15 November 2021

Burnout, mindfulness and meditation. 7 best tips to prevent and transform burnout.

Would you know if you had burnout? Would you admit to it? Would you recognise burnout in someone else? And what to do about it? How to prevent it? How to get through it…

Burnout is commonly associated with exhaustion, lack of empathy and reduced performance. It has become a massive issue in the wake of the pandemic, so this week we examine this debilitating issue more closely, and offer some possible solutions, but first

    Thought for the day

         Profound peace,

           Natural simplicity,

              Uncompounded luminosity

    The Buddha’s first words after attaining enlightenment

Commonly burnout is associated with the workplace and 3 main symptoms 

1. Exhaustion: People affected feel drained and emotionally exhausted, unable to cope, tired and down, and do not have enough energy. Physical symptoms can include pain and stomach or bowel problems.

2. Lack of empathy: People start being cynical about their working conditions and their colleagues. At the same time, they may increasingly distance themselves emotionally, and start feeling numb about their work and lives.

3. Reduced performance: Burnout affects everyday tasks at work, at home or when caring for family members. People with burnout are very negative about their tasks, find it hard to concentrate, are listless and lack creativity.

But other conditions such as depression often include these symptoms, so how to be sure what the problem is? Well, that is not so easy. 

Firstly, recent research indicates people can experience burnout outside of a formal workplace. 

Also, those with burnout often report a common list of symptoms 

- stress or anxiety (anxiety is when stress becomes overwhelming), depression and low mood, irritability and anger, sleep disturbances, lack of motivation or passion, lack of concentration, memory loss or brain fog, withdrawal from others, physical symptoms such as aches, headaches, nausea, low libido and emotional fragility. 

Quite a list.

There are a number of self-assessment questionnaires, but generally a high score indicates the need to seek professional help. 

If the symptoms listed are an issue, going to a GP or mental health professional may well be necessary; clarification is important as different psychological conditions often require disorder-specific treatment strategies.

Amongst many other issues, the pandemic has disrupted many of our usual social supports. No surprise many are feeling stretched to their limits and beyond, and burnout is rife. The financial burden is incredible, with stress-related work absenteeism and presenteeism currently costing Australia nearly $15 billion per year!

So the intention here is to avoid adding more potential stress, but to acknowledge the size of what is a huge and debilitating issue, and to suggest some solutions purely from a meditator’s perspective.


If in danger of burnout, if you suspect burnout is a looming possibility, if you feel burnout is a real issue for yourself or someone you care about...

1. Regard the situation as a medical emergency

If you were bleeding badly, you would go to a GP or call an ambulance – immediately. Potential or actual burnout needs to be taken that seriously – by the individuals affected, their workplaces, colleagues, friends and families.

2. Make the effort to talk about it

A common issue that aggravates burnout is it can be hidden. Many who burnout are high achievers and perfectionists who tend to be pretty good at masking their issues. Admitting to a problem does not come easily, but the effort is essential in prevention and recovery. If it is someone else you are concerned about, be prepared to persist and raise the issue repeatedly until a reasonable conversation can be had around your concerns, the response of the other person, along with an exploration of possible courses of action.

3. Lighten the load

Here is some news that may disappoint. You may consider yourself to be indispensable. However, it is highly likely if you do take some time out, if you do say no occasionally, even often, the world will continue to spin. Disappointing, but true. Give someone else a chance to do what you do so well – they may well surprise you…





4. Practice deep relaxation

The Progressive Muscle Relaxation exercise – as on our Allevi8 app – done lying down is highly recommended. 

If it does cause you to drop off to sleep, no worries. 

When you wake up, either repeat the exercise or go on with your day and come back to the PMR soon. 

Over time the weariness will wear off and you will relax and meditate with more awareness; in the interim, entering into sleep via deep relaxation will be highly restorative.

5. Ease up on the perfectionism

We are all perfectionists to a degree. Aim to scale it down a bit. Do some things that actually trains you to let go a little – like deliberately leaving clothes on the floor or delaying some cleaning for a reasonable while. 

6. Practise self-care – on the indulgent side

What does this mean for you? Massage? Movies? Eating out? Time in nature? Hot baths? Time with people you are close to? Time on your own?

This is not just self-indulgence; this is a therapeutic necessity to regain your balance. It will not hurt to overdo this a bit to begin with, then settle into a more balanced mix of work and time for self.

7. Ask for help

Now there is a radical idea. 

At home, ask the family or co-habitants to do more with the day-to-day tasks. 

At work, speak with the boss, explain the situation and ask for a review of workloads.

Can you seek help from cleaners or babysitters? 

Personally, with a diagnosed burnout, my feeling is such services should be available like a physio is for someone with a bad back, and as such should be available on Medicare. Now that would be progressive! 

Maybe best not to wait… but in the interim, realise it may well be money very well spent.


The need is to reduce the stress loads 

and to give time to relax and regenerate. 


What is behind the panic around COVID-19, and what to do?

Stress management in the time of COVID-19 – a holistic approach


01 November 2021

How long does it take to change a habit? – the myth, the facts and the best techniques

When was the last time you attempted to change a habit? My guess is for many of us coming out of lockdown the temptation will be there to make some changes…

So how long does it take? There is a popular myth that repeating a new habit daily for 21 days does the job, but where does that come from, and is it true? Spoiler alert – not really, but this week we find out for sure, but first

   Thought for the day

        Anyone who enjoys inner peace 

        Is no more broken by failure 

        Than he is inflated by success. 

        He is able to fully live his experiences 

        In the context of a vast and profound serenity, 

       Since he understands experiences are ephemeral 

       And that it is useless to cling to them.

                                Matthieu Ricard

For decades I have heard people – both professionals and others, say we could change anything by repeating the new pattern daily for 21 days. Having worked in intense settings for years where many people felt their actual lives depended upon changing lifestyle habits, it amazed me how quickly some people accomplished change, and how others never managed it at all. So the generic “21 days” never seemed quite right. 

In my own case, when diagnosed with advanced cancer I soon concluded eating a plant-based diet was essential to recovery. Literally overnight I transitioned from being a rabid carnivore to virtual vegan and never looked back; no regrets, no longings, no relapses. 

On the other hand, I have worked with people who laboured away for months until they finally shook off an old pattern and became securely established in the new.

So what about this 21 day myth? 

Where did that come from? 

Seems like Maxwell Maltz was the instigator. 

Actually, Dr Maltz is something of a hero having written the fabulously informative Psycho-Cybernetics way back in 1960 (most of the best self-help books are the early ones!) – a must read for anyone interested in how the active mind works and how to use it to best effect. 

Maxwell was a cosmetic surgeon who progressed to become a psychologist :) 

He observed his patients and noticed it generally took about 3 weeks to adjust to new things like cosmetic surgery or moving into a new house. 

So based on his clinical experience of people getting used to new things rather than deliberately choosing to break a habit, the “21 day myth” somehow came into being. 

What then does the research say? 

One might imagine a lot of effort has been put into investigating this matter as it seems so crucial to personal development, healing, recovery and a good life in general. Yet curiously, there is not much solid research and the few articles are from years back…

A 2012 study found 10 weeks, or around 2.5 months to be the average for most people.  

Gardner B, Lally P, Wardle J. Making health habitual: the psychology of 'habit-formation' and general practice. Br J Gen Pract. 2012;62(605):664-666. 

A 2009 study probed more deeply and found a wide range was required to establish the change - from 18 to 254 days, with 66 days being the average. This seems to match my own clinical experience; it is variable and for some can take a long time. 

Lally P et al. How are habits formed: Modelling habit formation in the real world. European Journal of Social Psychology Eur. J. Soc. Psychol. 40, 998–1009 (2010)

The actual time will be affected by our motivation, how long we have had the old habit, how strongly we are attached to the old habit, the advantages and disadvantages of both the old and new habit, and very importantly, what opposition or support we garner from those around us.

Happily, this 2009 research did demonstrate missing one opportunity to perform the new behaviour did not materially affect the habit formation process, and consistent repetition does eventually get you there.


A. From my own experience…

Read and apply the steps set out in The Mind that Changes Everything

B. From the 2012 study :

1. Decide on a goal you would like to achieve for your health.

2. Choose a simple action that will get you towards your goal which you can do on a daily basis.

3. Plan when and where you will do your chosen action. Be consistent: choose a time and place you encounter every day of the week.

4. Every time you encounter that time and place, do the action.

5. It will get easier with time, and within 10 weeks you should find you are doing it automatically without even having to think about it.

6. Congratulations, you have made a healthy habit!

It may be helpful to write out a plan – the first step towards commitment...

My goal (e.g. ‘to eat more fruit and vegetables’) _________________________________________________

My plan (e.g. ‘after I have lunch at home I will have a piece of fruit’)

(When and where) ___________________________ I will ___________________________

Some people find it helpful to keep a record while they are forming a new habit. This daily tick-sheet can be used until your new habit becomes automatic. You can rate how automatic it feels at the end of each week, to watch it getting easier.

Happy days…