Overcoming Survivor Syndrome

Imagination is more important than knowledge
23rd August 2016
Show all

Overcoming Survivor Syndrome

Hands up if you are exhausted?
Hands up if you feel overwhelmed?
Hands up if you are dying for a good night’s sleep?
Hands up if you are struggling to cope with work and are dreaming about far-off shores and sunnier climes?

If the answer to most of these questions is ‘yes’, then you are probably suffering from survivor syndrome.  The good news is that you are not alone.

In 2014/15, stress accounted for 35% of all work-related ill health cases and 43% of all working days lost due to ill health.  For the same period, the total number of cases of work-related stress, depression or anxiety was 440,000 – a prevalence rate of 1,380 per 100,000 workers.  General ‘overwhelm’ seems to be a modern epidemic with employees reporting the main factors responsible for work-related stress, depression or anxiety being: workload pressures, tight deadlines, increased responsibility, and a lack of managerial support.  (LFS, 2009/10-2011/12)

The phrase drew attention in the 80s to define those who had clung onto their jobs during recession and after redundancy rounds.  According to an article by Forbes Magazine, the ‘survivors’ would experience symptoms reminiscent of those who had survived a plane crash or a serious trauma:  acute anxiety, feelings of fear, insecurity, a sense of betrayal and anger.  These feelings could result in lower productivity, poorer customer service and even increased team conflict and sickness absence.  Yet, around 30 years later we appear to have maintained this feeling of just-about-surviving despite not being in recession (well, not yet anyway).

As a psychotherapist and clinical hypnotherapist I see a lot of ‘survivors’ on a day-to-day basis.  Individual problems vary but the fundamental issue is the same, we are all endowed with a primitive brain and if we spend too much time functioning in it we get will angry, depressed, anxious or overwhelmed.

So, how can we tame this part of our mind?

  • Spread the love 

As we have all witnessed over the past few months with the referendum dividing the country, shouting someone down, berating them or being negative only makes us all feel bad.  Embracing and respecting each other’s views, personalities and traits, rather than berating them, will promote positive thinking.  Interestingly, our brains can’t tell the difference between imagination and reality so if we feel or think something enough, eventually it will become true.  We need to cultivate good and helpful thoughts rather than hateful or negative ones.  Even if we don’t feel like thinking very positive thoughts, we can trick our brains into it.  Ever heard of “fake it to make it”?  Regardless of your standpoint, let’s spread a little love to promote those positive brain cells.

  • Socialise

Interaction stimulates serotonin, and a constant flow of serotonin is what we need to feel happy, calm and in control.  So get out of the office at lunchtime and enjoy some time off with your work colleagues.

  • Feel the burn 

If you are feeling overwhelmed, fed up, stressed or depressed – get out there and get some exercise.  Activity promotes the flow of happy hormones such as serotonin and dopamine.  So, use your lunch break wisely and take a walk, go for a swim or get to the gym.  We often overlook exercise in the face of time poverty but it’s about the best thing we can do to promote feelings of happiness and decrease feelings of stress.

  • Take some time out

Research into the importance of the ‘default mode’ is just coming to the fore in relation to stress, anxiety and depression.  This ‘default mode’ is what we engage when we are deeply relaxed or involved in a task that demands our single channelled attention.  How many of us go into a bit of a trance when we get in our car?  How many of us do our ‘best thinking’ when we go for a run or a walk?  How many of us completely forget about everything when we are reading a book or engrossed in a film?  Hypnosis is a form of deep relaxation or trance which is why it can be so effective at treating a range of problems.  So, take some time out or try hypnotherapy to engage your default mode.

If you are feeling anxious, depressed, like you have lost your confidence, would like to lose weight or have a phobia that is holding you back, hypnotherapy can help.  We can also enable people people to quit smoking, to improve performance in sport, with public speaking or, for childbirth.

I run clinics at The Bell Surgery in Henley, at The Spire in Reading, and remotely via Skype or Facetime.  The initial consultation is FREE. I also run corporate sessions on how to promote performance and reduce stress in the workplace.

To try one of my free taster ‘lunchtime de-stress’ sessions at your place of work or to book a free initial consultation, email annabel@unleashyoursoul.co.uk.

To access free relaxation tracks, hints and tips to stay calm, sign up for my newsletter: http://www.unleashyoursoul.co.uk/newsletter-sign-up/.


All stats for work related stress cited from The Labour Force Survey available from

Forbes: http://www.forbes.com/2009/02/11/survivor-syndrome-recession-entrepreneurs-manage_0211_survivor.html