Burnout isn't a myth with designer Debbie O'Connor


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People often hide behind a façade of being busy, working ridiculous hours and then wearing it as a badge of honour, but this way of life isn’t sustainable and is actually very detrimental to our health and wellbeing. 

My guest today is designer Debbie O’Connor from White River Design. Debbie started White River Design in 2002 and has built it into Penrith's most awarded graphic design and branding studio. Debbie has been awarded Penrith’s Business Person of the Year in 2012 and again in 2017. She was also awarded Mulgoa Woman of the Year Award in 2017. 

In this episode, we’re discussing how burnout isn’t a myth. As you can see from Debbie’s accomplishments, she has always been a very committed, hard working and successful person. But her incredibly dedicated work ethic and changes in her business led her on a path to burnout and adrenal fatigue causing her to have to make drastic changes in her life to recover. 

Debbie shares her journey to rock bottom and her plan of rehabilitation that will take two years of constant self-awareness and focus. She explains the exact strategies she is incorporating into her everyday life to ensure she prioritises her body and mind and prevents her from becoming stressed and overwhelmed. 

Debbie describes burnout as a frog in a pot of water that is slowly increasing in temperature. You don’t realise you’re experiencing symptoms of burnout until you’ve hit your limit. She advocates for everyone to take a moment to self-reflect on the symptoms and triggers that indicate you’re overwhelmed to prevent yourself from receiving this diagnosis. 

After all, the recovery path is long and requires big changes to your life and work. 

This conversation is incredibly important to everyone experiencing high levels of stress for long periods of time. Take the time now to address approaching burnout in your work-life and use Debbie’s tips to build a lifestyle that aligns with your goals and health. 

Topics discussed:

[1:24]: Debbie shares her background. She’s a brand strategist by profession and graphic designer by trade. She transforms businesses into extraordinary through brand personality. 

[2:23]: Debbie has built The Creative Fringe community that creates blankets that are given to homeless people, domestic violence survivors and youth in crisis. 

[3:42]: People often hide behind a facade of being busy, working ridiculous hours and wear it as a badge of honour. You can only get burnout from work (not everyday life). Burnout often starts years before you realise you’re at the bottom. 

[5:13]: Debbie’s burnout story started 4 years before she hit rock bottom with burnout. She shares her experience and how she carried high levels of stress for a long term. 

[6:59]: Burnout includes brain fog and reduced positivity - negativity starts creeping in and you’re focused on the bad. 

[7:48]: When Debbie hit rock bottom, she went to Jo Muirhead who helped her rebalance her life over 2 years. 

[8:41]: Debbie stopped alcohol, became very strict around sleep, and for 7 days Jo had her write down every hour what she was doing that was graded. 

[11:11]: Debbie split her business, created a different sale offering and gave 120 websites to a web developer. She put her phone on Do Not Disturb every night from 8pm and turned it back on at 8am the next morning. 

[13:12]: Debbie started going for walks and carving out thinking time. 

[14:23]: Debbie shares how her family supported her in recovering from burnout. They would give her a cup of tea when they can see she was feeling stressed. 

[17:38]: Debbie’s family identified that she was struggling but didn’t know how bad it had gotten. When Debbie was diagnosed with burnout and adrenal fatigue, Jo came in and they did a team session on this and identified how burnout was affecting her communication, work performance and mood. 

[21:37]: Burnout manifested into vomiting when Debbie tried to work on websites. She advocates for everyone to look out for trigger warnings to not let burnout get to this level. 

[22:53]: When Debbie was diagnosed, the WHO had just accepted that burnout was diagnosable. Firstly, go to a doctor. 

[25:06]: Where to find Debbie. 

Links & Resources.


Resources mentioned: 


Previous episode mentioned: 


Connect with Debbie: 


Connect with Rebecca: 


Check out my 5 Part Video series about how to really plan a live virtual event here.

Thank you for listening!

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About the Show:

The Rebecca Saunders Show is your place to discover how to build resilience, craft confidence and have a huge impact on the world. This podcast is for female business owners wanting the skills and knowledge they need to show up and stand out in a noisy, digital world.


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