Several weeks ago, a client who was experiencing burnout, decided to take a week off from his demanding job in corporate law. The plan was to relax. Do things like reading, watching box sets. Over the two weeks the client went to the gym 6 times, took French lessons, met with friends at bars and restaurants 3 nights out of the week, went to the museum, Kew gardens and painted the spare room. “Well, I can’t just do nothing!” the client said.

When the Client (we’ll call him Manuel) states the perceived belief that they can’t just do nothing, he is allowing himself to be judged by a socially constructed perspective, one that criticises inactivity. In the west, our productivity is under constant self-surveillance, to the point that we feel a sense of shame when we view our efforts to have come up short. But this leaves us both too tired to work, and too drained to rest.

This is why burnout can be so problematic to treat. Feeling exhausted yet compelled to continue regardless indicates that you have lost the ability to relax.  It’s a double bind that makes it very difficult to cope. It also prevents you from finding pleasure in calm inducing activities such as going for a walk, or listening to music. It can be counterproductive to recommend relaxing activities to someone who complains that the one thing they cannot do is relax.

So how do you recover the capacity to relax, and thus begin to recover from burnout. Well before we predictably cheer-lead therapy as a preferred remedy, it is often the case that difficulties inducing nervous exhaustion are more external than internal. Time and energy may be drained by life events (bereavement, divorce, changes in financial status and so on) as well as the demands of work.

In such cases, it is worth turning in the first instance to more external solutions – cutting working hours as much as possible, carving out more time to relax or for contemplative practices such as yoga and meditation. This is as much a matter of discovering a remedy as the remedy itself. Merely listening and attending to the needs of the inner self as opposed to the demands of the outside world can have a transformative effect.


However, for some such practices will not be practical. Many of us work in jobs that demand long hours and an always on commitment. The idea of cutting off and decreasing in productivity will probably induce more anxiety in someone on a relentless quest for achievement. Where burnout is psychologically rooted, therapy with a charted counselling psychologist can be particularly useful in 2 ways.


First in structure – The nervous exhaustion of burnout results from their enslavement to an endless to-do list packed with short- and long-range tasks. A counselling psychologist can use a psycho-dynamic therapy style, where you sit or lie down and begin to talk with no particular agenda, letting yourself go wherever your minds takes you. For portions of a session you might be silent, discovering the value of simply being with someone, without having to justify or account for yourself, instilling an appreciation for what the American psychoanalyst Jonathan Lear calls “mental activity without a purpose.”


The second way is content.  Talking to a therapist can help us discover those elements in our own history and character that make us particularly vulnerable to specific difficulties such as burnout. This was very much the case for Manuel, and goes some way to explaining why the idea of “just doing nothing” so scandalised him. Even today as old people, Manuel could never imagine his parents putting their feet up talking, reading or watching TV. He remembers family meals taken quickly, with one or both parents in a hurry to rush off to one commitment or another. His own life was heavily scheduled with homework and extra-curricular lessons, and he was never more criticised by either parent than when he was being “lazy”. Only now is he beginning to ask why they, and he in turn, are like this, and why being at rest for any length of time is equivalent in their minds to “wasting” it.


Insight like this can be helpful to challenge our internalised habits of working and our dogmas as to what constitutes a “productive” use of our time. Making different choices is what ultimately will alleviate burnout. Beyond this it encourages us to think about what kind of life would be worth living, rather than simply living the life we assume we’re stuck with.


6 Worry Quotes to inspire and empower you.

Worrying is a common burden shared by us all and can become one of our most destructive habits. Here we share 6 of our favourite  worry quotes from the ages about

worry and what to do about it


worry quotes



worry and anxiety

worry quote


“Rule number one is, don’t sweat the small stuff. Rule number two is, it’s all small stuff.”

– Robert Eliot

worry quotes


worry quotes

We hope these worry quotes can be put to good use, changing how you let worry affect your life. Compliment them with our Generalised Anxiety Disorder and Worry Self help guide below.

worry and anxiety

Two surprisingly simple yet effective techniques for worry and anxiety



For Søren Kierkegaard, anxiety was the hallmark of the creative mind, but for most of us, worry and anxiety are more of a burden than a source of creativity.

The psychology of suicide prevention can surprisingly teach us about controlling our everyday worries. Ad Kerkhof is a Dutch clinical psychologist who has worked in the field of suicide prevention for 30 years. He has observed that before attempting suicide people often experience a period of extreme rumination about the future. They sometimes reported that these obsessive thoughts had become so overwhelming that they felt death was the only way to escape. Kerkhof has developed techniques which help suicidal people to reduce this rumination and is now applying the same methods to people who worry on a more everyday basis. He has found that people worry about one topic more than any other — the future, often believing that the more hours they spend contemplating it, the more likely they are to find a solution to their problems. But this belief is misguided. His techniques come from cognitive behavioural therapy and may sound remarkably straightforward, but they are all evidence based and backed up by trials.  His techniques won’t forever banish any and all worry and anxiety — but they do offer a promising way to cut down the time we spend worrying. Here are 2 practical exercises based on the technique


If you find yourself awake in the middle of night worrying, with thoughts of worry and anxiety whirling round repeatedly in your head, he has several strategies you can try. This one is where imagery comes in use. Imagine there’s a box under your bed. This is your worry box. As soon as you spot thoughts that are worries, imagine taking those individual worries, putting them into the box and closing the lid. They are then to remain in the box under the bed until you decide to get them out again. If the worries recur, remind yourself that they are in the box and won’t be attended to until later on. An alternative is to choose a colour and then picture a cloud of that colour. Put your worries into the cloud and let it swirl backwards and forwards above your head. Then watch it slowly float up and away, taking the worrying thoughts with it.

For those apt to dismiss this as psycho mumbo jumbo despite strong empirical evidence supporting the technique, here is another of his techniques for those who find themselves too sceptical to try the abstract imagery exercise:

Set aside a time for worrying. Your worries relate to real and practical problems in your life, so you cannot rid yourself of them altogether, but you can learn to control when you think about them. Fyodor Dostoyevsky famously commanded his brother not to think of a white bear, and we know from the experiment on thought suppression which followed that, given that instruction, you can think of nothing but a white bear. … Likewise, telling people not to think of their worries isn’t going to work. Instead Kerkhof recommends the opposite. Set aside 15 minutes in the morning and 15 minutes in the evening to do nothing but worry about the future. Sit at a table, make a list of all your problems and then think about them. But as soon as the time is up you must stop worrying, and whenever those worries come back into your head remind yourself that you can’t contemplate them again until your next worry time. You have given yourself permission to postpone your worrying until the time of your choice. Remarkably, it can work. It puts you in control.

Try incorporating this technique into your daily life and train yourself to stop worrying, and you might like to read Kerkhof’s Stop Worrying.




depression and Suicide

On Depression and Suicide

On Depression and Suicide.

“To decide whether life is worth living is to answer the fundamental question of philosophy,” Albert Camus famously wrote — a statement that has only grown in significance half a century since. But outside of philosophy, in daily life, when the will to live or die plays out in the individual, it creates a vortex of pain and hopelessness — not only for the severely depressed person contemplating suicide, but for those who love them, notwithstanding the social contagion of suicide.

Pulitzer-winning poet Galway Kinnell (February 1, 1927–October 28, 2014) addressed this fundamental question of existence with tender compassion and spiritual grace in a poem Wait. He wrote the poem for a student of his who was contemplating suicide after the abrupt end of a romance. In this recording courtesy of the Academy of American Poets, Kinnell brings his life-changing words to life:



Wait, for now.
Distrust everything, if you have to.
But trust the hours. Haven’t they
carried you everywhere, up to now?
Personal events will become interesting again.
Hair will become interesting.
Pain will become interesting.
Buds that open out of season will become lovely again.
Second-hand gloves will become lovely again,
their memories are what give them
the need for other hands. And the desolation
of lovers is the same: that enormous emptiness
carved out of such tiny beings as we are
asks to be filled; the need
for the new love is faithfulness to the old.

Don’t go too early.
You’re tired. But everyone’s tired.
But no one is tired enough.
Only wait a while and listen.
Music of hair,
Music of pain,
music of looms weaving all our loves again.
Be there to hear it, it will be the only time,
most of all to hear,
the flute of your whole existence,
rehearsed by the sorrows, play itself into total exhaustion.

So how do we, when desperate not to fall down, fall down and get back up?  Such is the magnificent resilience of the human spirit. Our culture is terrified by the phantom of severe depression, that claws into our humanity and takes our will to live, only for us to often then be self-righteously and un-compassionately judged by others. How, then, do we help those on the brink of self-destruction “get up and say OK?” And what does that act of help reveal about our own trials and triumphs as we learn to be OK?

That’s precisely what Diane Ackerman explores in the essay “A Slender Thread” which recounts her time working as a volunteer crisis counsellor at a suicide prevention hotline.

We use only a voice and a set of ears, somehow tied to the heart and brain, but it feels like mountaineering with someone who has fallen, a dangling person whose hands you are gripping in your own.

Ackerman recalls one particularly poignant call, with Louise — a frequent caller with many talents and a lively mind — whom she had pulled back from the brink of suicide many times before. Louise’s despair, like that of many on the downward spiral of the psyche, stems from feeling, as Ackerman puts it, void of choices. Ackerman reflects on this uniquely human possibility:

Choice is a signature of our species. We choose to live, sometimes we choose our own death, but most of the time we make choices just to prove choice is possible. Above all else, we value the right to choose one’s destiny. The very young and some lucky few may find their days opening one onto another like a set of ornate doors, but most people make an unconscious vow each morning to get through the day’s stresses and labors intact, without becoming overwhelmed or wishing to escape into death. Everybody has thought about suicide, or knows somebody who committed suicide, and then felt “pushed another inch, and it could have been me.” As Emile Zola once said, some mornings you first have to swallow your toad of disgust before you can get on with the day. We choose to live. But suicidal people have tunnel vision—no other choice seems possible. A counselor’s job is to put windows and doors in that tunnel.

depression and suicide

Artist Credit: Ernesto Romano

Talking to Louise, Ackerman contemplates the sometimes terrifying responsibility of the crisis counsellor as a torchbearer of illuminating choice amid the black mist of the tunnel:

Every call with Louise has seemed this dire, a last call for help, and she has survived. But suppose tonight is the exception, suppose this is the last of last times? What is different tonight? I’m not sure. Then it dawns on me. Something small. I’m frightened by how often she has been using the word “only,” a word tight as a noose.

Assuring Louise that she would stay with her, Ackerman reflects on the other meaning of “only” — that of the lonesome one, gripped by our cultural anxiety of being alone.

So often loneliness comes from being out of touch with parts of oneself. We go searching for those parts in other people, but there’s a difference between feeling separate from others and separate from oneself.

When Louise laments her own weakness, Ackerman reminds her of her acts of strength, shared during previous sessions — like volunteering during the flood. “Broaden the perspective,”Ackerman writes. “The hardest job when someone is depressed.”

Because something feels different about the call — Ackerman alerts the police while on the line with Louise, who had made her promise not to bring in the authorities. When they arrive — faster than expected — Louise is enraged by a sense of betrayal, screams at Ackerman, calls her a liar, hangs up. Ackerman loses the call, holding the grim possibility of losing the life. She writes: Knowing and not knowing about callers, that’s what gets to me”

A few weeks after that fateful call with Louise, the Crisis Centre received a postcard from her, thanking the counsellor — always anonymous, as was Ackerman to her caller — for illuminating her tunnel. After the police had taken her to hospital, she had checked herself into a psychiatric hospital in Pennsylvania for three weeks. Upon returning home, she had found a new job to replace the one she had lost and begun volunteering again, reporting that she was finally “in a good place.”

Ackerman’s closing words emanate from the immeasurable beauty of asking for and receiving help. Beholding that postcard in disbelief, she writes:


She blesses the soul who “took my life in her hands that night,” thanks us all for our good work, is just writing “to let you know what happened — I bet you don’t hear that very often.” We don’t.


We will often find our lives taken into the hands of others — parents, mentors, lovers, teachers. How often do they hear from us?

Gallway Kinnels Wait, is Originally published in Kinnell’s1980 collection Mortal Acts, Mortal Words,

Dianne Ackerman’s essay “A Slender Thread” in the anthology The Impossible Will Take a Little While: Perseverance and Hope in Troubled Times, is adapted from her sublime 1998 book A Slender Thread: Rediscovering Hope at the Heart of Crisis

With thanks to BrainPickings for its phenomenal resources.