“Meditation saved my life”: How mindfulness is the best weapon against burnout

- March 10, 2023 6 MIN READ

Melo Calarco is a renowned mindfulness and performance coach who teaches everyone from Olympic athletes to CEOs how to conquer burnout, stay energised and perform at their best. He joined editor Cec Busby on the Flying Solo podcast to share some timely advice for tired, stressed and burnt-out business owners.

Melo Calarco has spent over thirty years caring for others, advancing from physical therapies into the mental health sphere and ultimately becoming a sought-after mindset coach.

Melo wants every business owner to know that self-care is no longer a nice-to-have; it is essential to your wellbeing and a successful business – and mindfulness can help. He’s shared all his best advice for entrepreneurs in his new book, Beating Burnout, Finding Balance.

Melo Calarco - Beating Burnout, Finding Balance book cover

Beating Burnout, Finding Balance by Melo Calarco. Buy now.

“Meditation saved my life”

“Meditation actually saved my life,” Melo, a 30-year practitioner of mindfulness and meditation, recalls. “Caught in an unexpected cyclone while cycling, I had to meditate for 12 hours to survive. Trees were being uprooted and cyclonic winds; I was hypothermic. The only tool that I had was to go within.

“I meditated from 6pm to 6am with a breathing technique which brings up your core temperature. I felt safe, warm, and secure – I felt connected to myself. Even though around me everything was chaos, somehow, I found that peace within.”

Ultimately, surviving the deadly storm helped Melo realise the true power of mindfulness to overcome and achieve anything.

“I realised then that the power of the mind is so important – it can get you through any situation with a bit of self-belief and some great techniques. If I can help people calm their internal storms with the practices I’ve learned, then I want to share it with the world.”

How mindfulness helps reframe your mindset

“Mindfulness, put simply, is attention training,” Melo explains. “It is training your awareness to be in the present moment and become an observer of your mind.

“Often when it comes to stress, overwhelm and anxiety, it’s our mind that gets carried away into ‘what-if’ scenarios. We catastrophise about the future or get stuck in the past and ruminate about things. What if I can’t pay the bills? What if this or that happens? But that future doesn’t exist; it’s a mental phantom. The only moment that exists is now, and you can always cope with the now.”

Melo shares a simple mindfulness technique to silence your negative thoughts when you’re spiralling out of control:

“First of all, turn towards that thought and ask, is it a fact? 99 per cent of the time, it’s not factual. The second question is, is it helpful for me to think about that?

“Observing the mechanisms that go on in your mind, almost as a third party, is a powerful resource for resilience. Mindfulness can help you to self-regulate so you don’t let your mind carry you away.”

Listen to Melo Calarco on the Flying Solo podcast:

Mindfulness and self-care go hand in hand to beat burnout

According to Melo, the first step to staving off burnout is self-awareness, because you can’t change what you don’t notice.

“For my book, I interviewed around 200 people who had experienced burnout. Of those people, 90 per cent of them didn’t even realise it was happening until it was too late and they had an episode like a panic attack or crisis.”

Melo says mindfulness and self-care go hand in hand when it comes to avoiding and bouncing back from burnout.

“In many ways, burnout is a consequence of a cumulative lack of mindful self-care. Therefore, if we increase our self-care – eating and sleeping as best we can, taking renewal breaks through the day, and making sure we’re exercising – then we can reduce the risk of burnout to start with.

“Ask yourself this question every single day – what have I done for me today, that makes me feel good and fills up my cup?” he suggests. “Because as small business owners, we’re always doing things for other people – trying to please our clients and work as best we can and do all the work we need to do. But you’ll only do that well if you look after yourself well.”

Mindfulness techniques to try

woman meditating with eyes closed

Melo has learned many simple techniques that utilise mindfulness to help conquer stress and burnout on the daily. Here are four tips to try:

1. Mindset and gratitude

“Being open-minded and having a positive growth mindset is important. This means viewing the world with flexibility and adaptability, rather than a fixed mindset where you want to be in control of everything. Gratitude practice is very powerful in this regard; to be grateful for what you do have rewires your mind to tune into the good things around you.”

2. Set positive intentions

“When you wake up in the morning, before you rush out into your workday, just lie there for a few minutes, take a few breaths and check in with yourself. How does the body feel? Is there any stress or tension anywhere? How does the mind feel? Then, set yourself up with some positive intentions to help you look forward to the day.

“For example, starting your day saying ‘oh my god, I’ve got three seminars, plus two coaching sessions, plus I’ve got to do this podcast interview’ starts your day in a reactive, stressful way. I reframe that by looking at my day ahead and saying, ‘I’m really looking forward to that podcast session or seminar today’. This rewires your brain to look forward to things.”

3. Check in with yourself throughout the day

“Try a body scan meditation to check in with yourself throughout the day. This is one of the fundamental practices of mindfulness. Slowly scan the body from the top of your head, down through your body, and to your feet. Simply feel and notice the sensations that might be around each area; if there’s any stress, tiredness, fatigue or tension. It’s a great way to be more aware of the body and the mind.”

4. Self-awareness training

“All those little things that you do in your day – do them more mindfully. For example, when we’re brushing our teeth, having a shower or going for a walk, very often, our mind is not present. You might be washing your hair but you’re thinking about something else, or you might be eating a meal but you’re doing something else at the same time.

“This is also what’s called attention training – to train ourselves to be more present in the everyday things that we are doing. This helps you to train your attention to be more self-aware.”

A final tip to keep burnout at bay – work is not your whole life

Melo says it’s important to always remember that work is only one piece of the pie – it’s vital for your wellbeing to prioritise self-care and to have other interests outside your business.

“As a small business owner, you’re often doing everything – from marketing and sales to deliveries and operations – and you can only do all of those things well if you’re looking after yourself well. Fundamental self-care is not negotiable,” he insists. “It means you are physically and mentally fit, which builds your resilience to start with.

“It’s also important to sure you have a social network around you that supports you, challenges you, lifts you and inspires you,” he says. “Hobbies and interests are very important. A lot of people underestimate this, but people that are the most resilient to stress are the ones that have more hobbies and interests outside of work.”

Melo Calarco on the Flying Solo podcast

Melo delves into lots more detail about mindfulness techniques and his own 20-minute morning and evening routines in this uplifting Flying Solo ep, so make sure to have a listen. Listen to the full episode now.

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