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  • Writer's pictureLeona Black

The boiling frog analogy ...

I thought for a while about whether to share this post because I assumed that everyone must have heard of the boiling frog analogy. However when I shared it recently with a psychologist colleague of mine, she had not heard of it, so I thought I would. It helps me when I think about managing my own well-being so if you haven’t heard of it, perhaps it will help you.


The idea is that if you place a live frog in boiling water, it will jump out, recognising that the heat is not good for it. So if you go immediately from a calm place in life into a stressful one, you are likely to recognise that stress fairly easily.


However when we put a frog in cold water and slowly boil it, the frog adjusts itself to the temperature and does not realise that it is getting hotter and hotter, to the point that it is too late, and it has lost all of its strength to jump out and … you know the rest.


This is what can happen with burnout / stress / compassion fatigue - we don’t do anything about listening to the signs in our body that we are not coping, or we don’t recognise the signs. Personally what I do is fill my diary up, when I feel full of energy, not remembering that over time, that energy source depletes, and then I have scheduled lots of things I can no longer cope with and then I feel stressed.


If we do not recognise our patterns or see the signs we are “starting to boil” we can end up exhausted, stressed out or burnt out.


This is why taking time to observe our bodies, listen to the signs, watch repeating behaviour patterns, or looking out for our signals that something isn’t quite right can help minimise this.


I learnt this one. I actually find it really difficult to listen to my body and what is going on so I tend to look out for my behaviours, which has taken a while. One of my classic “anxious behaviours” is checking – checking my phone, my paper diary, social media, where I have put things … and then I can go “aha! I am feeling worried about something”. So it isn’t my feeling I observe now but my behaviours, and that is easier for me.



Do you try to observe your feelings or your behaviours, or something else entirely?

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