Can silence be therapeutic?

There is good reason to expect loud noise to be harmful. Sounds get our attention because they tell us what is happening nearby and warn us of impending danger. Sounds raise our blood pressure and muscle tension, hormones are produced to raise stress and enable us to take action if needed, to fight or flee. But if we are subject to noise again and again, stress begins to damage our health, causing anxiety and depression.

Regular noise above 50 dB can cause health problems, including sleep disturbance. The World Health Organization recognized such noise as a threat to health in 2018. Several cities have taken steps to reduce the noise that citizens are typically exposed to (eg quieter buses, less aircraft noise at night, barriers around big roads). In Singapore about 70,000 complaints about noise are made to government agencies annually (Straits Times, 25.10.22). There is a case for taxing excessive noise making in the densely populated city.

What can we do individually? There is now good evidence that spending time in a sensory deprivation float tank can be beneficial. It seems, however, that it is essential that this is something you actively want, otherwise the isolation can itself be stressful. But such extreme steps may not be the only method: seeking out quiet in a natural setting, perhaps alongside guided relaxation, may be equally or more helpful.

Does everyone benefit equally from such quiet? Eric Pfeiffer, a researcher in Freiburg, Germany, found that most people do benefit from quiet; comparisons between different types of quiet suggested that periods of silence in natural setting such as a park, combined with music or mediation led by a therapist, was for most people the most beneficial. But some people, perhaps because they were already over-stressed, were unable to benefit from such silence. Further work on managing the stress may be needed before quiet can be helpful to those people. Pfeiffer does not argue for prolonged silence for everyone: even 10 minutes per day may be beneficial to most people.

[See “Shhhhh…” by Kayt Sukel, New Scientist, 13.08.2022]

Written by:
Dr. Tim Bunn
Consultant Educational Psychologist


Burnout is a state of mental exhaustion, typically the result of repeated stress or external pressure. A state of burnout can occur as a consequence of a stressful environment. Burnout is characterized by three main symptoms; severe exhaustion, excessive cynicism or negativity, and a sense of inadequacy.

Despite this, burnout is not a diagnosable disorder in a traditional sense. Rather it is more akin to a psychological state of mind. However, that does not mean its significance should be downplayed. Burnout does not necessarily occur only in terms of a job environment. But research suggests that it is mostly prevalent in people oriented occupations. 

So this begs the question of how can burnout be prevented? One of simplest ways is establishing clear boundaries with your occupation. Meaning that important is your work may be to you, it is important to not let its importance consume you. This can be achieved through the proper maintenance of a good work-life balance.

Potential signs of a poor work-life balance include: 

  • Not having any control or say in your workload, schedule or amount of assignments 
  • Not knowing what is expected of you / being unable to meet those expectations 
  • Bullying or harassment at the workplace 
  • Near constant feelings of monotony or chaos 
  • Not having support from mentors or colleagues 

The abovementioned factors could all be potential signs of a poor working environment that could be causing feelings of burnout. If you feel that your workplace is causing you these feelings then it might be an appropriate time to attempt to address those problems head on. This can be done through open communication with your colleagues or superiors about these issues.

Furthermore, the environment is not the only factor that contributes to feelings of burnout. An individual’s personality traits or lifestyle can also have an effect. For instance some common personality traits that can intensify feelings of burnout include: 

  • Taking on excessive or unmanageable responsibilities 
  • A lack of close relationships 
  • Not making significant time for the purpose of relaxation or spending time with friends and family 
  • Excessive pessimism 
  • Perfectionism 
  • A need for absolute 

These characteristics if not kept in check can lead to burnout. Additionally, an individual’s attitude towards themselves, particularly during their downtime. For instance taking on excessive responsibilities during their off work hours, which can lead to mental exhaustion that can foster a sense of burnout during work. 
It’s also important to acknowledge that the stress or anxiety an individual may feel is not always necessarily a sign of burnout. In addition, the abovementioned factors may also be not always be a guaranteed sign of burnout.

Burnout is mainly characterized by exhaustion and negative feelings towards work and other areas of life, but there are other less-known symptoms to watch out for.

There are both somatic and emotional symptoms associated with this syndrome, including:

  • Sleep problems or insomnia
  • Unexplained regular headaches, stomach pains
  • High blood pressure
  • Concentration problems
  • Loss of interest in liked activities
  • Feeling worthless
  • Food, alcohol, or substance abuse
  • Weakened immune system
  • Crippling sadness, anger, or irritability

    You should consult your physician if you notice these symptoms so that they may be relieved and your burnout can be treated as soon as possible. 

Therefore, the key to alleviating a sense of burnout is, setting adequate boundaries between individual time and time for working. Ensuring that this boundary is respected. In addition to dealing with any outstanding issues that may cause stress or discomfort in the environment.
Finally, the most important step in managing burnout is self-reflection. It’s important to reflect on one’s position and actions to determine if something in your environment may be causing you unneeded stress that can potentially lead to burnout.


Maslach C, Leiter MP. Understanding the burnout experience: recent research and its implications for psychiatry. World Psychiatry. 2016;15(2):103–111. doi:10.1002/wps.20311

Yale Medicine. Chronic stress.

Brandstätter V, Job V, Schulze B. Motivational incongruence and well-being at the workplace: person-job fit, job burnout, and physical symptoms. Front Psychol. 2016;7:1153. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2016.01153

Pereira H, Feher G, Tibold A, Monteiro S, Esgalhado G. Mediating effect of burnout on the association between work-related quality of life and mental health symptomsBrain Sci. 2021;11(6):813. doi:10.3390/brainsci11060813

Bianchi R, Schonfeld IS, Laurent E. Burnout-depression overlap: a reviewClin Psychol Rev. 2015;36:28-41. doi:10.1016/j.cpr.2015.01.004

Kane L. Medscape National Physician Burnout, Depression & Suicide Report 2019. Wigert B, Agrawal S. Employee burnout, Part 1: The 5 main causes. Gallup.

Demerouti E. Strategies used by individuals to prevent burnoutEur J Clin Invest.2015;45(10):1106-12. doi:10.1111/eci.12494

Written by:
Leah Selakovic
SACAC Counselling

Pre-marital counselling

When it comes to engagement and wedding preparations, it is such a great joy and excitement for couples and their friends and family. The fantasy of getting dressed up, walking down the aisle with one’s life partner, exchanging vows and rings, committing to one another, and living happily ever after. The wedding looks so glamorous and perfect. But we all know that the wedding is the start of a life-long journey that has rainy days and stormy nights.

As the old saying goes, ” To fall in love is easy, staying in love is a challenge, and letting go (of self) is the hardest.” As we get married and live together, we find many surprises in the first 1-2 years of marriage. These “surprises” could be as simple as how to do the laundry, who does the laundry, and how often; how to manage finances; how to spend our nights and holidays together; or how to manage in-laws. Some of these surprises are difficult to imagine or identify before marrying each other. When couples are unequipped to identify the issues and look deeper to understand each other’s values, misunderstandings and resentment build up; gradually pulling individuals away from the relationship. Many researchers and marriage therapists point out that if couples are given the chance to understand each other’s expectations of marriage and learn to communicate effectively during the courtship, they are likely to have a stable and enjoyable marriage. 

Premarital counselling is structured counselling that can help couples prepare for marriage, address issues, understand similarities and differences, build communication skills, allow couples to discover new things about themselves and their relationships, and plan for their future. It usually takes place 6 months to a year before the engagement, and couples are required to meet with the therapist at least once a month for a 2-hour session. 

The therapist will facilitate couples to explore marriage-related themes such as finance, communications, marriage roles, values and beliefs, affections and sex, relationships with each other’s friends and families, making big decisions, children and parenting, family background, and personality. It is intended to help couples prepare and have a solid foundation for their relationship. It is not a test to assess whether couples fail or pass the courtship, and it is also not a measurement to indicate a breakup or getting married.

I am a therapist myself and recognized the huge benefits of premarital counselling in my own journey to marital life. It teaches us how cultural differences affect our relationship, how to manage our expectations of each other’s roles in marriage, how to understand each other’s stress profile, and how to express our feelings and emotional needs in a way that brings us closer together. If you have been in a stable relationship for more than a year, I highly recommend you start pre-marital counselling today!


Prepare & Enrich

Warren, N. C. (1998, April 1). Finding the Love Of Your Life (Second Edition). Focus on the Family.

The Gottman Institute

Written by:
Elizabeth Pan
Psychotherapist & Counsellor
SACAC Counselling