Work stress and burnout – tips to avoid

It’s common to occasionally have a stressful day at work, or even a few weeks during an ongoing project that demands extra time and effort.

A small amount of stress like this can boost motivation and performance. However, too much stress over a long period of time is not good for your physical or mental health and can lead to burnout.

Signs of stress can include stomachaches and headaches, poor sleep, tiredness, difficulty concentrating, feeling irritable and frequent illnesses.

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.

Here are our top 10 tips to help reduce work stress:

1. Unplug 

In this electronic age, it can be hard to separate work and leisure time as we are contactable 24/7. If possible, have cut off times where you do not check your emails or are only contactable in an emergency. Similarly, try to keep weekends free from work emails and messages.

2. Set boundaries

Make sure the work you are doing is within your job description and you’re not taking on work that someone else should be doing. This can lead to you feeling overwhelmed, exhausted and unappreciated.

3. Take your lunch break

It’s easy to work through lunch to get the job done but it’s important you take a break and have something nutritious to eat. If you take your time and don’t rush, you’ll feel re-charged and ready for the afternoon. Going for a walk and grabbing some fresh air during your break is also a great way to refresh, even if it’s only around the block.

4. Use your annual leave

Taking a decent break or two throughout the year is another great way to rest and re-charge. Longer breaks really give you time to refresh and come back to work energised.

5. If you’re sick, stay home

If you’re under the weather, stay home and get 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.

6. Open up communications

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. And remember, it should be okay to say “no” to your workmates and boss if you’re being asked to take on extra work. If you don’t feel you can say no, or you feel you aren’t being heard, then you need to talk to your manager.

7. Eat a healthy diet

Eating a healthy, balanced diet is good for your overall health and will help you perform well mentally and physically. Avoid quick fixes such as coffee and sweet food to give you an energy boost.

8. Get enough sleep

Good quality, regular sleep boosts your immune system and keeps you mentally and physically well. Make a good night’s sleep a priority.

9. Exercise

Being active and getting your heart rate up, building strength and/or 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.

10. Mindfulness

Meditation and mindfulness, when practised regularly, can also help clear your mind and reduce stress.

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


  1. Burnout – facing the damage of 'chronic workplace stress' Medical News Today, US 
  2. 10 stress busters NHS, UK
  3. Stress at work Health Navigator, NZ