In 2019 ‘Burnout’ was recognised by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as an ‘occupational phenomenon.’
The term was initially believed to be syndrome resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed, however four years on and it has become widely acknowledged to cover all areas of life, not just the workplace.
In light of the resignation of New Zealand Prime Minister, Jacinda Arden, who said she no longer has ‘enough in the tank’ to lead, health experts have unpacked what burnout really means for the modern working woman.
Fitness, nutrition and wellness expert, Penny Weston told Femail: ‘Burnout is a state of emotional, physical and mental exhaustion. It’s usually caused by excessive stress over a prolonged period of time as well as feeling overwhelmed and drained.’
Here, alongside author and leading authority on mental toughness, Penny Mallory, she reveals the small things we can practice everyday to stop ourselves from feeling overwhelmed and stressed.
New Zealand Prime Minster, Jacinda Ardern (pictured) handed in her resignation this week saying that she longer has ‘enough in th tank.’ Health experts have spoken to FEMAIL about mental burnout
‘Even in these worrying times, everyone can find something to be grateful for if they look for it’ explained Weston. ‘Keeping a gratitude journal is a really effective way to help balance anxiety.’
She explained that there is no right or wrong way to feel grateful but said that being very specific is a good way to start.
Weston said: ‘Don’t feel under pressure to record big things, aim for five small things: something like “I’m grateful for the cup of tea I enjoyed this morning” is absolutely fine, so long as it’s true.
‘The more you take time to notice these little reasons to be grateful, the easier it will be to spot them day to day. Writing them down is an important part of the process, try to fix a time to do it every single day.’
Mallory reiterates the concept of this, if you frame it as learning something new, which isn’t always easy and can take time.
She said: ‘Taking learning from every experience is so important. Sometimes you need to “crash” to find your limit, and discover what is possible.’
When we exercise, the body releases chemicals such as endorphins, serotonin and dopamine, which boost our sense of well-being and suppress hormones that cause anxiety, explained Weston.
She said: ‘Keeping exercise fun and consistent is key: for many people, making it a part of your social life is the way to achieve this’.
Expanding on this, Weston explained: ‘Any exercise has a really positive impact on your mental health but this is never more true than exercise in the great outdoors.
‘Sunshine naturally boosts your production of the feel-good hormones and the fresh air will help you sleep better.’
Eating a balanced diet and eating regularly prevents drops in blood sugar, which can make you ‘fell jittery and on edge at the best of times,’ explained Weston, ‘and if you’re feeling anxious the problem is compounded.’
She described how foods that release their energy slowly, like complex carbohydrates, help avoid sudden crashes.
NOT SURE ABOUT MEDITATION?
Try simple breathing exercises:
Try breathing in deeply for 7 seconds and exhaling for 11 seconds, repeating for a couple of minutes.
This will help to relax the body and calm your nervous system. There are many ways to begin from local classes to apps or online practices.
Weston suggests: welcometomade.com
She said: ‘Eating a diet rich in green leafy vegetables, wholegrains, legumes, nuts and seeds will help you achieve daily levels of B Vitamins, Zinc and Magnesium that have been shown to help control anxiety.’
Weston added that a high quality supplement can assist with this, but emphasised that you ‘must choose with care as there are many poor examples on the market that will do nothing to improve your health.’
In recent years meditation has become much accessible to the average person.
Essentially, when meditating, we are trying to control our thoughts to focus our attention on the present moment by acknowledging all of our sensations in the body.
Weston said: ‘From the sounds around you to the feel of your clothes against your skin. Tune into your emotions and thoughts and try to observe them like a bystander, without any judgement.’
She explained that it’s important not be discouraged if your mind starts to wander and that with time and effort your focus will become stronger.
Meditation is a brilliant way to switch off when things get too much and stress builds up.
The wellness expert commented: ‘It’s something you can do virtually anywhere at no cost, and the benefits for your mental wellbeing and overall health are so strong that I highly recommend you try.’
5. GET ENOUGH SLEEP
It can be difficult to sleep when your mind is filled with worry, but try your very best to create a good sleep routine.
Weston recommended: ‘Relaxing with a warm bath and a meditation practice, avoiding screens and stimulants in the hours before bedtime and ensuring your bedroom is quiet, dark and around 18°C will all help.
‘Most adults should aim for at least seven hours of uninterrupted sleep per night, but the amount needed to allow you to wake up rested, refreshed and alert will vary from one person to another.’