Cara de Lange is the Founder and CEO of Softer Success, x-Googler, Wellbeing & burnout consultant, Change maker, Learning and Development specialist, Author of Softer Success, Mental Health advocate.

In this blog, Cara explains what burn out is, what the signs are that you're becoming burnt out, and some top tips to avoid it.

This last year has seen many people working from home for extended periods of time. For some more than a year! We have adjusted to video calls and working in different set ups, some more comfortable than others.

The pressure of work has continued, and for some the work load has increased. Without the ‘switch off’ time of a commute, many are using that time for extra work or keep working late into the evening.

The feelings of always ‘switched’ on and not able to disconnect can contribute to feelings of tiredness, fatigue and even burnout.

But what is burnout really?

The World Health Organisation defines burnout as

"a syndrome conceptualised as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.

The symptoms of burnout are:

  • A continuous feeling of exhaustion or lack of energy

  • Negative feelings and a distancing from the job role

  • A reduction in professional efficacy.

As well as the three recognised symptoms of burnout, there are a few other signs that may indicate you are heading towards burnout. Things to look out for include a general dissatisfaction with your working environment; regular headaches, stomach aches or issues with your digestion; a constant lack of energy; insomnia and a lack of motivation in all areas of life.

The good news is that there are plenty of things you can do to help prevent yourself from reaching that burnout stage. If your work is becoming increasingly stressful, then it may be time to talk to your manager or HR department about making some changes. Perhaps you need to reduce your hours or rearrange your schedule to allow for a little more breathing space. Discuss your feelings and try to work out a plan to stop yourself from reaching burnout. We can help you with that too, find out more details below.

Here are some useful ways to help you manage your stress and prevent burnout.

1. Keep work out of sight

When you finish work – put all your work stuff (laptop, notebook etc) away in a drawer or cupboard. Out of sight really can help to make it out of mind!

2. Choose how you speak to yourself

If you tell yourself you are burned out; the brain will go ‘ok I am burned out then’ and you will feel more tired. What about using positive phrases such as 'I feel tired but I am working on ways to gain more energy' or 'I feel calm and have more energy every day'. Write out some positive affirmations and put them in places where you can easily read them and remind yourself during the day.

3. Get outdoors

Nature nurtures – trees are healing. Take yourself outside and do some forest bathing. Walking amongst trees can reduce stress and tiredness. Alternatively, get your feet on the grass for a few minutes a day.

4. Take meaningful quick breaks

When working, make sure to take regular breaks in between meetings and tasks. At Softer Success we advocate micro wellness – super short 60 second breaks that give your mind and body a rest. Something as simple as taking a deep breath before you join that next meeting, give your toes a wriggle and feel your palms.

5. Stop wearing the 'burnout badge of honour'

We are all human and deserve to rest and recover. Get a sleep schedule in place that ensures you get a full 7-9 hours a night and clean up your diet so that you no longer need to rely on sugar and caffeinated products to help you get motivated.

Try these tips for a few weeks and you will soon notice a change.

If you would like to find out more about how to prevent burnout, contact us:

Helen McGillivray is a psychological therapist with over 28 years of clinical experience, including 14 years providing psychological therapies. She specialises in Acceptance and Commitment Therapy and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. Helen is accredited with

The BACBP, the leading organisation for cognitive and behavioural therapies in the UK.

In this blog, Helen explores our nervous system, what our automatic responses look like, and how we can work towards slowing down and recovering.

As restrictions ease how do you feel?

It might be helpful to pay attention to our finely tuned system

Moving towards normal life after this extended period in lockdown will stir up many thoughts and feelings. Our finely tuned nervous systems have certainly been put through their paces, and will continue to provide useful information as we navigate the months ahead.

The Automatic Nervous System consists of two parts:

  • The sympathetic nervous system - fight or flight

  • The parasympathetic nervous system - rest and digest

Our sympathetic nervous system, prepares the body for a perceived threat or danger, commonly referred to as fight or flight. This efficiently prepares our body to act quickly to the threat by generally making us more alert and able to react, and much less able to be reasoned and rational. The flight or fight response kicks in automatically. Feeling your mouth dry up and your heart racing just before you’re about to give a big presentation – this usually happens in response to thoughts, and although its unpleasant, it can be helpful.

Obviously this response is key to survival of our species, but the less time spent in fight or flight mode, the better.

Prolonged and repetitive stress can take a toll on our body. If you can become more conscious of the way that your body reacts to stress, it will pay enormous dividends.

Our parasympathetic nervous system -rest and digest- has an equally important role in our health. This is the body’s way of slowing down and recovering, which is important to lead a healthy, sustained life balance. Rest and digest response doesn’t happen automatically, which is why awareness of our body and how we respond and react, enables us to take steps to slow down a little and be kind to ourselves.

When we activate the rest and digest response, the body responds in various ways:

  • Saliva is increased

  • Digestive enzymes are released

  • Heart rate decreases

  • Muscles relax

  • Energy is conserved

This function seems even more important in today’s pandemic and threatening world. Anything we can do to tone down our “fight or flight” response and promote “rest and digest” mode is worth the effort.

Deep breathing exercises are helpful as they can stimulate the parasympathetic system to tell it “all is safe and well”. Mindfulness is a tool which, with regular practice, will help us to notice “mind threats” and become more aware of physical sensations in our body. We can learn to pause, shift our awareness and take a step back – like a pressing reset button.

Find practices that work for you within the OK Positive app. Whatever it is, pay close attention to your feelings and thoughts in moments of calm, and try to recreate that mental and physical state (e.g. slower breath) whenever threat is detected.

Thank you very much to Marina Moreno for providing the image for this blog.

Anna Maplesden is a Counsellor and Training Facilitator specialising in trauma, change, loss and bereavement.

In this blog, Anna explores difficulties of loss and grief and some habits to try and from which may help.

Living through the pandemic may have brought you unexpectedly closer to feelings of loss and grief. These feelings are a shared human experience that do not discriminate against age; gender; cultural background or status because in living a life its natural not to feel like your ‘normal self’ when distanced or separated from something or someone that you care about. The way forward may feel daunting.

Losing a friend, colleague or loved one can be one of the most difficult experiences to adjust to, and likely to provoke a whole range of familiar and unfamiliar reactions in you, known as grief. These feelings might include numbness, worry, anger, disbelief, guilt, sadness, longing and loneliness which can also be felt physically in the body through tiredness, lethargy, aches, pains, sleeplessness, reduced appetite and headaches.

What often gets hidden is the similar feelings felt in response to ambiguous losses where there is uncertainty:

  • lack of safety

  • threats to job / financial security

  • relationship difficulties

  • caring for someone

  • managing mental or physical ill-health

Regardless of the situation, the feelings can be hard to explain and difficult to understand so some people will use metaphors

'It is like being a small boat pounded by waves in an unrelenting storm'

It's important to find your way with your experience as there is no definitive timeline or rights and wrongs. You may be an intuitive griever who can express how you feel more openly eg: talking or crying about the situation so it may be important to keep connected and have the time and space to talk. However, you might be an instrumental griever preferring to be more private, thinking things through and focusing on problem solving activities. Ensure that your solutions are in manageable steps taking one day at a time. You may move between both styles but whichever you can relate to it is a fact that you are going to need different things practically and emotionally at different times.

Here are 5 habits:

1. Accept the situation

Although you may feel numb and in shock to start with try to accept the situation has happened. Understand that you are going to be changed by this experience but that you can learn to adjust.

2. Acknowledge your feelings

Try not to deny or push your feelings away as leaving them unattended can lead to other difficulties for your mental health such as anxiety and depression. Complicated grief occurs when someone has become stuck in their feelings; becomes more isolated and is finding it hard to do their usual day to day activities. This may be a sign that you need to check-in with your GP.

3. Re-evaluate your expectation

Bring awareness to how you talk to yourself about loss and grief by avoiding “shoulds” and “musts”. Aim to give yourself time and be your own compassionate friend – what do you need to offer yourself that you would probably find much easier to offer another?

4. Plan ahead

If you know that a trigger such as a key date; anniversary; important meeting is looming consider what you need on that day; who’s in your support network and what you can do to respond to your needs.

5. Give time to self-care activities

Consider keeping a diary about your thoughts and feelings; de-stress by maintaining physical movement; invest time in continuing to do the things you enjoy; keep connected with those who bring comfort; you are going to need energy to get you through so hydrate and attend to your diet, taking additional rest if needed.