New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has prompted an important conversation about burnout, following her announcement that she’s stepping down from her role.

She’s said she no longer has “enough in the tank” to lead the country, six years after first taking on the “challenging” role.

She is far from alone in her job having an impact on her mental health and wellbeing.

Some 50% of therapists reported seeing an increase in clients presenting with burnout in the past year, according to a survey of our members that we carried out last summer.

Our member Indira Chima, a therapist in Hertfordshire, thinks that more people are suffering from burnout than in previous years.

“I think it has worsened since Covid. More people are worrying about their jobs, cost of living, recession.”

She says a lot of employees feel constantly under pressure to perform and impress.

“It's a difficult working environment and there are some tough bosses who expect you to always be on, always responding to emails and texts at all hours. Sometimes there are a lack of healthy boundaries between work and personal life.”

What is burnout?

The World Health Organisation (WHO) says that burnout results from “chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.”

It’s considered an occupational issue, rather than a medical condition.

Burnout can leave you feeling tired, exhausted, numb, empty, irritable, apathetic, unable to feel joy.

You may feel as if you have no direction and meaning in your life. You may withdraw from family and friends.

It can also lead to feelings of emptiness, or being stuck and trapped.

Our member Pallvi Dave, a counsellor in North London, says she notices that people have “a reduction in motivation and an increasing sense of disinterest and lack of patience. Frustrations feel difficult to manage.”

What can you do about burnout?

Pallvi adds that the key is to notice and recognise the changes that have happened to you as a result of burnout.

“The problems can often start when we avoid the signals,”  she adds.

Change often needs to include your workplace. Your manager or HR department need to understand how your job is affecting you.

“Getting a good work/life balance is key in feeling content with our lot,” says Indira.

Indira adds: “We are in New Year so this is a great time to embrace change and new ways of working. Try new things and play with ideas until you find a way that works better for you, leaving you with more time, feeling more energised and happy in your life and in the workplace.”

Our member Hansa Pankhania, a therapist based in Surrey, warns that burnout will have built up over time, and so it won’t be resolved overnight.

She says: “Approach it as a step-by-step journey of recovery. Making changes takes time and effort at a time when you are feeling apathetic and low in energy.

She suggests one thing that can help is to take a habit you do every day and pair it with a simple one you want to change to.

“For example, when you have your morning cup of tea, pair it with a few breathing techniques. Once you have established this pattern you combine another new habit with an old one such as replacing an unhealthy item of food with vegetables.

“This way you master the art of building new habits one after the other until you fully recover.”

How can counselling help with burnout?

“Therapy can be invaluable in supporting you on this journey,” adds Hansa.

It can offer you a space to explore your feelings and think about how you have arrived in this place where you a burnt-out.

Pallvi adds that it will help you understand “What might have led to this situation and how would it feel to look at it from other perspectives. What could be done differently?”

You will be listened to and accepted.

Hansa says: “Therapy can provide you with a safe non-judgmental space to explore your difficulties and release feelings that may be bottled up inside you. This feeling of being accepted will motivate small actions that eventually lead to bigger changes that aide your recovery.”

And finally Indira adds: “Therapy can help clients to re-focus on self-care, put healthy boundaries in place and do things differently.

“Sometimes just by doing things differently people can free up time, avoid unnecessary meetings, refocus their goals or measure success in a more meaningful creative way. This can leave them feeling more empowered rather than powerless.”

To find a counsellor or psychotherapist who can help you visit our Therapist Directory.