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.

just breathe 1

The 6 Best Strategies to Manage Anxiety

We all experience some degree of anxiety in our lives. Life is full of anxiety provoking challenges that we have to face. In fact, anxiety is normal and adaptive as it helps us prepare for danger.

Therefore, the goal is to learn to manage anxiety, not eliminate it.

The fight or flight syndrome is useful when the stress is short term, (such as running for a bus so as to not be late), and the body is able to quickly return back to balance point. But when the stress is chronic, your body tries to sustain the high alert status well beyond the point that is healthy.

The Six Best Strategies to Manage Anxiety.

These techniques fall into three typical areas:

  • the physical arousal that constitutes the terror of panic
  • the heightened feelings of tension that correlated with being ‘stressed out’
  • the mental anguish of rumination – a brain that wont stop thinking distressing thoughts

1. Breathe

Breathing exercises are one of the best and quickest ways to help regulate your body and emotion when you feel anxious. This will help with the distressing physical arousal that comes with feeling anxious. There are many breathing techniques but one of the best is called the 4,7,8 Breathing technique. The technique has 4 easy steps, as follows;


1. Breathe in through your nose for a count of 4.
2. Hold your breath for a count of 7.
3. Release your breath from your mouth with a whooshing sound for a count of 8.
4. Without a break, breathe in again for a count of 4, repeating the entire technique 3-4 times in a row, then resume normal breathing and activity.


2.  Practice mindfulness

Mindfulness is simply the act of living in the present moment. Many people who are full of anxiety tend to focus a lot of their mental energy on the future. They spend an inordinate amount of their time and energy trying to make the future as predictable as possible. This type of living is driven by fear of the unknown. But, mindfulness refocuses that energy and tries to live fully in the present. It takes practice to live in the present moment when you are used to leaning out into the future, but the present is a far more peaceful place to live. Mindfulness can help with both the mental anguish and the physical arousal associated with anxiety.


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3. Do things you find Fun

Laughing is a great way to increase good feelings and discharge tension. Getting in touch with fun and play isn’t easy for the serious, tense worrier. A therapy goal could be simply to relearn what you had fun doing in the past and prescribe yourself some fun.


4. Recognise and challenge distorted thoughts and unhelpful thinking

If you are prone to feel a lot of anxiety, chances are that you have untrue thoughts or beliefs that are fueling your anxiety. For example, you might immediately assume that when a given situation doesn’t turn out as expected that it will become a worst-case scenario. These ways of thinking are distortions and act as lenses through which you typically see the world. The way out of these distortions is to train your mind to be objective and reflect on other possibilities. For example, instead of defaulting to negative about all the things that went wrong in that job interview, focus on what went well and what you might do differently the next time you are in a similar situation. Learning how to control the thoughts we listen to can have a profound effect on diminishing mental anguish.


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5. Worry Well, but Only Once

Some worries just have to be faced head-on, and worrying about them the right way can help eliminate secondary, unnecessary worrying. When you feel that your worries are out of control try this next method:

  1. Worry through all the issues within a time limit of 10-20 mins and cover all the bases.
  2. Do anything that must be done at the present time. Set a time when it’ll be necessary to think about the worry again.
  3. Write that time on a calendar.
  4. Whenever the thought pops up again say, “Stop! I already worried” and divert your thoughts as quickly as possible to another activity – you may need to make a list of these possible diversions beforehand.


6. Taking care of yourself

Self-care plays a Surprisingly large role in your ability to manage anxiety. When you are getting an adequate amount of sleep, eating healthy meals, being active on a daily basis and avoiding dependence on substances like alcohol, you are building up your body and mind’s resilience to stress so that you can handle most of the challenges that come your way.



These skills do require patience and determination. However, once learnt, people gain a lasting sense of their own power and competence in working actively with their own symptoms to conquer anxiety through their own efforts.

own it

10 Quotes to Boost your Self-Esteem!

Perhaps one of the most essential ingredients to positive mental wellbeing is having high self-esteem combined with a healthy dose of self-compassion. Hopefully these inspiring and thought provoking quotes from the last 2000 years will give you the boost you need to go out there and be the best version of you!





Mark Twain


Mark twain quote


Elizabeth Kubler-Ross






Louise L. Hay


louise l. hay


Dianne Von Furstenberg



Diane von furstenberg quote









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W.C Fields


wc fileds quote




Laurie Halse Anderson





Sally Field


Sally field quote






Kristin Neff


kristin neff qoute





madonna quote


Resolutions Reflection and Reinvention in 2015

Getting the most out of 2014, effective reflection for resolutions that lead to reinvention!

The end of one year and the start of another is an interesting time for many of us. It’s a point in the year when we use reflection to formulate new year’s resolutions. We are simultaneously looking back whilst at the same time looking forward.

With New year’s resolutions comes the fear of that inevitable day when they all fall flat. So what goes wrong? Why is this road to failure paved with so many good intentions? The team at iRise embarked on a project in November to analyse some of the psychological processes involved in new year’s resolutions. We have come up with some ideas we think may help you keep the momentum and make your resolutions stick.

When you look back, make sure you acknowledge how far you have come. More often we tend to have our minds looking forward, focusing on what we want and still haven’t got. This can generate a certain amount of anxiety about the future. We question our ability to achieve what we want, the work that will have to go into achieving our goals, and the paralysing fear of failure. When you look back on the year that is ending you are being reflective. As psychologists we are all about being reflective. However this time, instead of looking back and then looking to the future, look at where you are now in the present. Very often we involve ourselves in what we don’t have and what we didn’t achieve, forming a narrative of failure in our heads. But if we take the time to really look at where we are now as suppose to where we were last year, you will begin to see the hidden progress you have actually made. This can be incredibly motivating and reassuring, and will go a long way to helping you push forward and stick to your resolutions in 2014!

Stay Present. We can’t stress how important this is. Contrary to what we have been told, we can only really do one thing at a time.  That’s one of the reasons that the NTSB reports that texting while driving is the functional equivalent of driving with a blood alcohol level three times the legal limit. You just can’t effectively attend to two things at once – even the superficially automatic ones. So whatever you are doing, do it wholeheartedly. Flow: The Psychology of Happiness by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi is now something of a classic work of popular psychology and perhaps more relevant now than ever before. The book’s protagonistic idea of “Flow” – mindful challenge – reinforces the idea that living more present is the key to optimum psychological well-being. It is a skill that is not easy to achieve, there are bills that will need paying, kids to collect from school, but with practice can really pay dividens and help keep you focused on goals and resolutions. Living in the past as we all now is hugely detrimental and all we can do is change our present relationship with it. Just as with the future, the best we can do is set our intention, but it is what we do in the present that leads us toward that destination. Mindfulness and meditation are a great way to learn to be in the present. Our mindfulness courses are an effective way of bearing witness to the present, reliveing stress, The mind must flow like the breath if we are to remain constantly and consistently present in the moment and not mired in the past or at the sufferance of anticipating the future.

 Overcoming the fear of failure. The fear of failure is perhaps one of the biggest reasons for not committing to our resolutions or achieving our goals. We can’t recommend enough this fascinating TEDx talk by Jonathan Fields, a former private equity attorney turned lifestyle-entrepreneur. He gives an inspiring talk on how to “turn fear from a source of anxiety and paralysis into fuel for action and achievement.” You can view the talk from 2010 below.


Reinvention. In summary, if you bring the 2013 version of yourself into 2014 hoping things will change, you may be in for disappointment. To create a different outcome, you need to do, or be something different. Resolutions sometimes make us focus on superficial changes. You need to look at what blocks or baggage you are bringing with you into the new year, that will be slowing you down just as much as they did in previous years. This could include a scarcity mindset, the narrative that tells us we don’t have enough time, or enough money etc. Let this go by reinventing yourself from the inside out, focusing on how resourceful you can be. Maybe you have fallen into the blame game, where responsibility for failure always lies with someone or something else, creating an emotional impotence. Eradicate this mindset by taking more leadership over your life, asking yourself how can I make this better. Or are you like so many affected by the silent killer procrastination? Is your preparation really just a softer word for procrastination? Stop putting off until tomorrow what you can do now! Reinvent yourself to become a person of action! We hope you can take some of these ideas and apply them to your life in the new year. We are sure they can help you succeed in your new year’s resolutions and any other personal goals you wish to achieve. Let us know how you get on!