really big component of what I teach and work with with my clients, right before I watch them spring back to life and start enjoying things again. And you can have that too. So that's what I have for you today. Thank you for listening. I appreciate you being here. You can visit my website, burnouttoleadership.com for the show notes for this podcast. And please do forward this episode to anyone you know who's struggling with loneliness and disconnection and burnout. And if this episode hits a nerve for you, you must come and talk to me. The link's on the end, it's coming up in a second. If you're in burnout and ready to recover, come and join my Burnout to Leadership program. You can book in to talk with me at burnout.dexrandall.com. Just tell me what's bugging you and let's make a plan to fix it.