Are YOU suffering from burnout? Expert reveals how to spot the signs – and beat it


It’s safe to say that the pandemic has thrust unprecedented new challenges into our daily lives. 

While working from home during lockdown has felt like a luxury to some, others found themselves suddenly having to juggle demanding jobs with homeschooling and childcare.

Add to that being unable to unwind by spending time with close friends and family, and the ongoing threat of a deadly virus, and you have a recipe for physical and mental exhaustion.

While there’s light at the end of the tunnel, with lockdown restrictions easing and a return to ‘normal’ life on the horizon, many Brits are feeling the strain of the past year.

While there’s now a light at the end of the dark tunnel, with lockdown restrictions on the path to easing completely, many Brits are feeling the strain of the past year (stock image)

Fitness and nutrition expert Penny Weston, who runs the Made Wellness Centre in Staffordshire, tells FEMAIL the number of people visiting her club suffering from burnout has tripled since the pandemic.

Burnout is a state of emotional, physical and mental exhaustion, usually caused by excessive stress over a prolonged period of time as well as feeling overwhelmed and drained.

Although it isn’t a diagnosable psychological disorder, Penny says she believes it’s becoming increasingly common and ‘needs to be taken seriously’.

‘Nearly everyone coming through the doors in Made at the moment are suffering from burnout or a related complaint from lockdown,’ she says. ‘Worryingly, the number of people we are seeing with burnout has tripled!’ 

Penny says there are a number of signs that someone is experiencing burnout, and these tend to be both physical and mental. 

They include headaches, stomach aches, a lack of energy, intestinal issues, feeling depressed, exhaustion, cynicism, feeling unable to do your job or to cope, and feeling powerless. 

Here she shares her top tips for avoiding burnout, and how to overcome it.  

Fitness and nutrition expert Penny Weston, who runs the Made Wellness Centre in Staffordshire, tells FEMAIL the number of people visiting her club suffering from burnout has tripled since before the pandemic

Fitness and nutrition expert Penny Weston, who runs the Made Wellness Centre in Staffordshire, tells FEMAIL the number of people visiting her club suffering from burnout has tripled since before the pandemic

SPOT THE CLASSIC SIGNS OF BURNOUT 

  • Headaches
  • Stomach aches
  • Lack of energy
  • Intestinal issues
  • Feeling depressed and exhausted
  • Cynicism
  • Feeling unable to do your job or to cope
  • Feeling powerless

EXERCISE REGULARLY 

‘I’m a firm believer that regular exercise is the key to staying both physically and mentally fit, healthy and happy,’ explains Penny. 

‘Research suggests that even just going for a walk can help to reduce anxiety, depression and low moods as well as boosting self-esteem. 

‘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.

‘Fortunately there is now a greater range of exercise classes and sports out there than ever before. The important thing is don’t be put off if you’ve never done it before – it’s never too late to start a new fitness class. It’s usually a good idea just to check with your GP before embarking on something new.

‘This year has really taught us the importance of finding joy in life, and the same can be said for exercise too. The key to sticking at it is finding an exercise that you enjoy. 

‘It doesn’t have to be running for hours or lifting huge weights at a gym, the key is experimenting until you find something you enjoy and is a suitable level for you. That way it won’t feel like a chore to do and you’ll want to do it more as a result. 

‘And don’t forget that it doesn’t have to be what’s considered “traditional” forms of exercise. Nowadays there really are so many options available, from trampolining to boxing to Zumba to freshwater swimming, all of which release chemicals into the body to improve mood, reduce anxiety, and calm the mind.’

WRITE DOWN LIFE LESSONS FROM LOCKDOWN

‘Don’t forget everything you’ve learnt about yourself during lockdown,’ Penny urges.

‘Avoid going back to the hamster wheel of your old life. Lockdown has been long and has given us the time to realise what is important. 

‘Whether that’s working more or less, spending more time on your own, travelling or exercising more, the list of possibilities is endless. 

‘Write down the things that you’ve learnt and things that you want to do to hold onto and use this as a gentle reminder of what’s important and the lessons that this time has taught you.’

CREATE A MORNING RITUAL 

‘Set yourself up for success by starting the morning with a ritual that lets you hit the ground running, make the most of your day, and stay positive and in control,’ Penny suggests.

‘All of our rituals are different, just like we are all different. But the key is that by setting them, we are taking control of our morning, and therefore our lives. 

‘It can be as small as setting your alarm for a certain time and then jumping straight in the shower before having your breakfast, or doing a short yoga practise before you get dressed.’

GET SOME FRESH AIR 

‘Fresh air has been shown to help digest food more effectively, improve blood pressure and heart rate, strengthen the immune system and a whole wealth of other benefits, so it’s not surprise that being out in the fresh makes the mind feel better too,’ says Penny.

‘Try and get out in the fresh air each day in order to help feel invigorated, energised and ready to face the world again.’

WRITE YOURSELF GRATITUDE NOTES 

‘Gratitude notes have been used for years to help affirm positive thinking and they really work,’ according to Penny.

‘Write down three things that you’re grateful for on a piece of paper and stick them to your mirror or somewhere where you’ll see them a lot. 

‘Gradually they really will sink in and help you to feel positive and grateful.’

PRIORITISE SELF-CARE 

‘Lockdown has been a tale of two extremes, with some people being on furlough and at home with more time for self-care than ever, and others juggling working from home with looking after children and taking on all the household roles,’ Penny explains.

‘Whichever camp you fell into, going forward it’s important that you prioritise your own self-care. 

‘I was listening to an interview with Kate Garraway on the radio recently and she said something along the lines that you can’t captain a difficult ship if you’re not well fed, rested and looked after yourself. 

‘That encapsulates perfectly why self-care is so important. Schedule a few hours a week to go to bed early for example, or to read a book or put on a face mask. 

‘It will help to maintain your physical and mental wellbeing when life begins to return to normal.’

Penny says there are a number of signs that someone is experiencing burnout, and these tend to be both physical and mental

Penny says there are a number of signs that someone is experiencing burnout, and these tend to be both physical and mental

DELEGATE  

‘There tends to be a coping mechanism in most of us that means we are reluctant to ask for help,’ Penny observes.

‘However, the truth is that if you’re suffering from burnout it’s essential that you do this in order to cope. 

‘This could mean delegating tasks at work if you’re struggling with a heavy workload, or asking other family members to pull their weight more if you’re struggling to keep up at home.’  

BUILD RESILIENCE THROUGH MEDITATION 

‘Focus on your wellbeing from a positive point of view by looking at ways that can build resilience,’ Penny recommends. 

‘Focus on character building activities like yoga and meditation. These can help you learn to adapt to change and be strong for all that is coming. 

‘I offer resilience meditation exercises at Made (welcometomade.com) on demand, perfect for improving our emotional intelligence.’

DON’T SUFFER IN SILENCE 

‘The worst thing you can do when you’re suffering from burnout and struggling with a heavy workload is not talk about it,’ Penny says. 

‘Try to talk about it with your boss, a colleague, or if that’s too difficult you can contact an organisation such as The Samaritans who are available 24 hours a day. A problem shared really is a problem halved.’ 

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