As Jacinda Ardern resigns as NZ prime minister, how do you know if your tank is empty?

Image of New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Kate Laurell Ardern
Jacinda Ardern announced this week that she was stepping down as the prime minister of New Zealand. (Getty Images)

Jacinda Ardern this week shocked the world by announcing that she was stepping down from her role as prime minister of New Zealand.

The politician, 42, who has lead the country since 2017, revealed during a press conference that she "no longer has enough in the tank" to do the role justice.

In an emotional speech, the mother of one explained that it was "time to step down", and confirmed that her final day would be no later than 7 February.

She was then seen leaving the New Zealand Labour party’s annual caucus meeting with her husband Clarke Gayford, with whom she shares four-year-old daughter Neve.

Read more: Sandra Bullock and five other celebs who've been open about experiencing burnout

Speaking on Friday outside an airport in the North Island city of Napier, Ardern told reporters that she had “slept well for the first time in a long time” after making the announcement.

The prime minister added that she had felt a “range of emotions”, including sadness and a "sense of relief".

What does it mean to have an 'empty tank'?

According to psychologist Suzy Reading, it's much more severe than a good night's shut-eye or a weekend off can facilitate.

Speaking to PA, she explained: “Having an empty tank is much more than just feeling stressed: when we’re overloaded and under pressure, we feel like we just need an extra day in the week and then we’d be back on track.

Clarke Gayford and New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern attend the Committal Service for Queen Elizabeth II at St George's Chapel, Windsor Castle on September 19, 2022 in Windsor, England
The politician shares a young daughter with husband Clarke Gayford. (Getty Images)

"Energetic bankruptcy is a feeling of total overwhelm, like there is nothing left and more time would achieve nothing. It’s a feeling of ‘stop the world, I want to get off’.

"It can be characterised by disengagement, the inability to muster any energy, feeling emotionally distant, numb or dulled, and a sense of helplessness and hopelessness.

"While the toll of stress might feel more physical, the toll of energetic bankruptcy feels more emotional."

Why does it happen?

Reading notes that everyone may be vulnerable to experiencing an "empty tank" at certain points in their life.

She explains: "No one is immune and we can’t always prevent it. There are some traumatic life experiences that result in this natural human response, and we need to take time out and heal.

Read more: Are you at risk of burnout? Signs, symptoms and how to deal with it

"Equally, there are times when it can completely creep up on you – a slow build that feels busy but normal, until suddenly, it’s all too much."

How can you prevent it?

If you’re noticing the feeling of retreat, and "being completely at capacity, unable to meet the demands of your day", then it's likely know you’re reaching your point of overwhelm. "Recharging at this point is essential," says Reading.

Woman suffering from stress while using a laptop at her desk
Burnout is a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion. (Getty Images)

"Things that would normally replenish and recharge us might not touch the sides in this state of depletion, explains Reading. "Any self-care that requires effort or energy will feel too much, and this is a time for being cared for, and not having to do it all on your own."

Reading suggests reaching out to your support network to get help when you're feeling overwhelmed. "Don’t be afraid to reach out to those around you, she explains. :Being heard, validated and understood is helpful, and receiving hands-on comfort is helpful too, like massage or acupuncture."

Being kind to yourself in the recovery process is also key, she adds. "Pacing ourselves compassionately helps – prioritising sleep, rest, nutrition, hydration, movement, time in nature, breath work, and learning to soothe the nervous system all help.

"As does being brave enough to say it’s time to step back."

Additional reporting PA.

Watch: Jacinda Ardern confesses having a 'sense of relief' after stepping down as New Zealand PM