The Health Hazard
Take control, restore wellbeing and optimise impact
Despite shifts in our national conversations and perspectives on mental health, stigma still abounds - and showing vulnerability feels risky if you work in the health and social sectors. There's social pressure to stay the course and a sense of normalised misery in many workplaces. The ultimate irony of our compassionate practice is that we often fail to give the same compassion to ourselves.
Creating meaningful and enduring social impact requires deep and rich expertise, a growth mindset and a whole lot of stamina. Simply put, burning out should not be an option we even contemplate as acceptable in our health and social sector workforce. It's time to reject busy and stress as a badge of honour and a rite of passage. We need to value ourselves and our wellbeing first and foremost if we want to have any chance of sustaining our capacity to make a meaningful difference through our work. Yes, that means you too. First.
This book draws on Alison's experience as an accomplished consultant and leader who took her own long, slow descent into burnout. From finding herself face down and wondering whether she would ever be okay again, Alison stepped forward one tiny step at a time and rebuilt herself and her life. In the book, Alison shares the lessons she learnt along the way and guides you through a series of steps to create insight, shift your mindset and build the energy reserves you so dearly need.
Optimise the difference that you make in the lives of others, but not at the expense of your own energy and wellbeing. Sustain yourself and become part of the change that we so desperately need in our health and social sectors. You matter too.
What people are saying about
The Health Hazard
"This book is a highly practical manual for not just surviving but learning to flourish in those emotionally hazardous environments all too often found in our health and social care sectors. We all know these places, where unrealistic demands and conflicts lead on to exhaustion, loss of belief and purpose and feelings of defeat, failure and cynicism all covered under the general label “Burnout”.
Alison writes vividly and with great candour about her personal experiences and struggles. She offers a down-to-earth roadmap for evading and escaping the traps of toxic work, and instead finding a sustainable personal and family life alongside taking social responsibility for change.
Her book contains a rich range of reflections, techniques and planning tools from “baby steps” and “tiny habits” to practices of mindfulness, breathing and gratitude. All are described with a light touch that makes change feel like a realistic everyday possibility. The book is refreshing and the opposite of overwhelming.
I congratulate Alison on her ability to pull together so many ideas and tools so brilliantly. Even more I salute her courage, openness and generosity in writing this book."
ONELLA STAGOLL OAM
MSC (COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY), FOUNDING CEO, BREASTSCREEN VICTORIA
Praise for The Health Hazard
"Alison is spot on as she thoughtfully unpacks all the factors that can lead to burnout for so many of us in this sector as we push ever onward to change outcomes, make a difference or better our communities. The hamster wheel goes faster and faster and somehow we are powerless to know how to stop, get off and restart. In fact, it seems that this is simply our lot, as we have chosen this career. Read with eyes wide open, her simple yet transformational strategies enable you to get up from face down and to repair and refill your ‘bucket’. Alison guides you step by step to make changes that will not only have an impact on you, but those around you at home and at work, as you personally feel the benefits of change, and model those healthy behaviours to others."
CEO, OVARIAN CANCER CANADA AND CHAIR, WORLD OVARIAN CANCER COALITION
"This is an incredibly important and timely book, for two reasons. Firstly Alison Coughlan shines the light on what was already a crisis in the health and social sector pre-COVID19, and is now an order of magnitude worse around the world. Burnout. (And no, the irony isn't lost on Alison that a sector that has compassion at its core is dangerously lacking in self care). Secondly this book shows us, in simple, powerful terms, what to do about it. Compulsory reading for anyone who works in or cares about this sector."
AUTHOR OF MULTIPLE BOOKS INCLUDING IMPLEMENT!
"The stress of our daily lives is taking its toll – we are busier than ever, always connected and the lines between work and life are becoming increasingly blurred. For those of us in purpose-driven roles our response is to just keep pushing through - to keep trying harder – and over time this can take a toll on our health and our relationships and ultimately lead to burnout. Alison Coughlan has experienced burnout first hand and in her book shares her experiences and the lessons she’s learnt along her journey. It’s a great read, written from the heart, that helps us understand the drivers of burnout and importantly the practical changes we can make to live our best lives both at work and at home."
ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR TONY WALKER
ASM, FACPARA, CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER, AMBULANCE VICTORIA
"Big Ben was definitely ringing his bell for me throughout this book!
In The Health Hazard, Alison explores the world of the not-for-profit and health areas – the multiple, complex issues, the dedication, guilt, selflessness, passion, persistence, frustration, never-enough-time and exhaustion that encircles us.
She has done this with remarkable candour, honestly admitting to her own burnout and encouraging the reader to evaluate their own professional and private lives in order to avoid this themselves.
The issues raised are rarely discussed so openly within our sector. When faced with overwhelming challenges, we feel we have no other choice but to push on, producing outstanding results and being the perfect high-achieving professional - after all, we care for others and the world needs us!
What Alison’s book does is acknowledge the very real problems we face – and, importantly, offer tangible strategies for our ongoing recovery. In this time of COVID, her messages and tips have never been more relevant."
LYN SWINBURNE AO
FOUNDER, BREAST CANCER NETWORK AUSTRALIA, BOARD CHAIR, THE ROYAL WOMEN’S HOSPITAL
"I don’t know anyone who hasn’t experienced what is outlined in Alison’s book. It was so heartening for me to read it and to see practical tools that can be used to avoid experiencing burnout and to overcome it!"
PRESIDENT AND CEO, THE ALS ASSOCIATION (USA) AND CHAIR, INTERNATIONAL ALLIANCE OF ALS/MND ASSOCIATIONS
"You won't find any fluff in this book. Alison shares with transparency and grit how she wrestled with burnout and got her life back. If you're struggling with burnout and want to do something about it, sit down with this book, roll up your sleeves, and put together a plan."
DAN DIAMOND MD
PRINCIPAL, NOGGINSTORM INC WWW.DANDIAMONDMD.COM
"I wanted to let you know that I received your book (beautifully wrapped!) on Friday and had read it before the end of the weekend.
Congratulations! Your book is a Tour de Force that's as genuine as you are. I could hear your voice as I read.
I finished it too quickly because I couldn't wait to see what was coming next - but I will re-read it more slowly now. There are so many "pearls", as you wrote in your lovely inscription. You must even take credit for me writing this card rather than sending an email!
Your book is a treasure that I will be able to constantly refer to as I build up my own toolkit. Thank you so very much Alison! I wish you every success with the book - it is much needed by so many people"
"A parcel arrived in the mail today containing this book as a gift from my mate and former colleague, Alison Coughlan. Her first book, Alison writes a highly practical manual for not just surviving but learning to flourish in emotionally hazardous environments.
While primarily oriented to those working in the health and social sectors, even those of us who are lucky enough to be retired, can still get caught up in and exhausted by life’s challenges.
While I am perfectly fine, it arrived at just the right moment.
Thank you Alison."