How to maintain a healthy work-life balance to prevent burnout

What is Work Burnout?

Work burnout is considered a type of work-related stress characterized by feelings of reduced accomplishment and loss of personal identity. Work burnout is not a medical diagnosis, but the stress associated with work burnout can be detrimental to your mental and physical health.

Research suggests that individual factors, such as personality traits and family life, influence who experiences work burnout. Let’s consider how to know if you are suffering from work burnout and what you can do to relieve the suffering. 

What are common signs and symptoms of work burnout?

  • Becoming cynical or critical at work

  • Dragging yourself to work and having trouble getting started

  • Irritability or impatience with co-workers, customers or clients

  • Fatigue

  • Difficulty concentrating 

  • Lacking satisfaction from your achievements

  • Using food, drugs or alcohol to feel better or to void negative feelings

  • Sleep problems

  • Unexplained headaches, stomach or bowel problems, or other physical complaints

If any of the above symptoms resonate with you then consider whether you’re suffering from work burnout. It is always recommended to talk with your healthcare provider because these symptoms can also be related to health problems such as depression.

Who is at risk of developing work burnout?

Although anyone can develop work burnout, those who have a heavy workload, work long hours, have little control over their work, or work in a helping profession (e.g., health care workers, emergency medical personnel, firefighters, law enforcement officers, lawyers) are at increased risk of developing burnout. 

What are some consequences of work burnout?

Work burnout can have significant consequences, including:

  • Excessive stress
  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia
  • Sadness, anger or irritability
  • Alcohol or substance use disorders
  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Type II diabetes
  • Vulnerability to medical problems, including infections

What are some strategies for managing work burnout?

Admit and accept that you’re struggling with work burnout. Recognizing the signs and symptoms of burnout and whether they are negatively impacting your life is first (and most important) step!

Discuss specific concerns with a supervisor (if possible). Perhaps you can reassess expectations and develop solutions together. 

Prioritize daily tasks (more on this later).

Seek support. Whether you reach out to co-workers, friends or loved ones, support and collaboration might help you cope. If you have access to an employee assistance program, take advantage of relevant services.

Engage in one or more stress-reducing activities for at least 20 minutes each day. This may include yoga, meditation, tai chi, martial arts, mindfulness exercises, boxing, weight training, cross-fit, running, swimming, other aerobic exercise, sports, creative writing, painting, drawing, listening to music, playing an instrument, or reading for pleasure. 

Get quality sleep. We spend about a third of our lives sleeping. Sleep allows our body to reset. Interestingly, sleep is important for our memory, our immune system, and our ability to regulate our emotions.

Healthy diet. Junk food is comforting, but it doesn’t help your cause. Having the occasional “cheat meal” is important, but limit those sweets and saturated fats as much as possible. A high protein, high fiber, moderate fat, and low carbohydrate diet can improve your energy levels, concentration, memory, and mood!

Set healthy work-life boundaries. Setting healthy work-life boundaries will not only improve your mental health but prevent burnout and promote more effective and efficient work!

Let’s discuss healthy boundaries in a bit more detail…


Boundaries are the rules we set for ourselves in our relationships, our work, and our personal lives. 

Healthy boundaries mean preventing others from projecting beliefs, judgements, or expectations onto you. Many people will use “I don’t have time” as the reason for not taking care of their own needs. If you can’t make time for yourself, then what you are really saying is “my needs don’t matter.” If you don’t respect your own needs, then you certainly can’t expect others to. Putting others’ needs before your own will eventually stir up feelings of resentment, anger, and overwhelming fatigue.

A person with healthy boundaries can say “no” when needed without allowing the fear of disappointment to overpower their personal needs.

Remember, if someone feels disappointed or let down because you said “no” and took care of yourself, then you probably needed firmer boundaries anyway. 

Tips for setting healthy boundaries at work.

Take an honest look at your self-care habits. The first step in setting healthier boundaries is to honestly assess your self-care practices. Use this tool to assess your self-care habits.

Prioritize your values. Boundaries should be based on your beliefs and values–the things that are important to you. These may or may not align with others–and that is okay! Take time to make a list of what’s important to you in life. Each day, make time in your schedule for the things you value most. Use this tool to explore your values.

Create a flexible schedule that includes activities that align with your values. This does not mean scheduling every minute or hour of your day. You don’t want to become a prisoner of your schedule, so a basic flexible outline works best. In making this schedule, set times for checking your email and phone. One of the biggest mistakes people make is obsessively checking their email and phone. Obsessive checking is anxiety-provoking and inefficient–it disrupts your focus and is unnecessary. Use the auto-respond function to inform those who email you of when you check your email. You can also instruct people to call you directly if it is urgent.

Let Smartphones Be Smartphones. When you need to focus on completing a task, silence your phone and place it facedown next to you. If answering phone calls is important for your work, place your phone on vibrate and keep it in your pocket. When not working, set a time to put your phone on silent in a drawer or somewhere out of view for at least 30 minutes. By doing this, you’ll learn that you DO NOT need to have your phone on you at all times. 

Take a break from your computer. Your computer should only be used for work during work hours. When the workday is over, shut down your computer and put it away. If you need to use the computer for personal use, then use it for personal use ONLY. Some people find it helpful to have two devices – one for work and one for play. But this may not be possible.

Consistency is key. Try your best to remain consistent with your schedule!  Try not to get down on yourself if you struggle at first to be consistent. Simply recognize when you’re deviating from the plan and make adjustments to get back on track.

Use technology to help, rather than hurt, your boundaries. Many smartphones have reminder functions. Try setting reminders for when to take breaks, check emails, spend time with family, or exercise. There are many apps out there that can help with prioritizing your daily tasks as well!

Share your boundaries with others. It is important to share your boundaries with family, friends, co-workers, and supervisor(s). Ask your friends and family to keep an eye on your behaviors so they can point out when you might need to make some adjustments. Inform your co-workers and supervisor(s) so they can provide input and suggestions. While it is important to maintain healthy boundaries, it is also important to know how to compromise. That being said, compromising does not mean tossing your boundaries like a hot potato.

Take a moment to check in with yourself prior to doing work-related activities during non-work hours. Whenever you have the urge to work during non-work hours, make a habit of asking yourself whether the activity is in line with your values and priorities. How important, on a scale from 1-10, is it that you complete this RIGHT NOW? Anything 6 or below can wait.

Begin and end each day with anything but work. It is essential to begin and end your day with something positive. Something you enjoy. If the first thing you do each morning is check your email and the last thing you do is check your email, then you are setting yourself up for burnout. Do not let the first and last activity of each day be something work-related. 

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Thanks for visiting!

Enter your email to continue.

%d bloggers like this: