Five steps to banish burnout

I had every intention of maintaining a slower pace post-Covid. But have I? Nope. I’m not the only one ‒ in a quick survey of my friends the general consensus is that life now is more hectic than ever. ‘I think I have burnout,’ said one friend, and we all nodded. Maybe we all have.

It’s a term that’s tossed around flippantly, but real burnout isn’t to be taken lightly, as psychologist Dr Marielle Quint from the mental health clinic thesoke.uk knows all too well. She is seeing overwhelming numbers of people who are burnt out.

‘Usually we associate burnout with complete exhaustion related to work trauma,’ she says. But the past few years have caused unprecedented mental, physical and emotional exhaustion that has seeped into every area of our lives. And while anxiety is useful in that it can help us flee danger, we’re not built to experience it for prolonged periods.

‘For so long we didn’t know if we were safe or not,’ says Marielle. ‘People in positions of authority have been giving us mixed messages, the lines between working from home and family life are now blurred, and many people are facing huge financial worries. The phrase I hear most is “I feel broken”.’

Susannah Taylor
Image: David Venni. Styling: Sairey Stemp

So how do you know if you are burnt out? ‘It’s different from stress and low mood,’ says Marielle. ‘Burnout is caused by a prolonged, chronic situation and you feel so exhausted by it that you feel you can’t cope mentally and physically any more.’

She explains that symptoms vary from person to person, but can include exhaustion, depleted energy, reduced efficacy, anxiety, sleep problems, a feeling of numbness and an inability to shake coughs and colds.

‘The common denominator is that these symptoms are usually accompanied by a lightbulb moment when you realise the way you feel is intolerable,’ says Marielle.

If this sounds like you, the following are steps you can take.

How to deal with burnout

GO BACK TO WELLBEING BASICS

Are you going to bed at midnight and getting up at 5am? Are you skipping dinner, and instead having a biscuit and cup of tea? Are you kidding yourself that you’re exercising when you’re just pulling on some leggings? If so, it’s time to tackle the basics: go to bed earlier, eat regular nutritious meals and move every day without fail. You’ll be astounded at how quickly you’ll feel better.

SET BOUNDARIES

If you often say yes when it’s the last thing you mean, try saying ‘no’ just once. You’ll see that the world won’t fall apart – and you’ll feel empowered and less stressed by not doing something you hate.

FEED YOUR SOUL

Burnout and extreme stress can sometimes leave people numb. Marielle suggests actively seeking out activities that bring you joy to reignite your ability to ‘feel’: watch a film, listen to music, do a sketch, read a book.

FOSTER CONNECTIONS

If you’re feeling emotionally numb then do what you can to connect with other people ‒ nothing is more healing than human compassion. Animals can also help bring care and joy back to your world.

TAKE BACK CONTROL

At our lowest, we can feel we’re helpless victims of situations. Rather than being passive, Marielle suggests making moves to regain control: ‘We can’t all pay the gas bill, but we can change when we have the heating on,’ she says.

Smoothie operator

The problem with blenders is that they are so big and heavy they never leave the kitchen worktop. Enter the BlendJet 2 (£41.95, blendjet.com) a next-gen portable blender that’s light enough to stash in your bag, take to work or pack in your suitcase. Small but powerful, it’s perfect for smoothies, shakes, sauces or soups on the go.

Hand hygiene goes haute

Forget gross-smelling, gloopy, sticky gels ‒ hand-hygiene brand Zenatti has teamed with master perfumer François Robert to create exquisitely fragranced sanitisers. Created with 70 per cent alcohol, my favourite is Jardin aux Herbes with bergamot, mandarin and eucalyptus. I also spritz liberally in my trainers and on my yoga mat. £24 for 50ml, zenatti.co.uk