woman at her desk and hold her child

Candice's story: Dealing with overload

This Mental Health Month Candice Reed, one of our Health Specialists, is sharing her personal experience with overload, and setting boundaries, and how flexibility at work helps her manage the juggle.

Can you explain a time when you felt overload and how did you notice the signs?

The biggest point in my life where I experienced overload was when I returned to work after the birth of my son. I was 5 months post-partum, and felt immense pressure to return to work from my previous employer. At the time I was a contractor to the business in an unstable role.

My return to work was initially three days a week, however I soon realised that while my income had dropped and my working days were reduced, I still had a full-time workload. Not only was this challenging from a work perspective, but it was also highly stressful for me personally.

I felt the need to stay because I was worried, I wouldn’t find anywhere that was flexible while my son was so little. Over time I found myself losing a lot of weight, skipping meals, and finding less time to practice self-care. My relationship was also breaking down because I harboured resentment towards my partner who was away while I was struggling. I took my stress home, I couldn’t relax, and I felt like I was becoming a parent who couldn’t give the right energy to their child.

Eventually, I cracked.

What conversations or tools did you find helpful?

I started by engaging an Employee Assistance Program (EAP). It did take a couple of tries to find a therapist that worked for me, but the advice I got really helped. It was great to have an unbiased listening ear and new coping strategies that aligned with my new situation.

I had separate conversations with my partner and my manager at the time and was brutally honest about my situation and how the work was becoming unsustainable. It was a difficult conversation to have, and I felt like I fumbled while explaining, but it did not fall on deaf ears. While the changes were not huge immediately, I could see that there were efforts in both areas to reduce the workload I was given and prioritise what was most important.  

Now that you have joined BHP, how does your role support you in managing your work-life balance?

My current role at BHP allows me to bring my whole self to work. It allows me to do my job with the flexibility I need to raise my son while my partner is working away. A friend and senior professional once told me that as a parent we juggle many balls in our day, with our family being a glass ball that you cannot drop because it’s the hardest to fix. I take that principle very seriously, as does my team. I work 4 days a week and make sure my rostered days off are time for my family. If my son is unwell and I need to rush off to attend to his needs and pick up my work later, there are no questions asked. There is nothing more valuable when your life changes rapidly than being able to adjust to your new normal.

What advice do you have for others who may be noticing signs of overload?

Please make sure you put your own health first. You are not going to be able to perform at your best when you are in a constant state of overcapacity. My advice would be:

·         Ask for support where you can, and look at where you can put in effective boundaries.

·         Try to look at what is most important, there is always something that can be looked at later.

·         Ensure you are practicing some element of self-care; this is particularly important, and can be as small or large as you need it to be.

·         You always have the option to speak to professionals who can give you tools to manage – everyone manages overload and hard situations differently.