THROUGHOUT January I’ve been focusing on different aspects of self care and with alarming data being published about our work place stress levels, it feels important to talk about burnout.

Burnout has been bandied around for a number of years and now thanks to the World Health Organisation, it has been officially recognised as a condition in its own right.

Work place stress levels in the UK have been steadily rising. Data from the HSE shows that between 2019-20 we lost a whopping 17.9 million days to work-related stress or burnout. Factors contributing to workplace burnout are tight deadlines, too much responsibility and a lack of managerial support: given the current pandemic I’m sure we can add working from home, trying to manage conflicting priorities and Zoom fatigue into the mix.

Burnout is real and it happens to a frightening large amount of us. The good news is once you spot it, there are things you can do to combat it and prevent it happening again.

What is workplace burnout?

Burnout happens when the pressure you are under becomes greater than your ability to cope.

The signs that you might be struggling are subtle at first, your sleep pattern might change, your appetite might decrease or increase suddenly, you might experience fatigue,  your feelings towards your work will become more negative and eventually your ability to do your job well will be decreased. 

Top tips to manage your workplace stress and avoid burnout..

Are you too involved in your work?

Within psychotherapy we talk about a “work enmeshed” identity, this describes a person whose job has become the biggest part of who they are. You might notice that this person places the importance of work before most other things, that they have few other areas of interest, that their conversation is usually about work and work is where they get their rewards and feel valued and accomplished. For anyone in business, a work enmeshed person is a dream come true, the truth is that they are actually very vulnerable. As soon as pressure piles on and exceeds their ability to cope they can feel like a failure, they have so much invested in succeeding and so little invested elsewhere in hobbies, interests and relationships that their perspective can become skewed, things at work start to feel bigger than they are and anxiety and low mood can follow.

If this is you, be honest with yourself about your reasons for making work the pivotal focus for your life and make a conscious effort to try to broaden your horizons.  

Set healthy boundaries 

Focus on protecting the time and space you have away from your work, be strict with yourself about not reading emails, taking phone calls or letting other work related items intrude upon your down time.

Reset and replenish time

Make sure your down time is just that - make sure you have time to feel rested and that you have other interests that occupy your mind when you are away from your desk. Think about your rest holistically, everything from sleep, creativity, to how your body feels.

Learn your stress triggers and invest time in healthy stress relievers

You might not always realise what your stress triggers are, journaling your week is a really effective way of gaining insight into conversations, dynamics and other areas of work that send our stress systems sky-high . Getting to grips with techniques such as mindfulness, progressive muscle relaxation and other things we can do to relieve tension is important.

Tone up your time management skills

There are  a plethora of books and apps on the market to help us all be effective, try the five things I can do today approach, simply write down five achievable things you need to/can do in your day and stick to it. This approach is really useful if you are feeling overwhelmed with your to do list and are the sort of person who will try and do it all in one go.

Learn to say no

We are a fairly polite lot in the UK and many of us have been brought up to place importance on other people’s feelings above our own. When we need to say no we can start to feel as though we will cause offence or be thought of in a more negative light. Assertion is a really essential part of staying well and your No is important, be it in relationships, with food or at work. If you feel pushed into saying yes, try taking a pause before you answer, break that habitual yes response.

Ask for support

Reach out to family, friends, work colleagues, managers or your GP. Burnout has consequences for your mental well-being and physical health and it’s important to get support.

Kirsten Antoncich is a UKCP accredited psychotherapist, neurofeedback practitioner and a fellow of the Royal Society. She works with children, young people and adults from her base in York.

To ask her a question in complete confidence, please contact her via