Stress expert encourages short breaks over quick fixes, with Brits at risk of burnout as International Stress Awareness Week begins
• 74% of people in the UK have felt unable to cope due to stress, which if unmanaged can lead to burnout
• Stress quick fixes aren’t as effective as taking short breaks from daily life finds stress expert
• The solution to stress lies in managing the physical and psychological effects simultaneously
The impact of stress cannot be ameliorated by engaging in self-care which only addresses one aspect of stress, says expert Raina Beuckelaers. Raina insists that stress has both physical and psychological effects which must be managed simultaneously. There is a common misconception that an hour of relaxation or therapy alone can effectively recharge the batteries. Yet Raina believes that people must take a short break to reflect upon the root cause of their stress:
“To me, stress is something that affects your brain but also physically infiltrates your body. In order to relieve it, you need to pay attention to both body and mind. It isn’t enough to focus on only one of the two pillars, that won’t solve the problem. You need to work on both relaxation and reflection. You really need a break away from everything to work on yourself for a few days, so you have the time to reflect and to truly relax.”
Raina credits any professional who helps people manage their stress from week to week, including psychotherapists and physiotherapists. She believes their work is vital, but to really address stress a person must take a proper break for self-reflection and to learn relaxation techniques which can be adopted day-to-day. A weekend retreat is only effective if a person subsequently continues to manage their stress daily.
According to the latest stress study by the Mental Health Foundation 74% of people in the UK have felt unable to cope due to stress, the effects of which include poor sleep, anxiety and depression. The culmination of these effects is “burnout”, defined by American social psychologist Christina Maslach as physical and emotional exhaustion, combined with cynicism and reduced self-confidence.
But while burnout is widely considered to be the ultimate indicator of prolonged stress, Raina believes it may indicate something more: “When I see people running into a burnout, there indeed has been too much stress over a too long period of time. But for me, burnout is more about not truly living authentically anymore, not really following your heart. People sometimes get a bit lost in life, living on autopilot rather than consciously. Rediscovering who you really are, what truly makes you happy and reintegrating that in your life is what I believe will release the stress from your body.”
That was Raina’s own experience. She worked in a high-pressure marketing environment, but it was her overall feeling of unfulfillment that led to burnout. Whilst recovering Raina noted the nuisance of having to go to several places to get help:
“I had to go to several places to get help: my psychotherapist to find my authentic self again, a physiotherapist for breathing exercises, a massage therapist for cramped muscles and a yoga class to relax. I thought it would be really nice to have all those therapies combined in one place.”
This ignited the idea of an inner wellness centre, which Raina opened in July 2019. The Pure Circle inner wellness centre is a one-stop shop for stress management set amidst the idyllic Cotswolds backdrop. The weekend retreats offer treatments which aim to counteract the effects of stress and prevent the onset of burnout. They also act as general relaxation weekends.
The centre’s integrated approach includes psychoeducation, stress management, reflection moments, yoga, meditation, breathing exercises and seated acupressure massage – all underpinned by a healthy vegetarian menu. The key is that people return home replenished, or in the event of burnout, have been given the tools to rediscover their authentic self.
For Raina, stress led to burnout, and to a complete re-evaluation of her life. That re-evaluation gave Raina a new purpose, to which she now dedicates her life. She now wants to help other people manage the physical and psychological aspects of stress, whether it leads to a new mindset or a new beginning.