Multiple times in my life, I have pushed myself so hard that I became ill. Marathon training as a student saw me turning to sugar and caffeine to get through the day after early morning runs and late nights out, gradually destroying my gut flora and adrenal function and culminating in “the worst strep throat I’ve ever seen” (that was my doctor.) I was so tuned out of my body that I didn’t notice I was becoming ill until I was running a dangerously high fever. 

In my working life there have been other, less extreme instances. It will be a familiar refrain: my workload would increase, I’d turn to snacky foods to ‘save time’ and caffeine to stay focused. I’d feel like I had no time to exercise or sleep enough and yet still go for team drinks to let off steam. I would rush from meeting to meeting, literally not even giving myself 30 seconds to breathe deeply.  I would become more tired, less focused and therefore end up working longer, giving myself even less time to take care of my basic needs and spiralling in a vicious cycle of working longer, physical dysfunction, unhealthy shortcuts, reduction of mental clarity and back to working longer.  Eventually this would result in anxiety attacks or in me getting so burnt out that I would get some sort of throat infection.

Fortunately, as I have learnt with Sarah’s help, there is a way to break the spiral while it’s happening AND set yourself up in the opposite way to create a virtuous cycle of productivity (working smarter) and wellbeing.

Put simply: 

Work better = more time = feel better = work better.

At this point you’re rolling your eyes and thinking “easier said than done”. Which is true, but it is also entirely possible. We go into it in detail in our training, but here’s the approach more briefly.


When you realise you’re in a spiral (or a loving friend or family member points it out to you):

  • Take 10 minutes to jot down everything you’re spending time on.

  • Cross out anything that isn’t contributing either to your wellbeing or your immediate work goal. This might be unnecessary regular meetings (my pet peeve), going out for drinks (boring, I know, but it’s not helping) or watching TV.

  • Commit to 10 minutes a day of doing something to take care of your physical self. Could be meditation, making a healthy smoothie to start the day, or simply a walk. If you remember, make a note of how you start to feel.

  • Start using timeboxing to regain control of your workload and re-prioritise sleep.

  • To relax after a busy day, try going for a walk, practicing some yoga or reading rather than going out for drinks or binge-watching Netflix. This will help bring your cortisol levels down.

Ideally, you’ll never get into a spiral! You can set yourself up for success with a few simple tools:

  • Organisation. I know, it’s so lame. But when you know work is about to get busy, organise yourself by food prepping, toning down your social life (or bringing it to you) and scheduling some movement so it’s harder to skip.

  • Set boundaries. Say no to non-urgent work and meetings. On your urgent work, try to adhere to meeting discipline. Encourage a mentality of “align and execute” rather than feedback and iteration.

  • Ask for help (especially if you can do so early). You’re unlikely to be the only person on your team, so see if someone else can lend a hand.

  • Learn new, healthy ways to boost energy and focus.

  • Do some honest mindset work (Sarah can help with this!) Do you actually like the feeling of busy-ness because it makes you feel important? I know I certainly did.

Getting good outcomes and advancing professionally does not and should not come at the expense of your health. If this is something you want to discuss, drop us a line at, we’re always happy to chat.