Mindfulness, Self-care, and Avoiding Burnout (feat. guest writer Elizabeth Whelan)


It is a fact that individuals who engage in mindfulness are better equipped to deal with the stresses and strains of professional and personal life; they are more productive, and are ready for anything that life today brings.

Elizabeth Whelan, Zestivo

Executive Assistants, PAs and office support professionals are no strangers to stress who demonstrate the epitome of keeping calm under pressure, juggling several tasks at once, and striving to keep things running without a hitch. With the added strain of trying to cope during a global pandemic and lockdown, it’s no wonder many of us are feeling particularly tense at the moment.

Stress can be a help and a hindrance to our work. It can be a driving force, encouraging us to complete things on time and to the best of our ability. However, it often works to our detriment, causing us to procrastinate, lose focus, and sometimes we can experience adverse effects on our health.

While work-related stress does take its toll on plenty of people, there are some professionals out there that are able to take it in their stride. This may be because certain personalities are simply more suited to pressure-filled situations. Another possible reason is that these employees have an effective toolkit that enables them to handle the heat well.

And that’s the key when it comes to addressing the stress in our life. Unfortunately, it’s near impossible to eradicate it completely, but the good news is, there are plenty of ways to manage it effectively. What’s more, there are experts out there who can help.

This week we spoke with health and wellbeing expert, Elizabeth Whelan of Zestivo, who provided us with advice on how to cope with stress, implement mindfulness and self-care into our routine, and key steps to avoid burnout.

Elizabeth Whelan

Elizabeth is an avid advocate for mindfulness, which is an important aspect of managing stress. “Mindfulness has been around for a long time”, she says, “but has developed far greater importance over the last few months as a result of the fear, anxiety, and uncertainty generated by Covid 19. As we know the role of Executive PA’s and support colleagues is challenging in itself, but with the development of working from home, greater reliance on technology, and changing work environments, these challenges are ever greater. It is important therefore that we develop coping techniques to assist us in our daily routines, and mindfulness can play a significant part in this journey.”

So how exactly do we ensure that we approach work (and life in general) in a mindful way? According to Elizabeth, “mindfulness is about maintaining a moment by moment awareness of your thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and the surrounding environment through a gentle nurturing lead. At Zestivo, we promote 10 principles of Mindful Living www.zestivo.com. These are easy ways to incorporate mindfulness into your daily routine. “

The improvements that mindfulness brings to peoples’ lives speak for themselves. “It is a fact that individuals who engage in mindfulness are better equipped to deal with the stresses and strains of professional and personal life; they are more productive, and are ready for anything that life today brings.”

Self-care is “crucial” as we are faced with new circumstances and attempt to reconcile this “against an ever-changing environment”. It is the foundation of maintaining good health, mentally and physically. It involves giving ourselves sufficient nurture and respect in order to foster a healthy mindset.

Elizabeth outlines her steps to incorporating self-care into your routine as follows:


Elizabeth outlines her steps to incorporating self-care into your routine as follows:

Elizabeth’s Key Advice

“Mindfulness can assist this key component of your life by adopting a number of simple steps:

(A) Positive thinking

Your thoughts are a real force and energy and are having an effect on your life. You need to constantly be aware of your thoughts. When negative thoughts appear use the cancel, clear, and delete principle and replace these thoughts with positive alternatives. Remember you have a lot of positives in your life and by concentrating on these it will increase your productivity and your overall ability to achieve.

(B) Create a structure around your day

A win in the morning is a win for the day! Having a good morning routine is key to a successful day. Where possible start your day with positive thoughts, 10 minutes of mindful meditation, exercise, and a healthy nurturing breakfast. Structure your day if you are working from home, keep to a schedule with breaks every 30 minutes. Be focused on work goals, avoid the kitchen or other distractions until lunch or tea breaks. Have boundaries with family to avoid any conflicts or confusion and very importantly be clear what your work tasks are for the day.

C) Boost your immunity

Our immune system is our last line of defense against any illness and especially this virus. Fuelling your body with the good stuff, immune-boosting life energy foods is essential. Selecting tasty nourishing foods you love and using them to create mouth-watering meals. Cut down on your sugar intake; as sugar is an enemy of your immune system, it will zap your energies and can interfere with the way your body fights disease.

You need to put in place a regular eating routine ensuring you are eating a good breakfast, taking a healthy mid-day break, and consuming a nutritious evening meal. Drinking at least 6 to 8 glasses of water every day will hydrate the body and increase your energy. Beware of binge eating, overconsumption of fizzy drinks and overeating as these will drain the body’s energies. Meditating will boost your immune system, taking 10 to 20 minutes every day to relax the mind and connect.

(D) Protect yourself against negativity

While we can all take advantage of today’s amazing technology, we have access to, we need to keep it in perspective. Constantly watching and listening to news feeds on the COVID-19 virus development or economic recession can push individuals into fear and panic causing stress and anxiety. So, my advice is to minimize your exposure to news bulletins and reduce your viewing to once or twice a day.

(E) Togetherness

No matter what at the end of the day we all need one another. It is essential that we have daily contact over the phone or skype with friends, family and work colleagues to keep morale going. Although physical connections are limited, these can be easily substituted with other forms of interconnectivity to help us through each day.”

Elizabeth also highlights the side effects of experiencing extreme fatigue in response to new stressors that we are encountering. “With working at home now in vogue and increased pressures on Executive Assistants and PAs, you could be vulnerable to burnout. Burnout is a state of emotional physical and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress.”


It goes without saying that you need to be able to recognise that you are burned out in order to start taking steps to recover. Elizabeth gives some key symptoms to look out for:

  • Every day is a bad day
  • Frustration with work and home life
  • Exhausted all the time
  • You feel nothing makes a difference
  • You feel not appreciated and have low self-esteem

So, you’ve ticked the boxes and concluded that your symptoms are more than those of just regular, everyday stress. What happens next?

“The main actions you need to take to address this serious condition are:

  • Recognise: Look out for the worrying signs.
  • Reverse: Undo the damage, maybe seeking support and manage your state.
  • Resilience: Build your resilience by following the Zestivo principles and self-care steps.
  • Remember to succeed: You can turn to others for help and most essential of all – have a positive mindset.”

Elizabeth also advises staying present as much as possible and taking a “day by day approach”, in order to stave off any anxiety that this situation is causing. “We are living in unprecedented times and the best way to get through it is to live your life in a more mindful way by taking each day as it comes. This gives you a sense of control over your daily life and the lives of those around you.”

“Make the rest of your life the best of your life”

Divine health, light, love and abundant blessings.

Elizabeth Whelan will be delivering her workshop ‘How to Avoid Burnout’ at the Executive PA Forum 2020 on Wednesday, November 4th. More details here.