Are you at risk of burning out because of work stress?

January 26, 2016

If you were seriously stressed, would you turn to a stegosaurus for advice? As absurd as it sounds, this is the situation I find myself in; staring deep in the eyes of a toy plastic dinosaur, asking him how to change my life.

“What does he need to tell you?” encourages Jayne Morris, the life coach behind a two-day burn-out retreat for overwrought professionals.

I think hard. There must be some subconscious reason I picked him from the random pile of toys. “You are solid, reliable, and keep going,” I say tentatively. “But underneath you’re getting fed-up of doing battle with  the T-Rexes.” 

Ah, so that’s where he fits in.

This may all sound like childish fun, but the reason I’m here is all too grown-up.

Designed to pull overwhelmed professionals back from the brink, this burn-out retreat was the brain child of NHS online life coach, Jayne Morris, who last year published the book Burnout to Brilliance.

Jayne Morris, a life coach and author of ‘Burnout to Brilliance’. 

Long hours and information overload means burn-out has become a national epidemic. According to a YouGov survey, 51 per cent of employees say they have experienced anxiety overload in their jobs. Research released last week into the behaviour of more than 1500 managers for the Chartered Management Institute, showed the majority of them were spending 29 extra days a year working on handheld devices, cancelling out their statutory holiday time.

And women are more at risk from burn-out as they often are doing the lion’s share of running a home, as well as juggling increasing work demands too.

Then there are the physical side-effects. While men are more likely to suffer heart problems due to chronic stress, women are more likely to suffer adrenal fatigue in which the constant pumping out of stress hormones leads the adrenal glands on top of our kidneys to wear out, triggering a crash.

The two day sessions take place in Lucknam Park Hotel, Wiltshire – a grand country house hotel with a spa.

Many of Jayne’s clients have had physical collapses. She herself was bedridden for six months after she ignored her own signs of exhaustion and came down with labyrinthitis (severe dizziness) when she allowed long hours at her previous marketing job and other demands in her life to overtake her.

“There’s a reason why they tell you on airplanes to put your own oxygen mask on before helping anyone else.

”Jayne Morris

“Women exhaust themselves when they ignore the signs their body is trying to tell them and keep putting themselves last. Some completely crash while other repeat the same patterns, continuously feeling run-down.

“Burnout is what happens when your spirit and energy get worn down.”


While the retreat is open to both men and women, my group is made up of four other highly stressed professional women, who, like myself, are looking for ways to take control back. As a self-employed mother-of-two in a profession of back-to-back deadlines, no family support and a mortgage to pay, the pace often feels relentless.

The two day sessions take place in Lucknam Park Hotel, Wiltshire – a grand country house hotel with a spa.

The first exercise is to work out how we really feel with a self-portrait. I find myself drawing a picture which shows me as a harried creature armed with both a laptop and a tennis racket (I often imagine life as a never-ending game of tennis in which I am constantly trying to lob back balls).

Tanith Carey with her self-portrait, revealing the causes of her stress. 

Next, we get five coloured post-it notes and mark down on each our priorities, and arrange them in a pyramid. Out of the typical choices like family, work, friends and finance, invariably all of us put the one marked ‘me’ in the bottom row. The aim here is to help us put ‘me’ back on top and not feel guilty about it.

“The truth is that unless I win the lottery or sell up and move out to the country, my stress isn’t going anywhere soon”

As Jayne points out: “There’s a reason why they tell you on airplanes to put your own oxygen mask on before helping anyone else.” She then reads out a long list of beliefs which many heading for burnout have unconsciously signed up to. By recognizing them, we can discard them. They include statements like: “I should put others first”, “I feel guilty if I do something for myself,” and “I always need to be doing something.”

As burn-out is also physical, there are de-stressing exercises for the body too. The first is 25 minutes on a dry flotation bed. Like a water bed, liquid underneath is then warmed up to 37 degrees while you are massaged by the pulsating waves. When I woke up, it felt like I’d been in a deep sleep for hours. There is also a relaxation session on beds in a room lit by special sunlight lamps and yoga and gym classes too.

Drawing is part of the therapy. 

Not only do I feel more relaxed, but I also finally have time to think clearly. A guided mediation session, looking five years into the future helps me to imagine the type of life I’d like to live.

I find myself taking over from the dinosaur and figuring out ways to earn more money by working less and spending more time with my two children (aged 14 and 10) . When asked to draw the first image that comes into my mind, I find myself drawing my dog Honey, a note to self to live as much in the moment as she does.

Naturally, back in the real world, all it takes is a couple of cortisol-raising emails from editors in my inbox to bring me back down to earth again. The truth is that unless I win the lottery or sell up and move out to the country, my stress isn’t going anywhere soon. But importantly, I have learned was how to spot the signs that I need to reach for that oxygen mask.

Now I create a sliding scale in my head with “I’m feeling great” at one end and “I’ve had enough” at the other and keep drawing a line between those two points to check where I am. When it gets to eight, it’s time to relieve the pressure valve – like getting time alone where no one makes any demands on me.

In my job, everything moves, bleeps or shifts from second to second. On those sunny, windless days at the retreat it was as if the world stood still and so did I. For two days, I got to step off life’s every spinning carousel and really think about what needed to change before I stepped on again.

Lucknam Park (, T 01225 742 777 offers the two night retreat from £665 per person based on two sharing a double /twin room or £929 based on single occupancy. The next Lucknam Park Rebalance retreat is the 3rd to 5th May, 2016.

Tanith Carey is author of Managing the Mayhem for Busy Mums: Timesaving tips to calm the chaos published by White Ladder Press, price £9.99, this April.

This article was from The Daily Telegraph and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

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