Tips to avoid work stress and burnout

It’s common to occasionally have a stressful day at work but stress over a period of time can lead to burnout.

A small amount of stress at work can boost motivation and performance. However, stress over a period of time is not good for your wellbeing. It can result in burnout which is a state of emotional, mental and physical exhaustion.

You may be experiencing burnout if you are:

  • finding it hard to concentrate
  • feeling disillusioned or unmotivated about your job
  • having problems sleeping
  • using food, drugs or alcohol to feel better
  • troubled by headaches, gut problems or other unexplained symptoms.

Video: COVID-19: Work stress and burnout

(Health Navigator NZ and Te Whatu Ora | Health New Zealand, Waitematā, 2022)
View descriptive transcript in English
View transcript in Cook Islands Māori
View transcript in Niuean
View transcript in Tokelauan

Tips to avoid work stress and burnout

Woman stressed at work

Image credit: Canva

Here are some tips to avoid stress and burnout.

1. Set boundaries

It can be hard to separate work and leisure time especially if you are working from home. Set rules so you can detach mentally from work. Try not to check emails or messages outside of work hours. If you use your personal phone or computer for work, set rules so you aren't disturbed by incoming emails or messages or can your workplace provide you with a different phone? 

2. Review your workload

Review your workload if your work is making you feel overwhelmed, unhappy and exhausted. Your manager should support you and help make your work manageable and enjoyable for you. Perhaps there is scope to share some of your tasks with a colleague or prioritise some things over others. 

3. Take breaks and relax

It’s easy to work through the day to get the job done but it’s important you take a break to stretch your muscles, eat and re-focus your mind. Going for a walk and enjoying some fresh air is a great way to spend a break. Regular physical activity can help you manage stress and takes your mind off work problems. Find ways to let nature in – engaging with nature is a good way to maintain some balance and feed your spirit. 

4. Use your annual leave

Taking a decent break throughout the year is another great way to rest and re-charge. Always have at least one break booked in so you have something to look forward to. Longer breaks really give you time to refresh and come back to work energised. Plan a get away (even just a long weekend) or just relax at home.

5. If you’re sick, rest

If you’re under the weather, stay home, don't work and focus on getting well. If you soldier on, you’ll end up feeling worse and taking longer to get better. Plus, there’s a risk you’ll spread whatever you have to your workmates. If you have COVID-19 it's especially important that you look after yourself and stay away from people around you. Read more about looking after yourself with COVID. You are legally entitled to have a number of sick days per year.

6. Talk to somebody

If you let something that’s bothering you at work fester, it may only make it worse. Being honest about what’s bothering you will help get it off your chest and help resolve the issue. If you don't have someone to talk to at work, try a friend or whānau member or contact 1737 free for advice. Often there are support options available through workplaces, such as employee assistance programmes (which can include free counselling).

Remember, if your stress is caused by bullying in the workplace, this is never acceptable. For more information on workplace bullying, visit the WorkSafe NZ website.

7. Get enough sleep

Good quality, regular sleep boosts your immune system and keeps you mentally and physically well. Make getting a good night’s sleep a priority. Wind down with a good book and a cup of herbal tea. Avoid thinking about work and avoid digital devices as they can cause you to have a bad night's sleep.

8. Exercise

Being active and stretching deeply relieves stress for many people. It is particularly important to be physically active if you have a job where you sit down all day. If you drive to work, try walking or running or cycling. Incorporating exercise into your day is a great way of getting active.

9. Mindfulness

Activities like yoga, tai chi or mindfulness, can be helpful when practised regularly. They can clear your mind, reduce stress and help you to remain calm.

10. Avoid unhealthy habits

Don't rely on alcohol, smoking and caffeine as your ways of coping. They won't solve your problems, they'll just create new ones. Eating a healthy, balanced diet is good for your overall health and will help you perform well mentally and physically.

If you’re concerned about your stress levels or would like more information, please contact your GP or healthcare provider.

References

  1. Burnout – facing the damage of 'chronic workplace stress' Medical News Today, US 
  2. 10 stress busters NHS, UK
  3. Occupational stress, burnout and fatigue WHO
  4. Job burnout – how to spot it and take action Mayo Clinic, US, 2021
Credits: Health Navigator Editorial Team.