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‘I now have a much better sense of where my limits lie’

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Interview: Merel (28) about her experiences with our Vitality program

Merel Lolette Zijlmans (28) completed Biocheck’s Vitality program in 2019. ‘I am now much more aware of my body and mind.’

Exhausted

Constant fatigue, poor sleep, headache, little appetite, no desire to do anything at all. It’s been two years now, but Merel still knows how to list the list of complaints effortlessly. She was overstressed and on the verge of burnout. “The worst part was that I constantly felt rushed,” says the Rotterdam native. ‘I never really had a moment of peace. I didn’t really know how to relax and was always busy. I also experienced nuisance from my neighbors, which meant I could not relax at home. Partly because of this, I started working more and doing things so I didn’t have to be at home. Or work on things I was struggling with. That reinforced each other. At one point I noticed that I was completely exhausted.’

Always on

That moment was in March 2019. Merel decided to sound the alarm at her employer, the Nico Adriaans Foundation, where she works as a care provider. After careful consultation, she decided to work less. In addition, her employer offered her help to recover from the complaints in the form of a program at Biocheck. ‘That same evening I looked at the website,’ says Merel. ‘I immediately recognized myself in the complaints that were described. I especially found the “always on” statement striking.’ The combination with physical exertion and breathing also aroused Merel’s interest. ‘I exercise a lot, including fitness and yoga. So I know how important physical exercise and good breathing are for your mental health. I just couldn’t apply it properly in everyday life. Thanks to the Biocheck program, I can now do this.’

Training within load capacity

After an intake interview, a number of exercises and baseline measurements (Merel: ‘Even at rest, my body still showed a lot of stress’), Merel started a 26-week program. She trained twice a week under supervision at Biocheck and once a week independently at her own gym. ‘The nice thing is that the training sessions start with a rest measurement via the BioCheck app. You do this by doing the breathing exercise wearing a heart rate monitor, which is linked to the app. You really shouldn’t do anything for a while and focus purely on your breathing. This shows exactly how hard you can train. So you really train within your capacity for that day. So never too light, but certainly not too heavy either. At the end of the training, another measurement is taken. You can also do the breathing exercise outside of training. The exercise brings your body back to rest and allows it to recover.’

Measuring is knowing

In addition, Merel – like all participants in the Biocheck programs – took measurements every morning when she got up. ‘You do a ten-minute breathing exercise, during which your heart rate is measured, among other things. Via the app you can see exactly how tense or relaxed you are. Then you immediately know how much you can do on a given day. That really works; If I had a party or had been too busy, I would immediately see this in the app the next day. That is sometimes confrontational, but above all it is very useful. Because you are so consciously concerned with your physical and mental condition, you no longer only rely on your gut feeling, but also on data. In this way, I have gradually gotten to know my own body and mind better throughout the process.’

Indicate and recognize boundaries

During the Vitality Program, Merel started to feel better about herself. Before the end of the program, she was working full-time again. There was no relapse. ‘Because I now have a much better sense of where my limits lie. Where I used to take on too much, I now say no more easily. And when my body gets stressed or I find myself working on emails with bated breath, I quickly become relaxed again thanks to the breathing exercises I have learned. I would recommend a program at Biocheck to everyone. Especially the preventive program, because prevention is better than cure.’

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