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Managing stress and burnout in a high-pressure workplace

Updated: Apr 17

black woman in office wear holding her forehead as if incredibly stressed or burnt out

Stress and burnout are two of the most common issues faced by professionals today. Dr Tara Tofiq believes there is a silent epidemic happening in the city, with London being a melting pot of perfectionistic high-achievers, the rising prevalence of imposter syndrome coupled with people pleasing in the mix, all leading to features of burnout possibly undetected for some time.

People often present with insomnia, lack of enjoyment, anxiety and stress-related conditions like irritable bowel syndrome, migraines and sexual dysfunction.

While they may seem like separate things, they are often closely connected and can have a significant impact on an individual's physical and mental health, as well as their overall job performance.

Stress refers to the physical and mental response to a challenging situation, which can result in feelings of anxiety, tension, and pressure. In the workplace, stress can be caused by a wide range of factors, including high workloads, tight deadlines, interpersonal conflicts and a lack of support or recognition.

mature woman sat at a desk with a laptop, she holds her glasses in her hand and looks like she has burnout

While some amount of stress can be beneficial in helping individuals to stay focused and motivated, excessive or prolonged stress can lead to a range of negative health outcomes, including exhausted adrenals, anxiety, depression, and chronic fatigue syndrome.

Stress is an inevitable part of working in a high-pressure workplace. The pressure to meet deadlines, deliver targets and achieve goals can be overwhelming leading to anxiety, burnout, and other mental health problems.

However, it is possible to manage stress in such an environment without compromising productivity or job satisfaction.

Here are some effective tips on how to manage stress in a high-pressure workplace

  • Prioritise tasks - a high-pressure workplace can be demanding, so it is important to prioritise tasks to avoid feeling overwhelmed. List all your tasks and prioritise them in order of importance. Focus on the most important ones and delegate others to colleagues if possible.

  • Take regular breaks - taking regular breaks is essential to manage stress levels in a high-pressure workplace. Step away from your desk and take a walk, stretch or meditate. This will help you to clear your mind and refresh your focus.

  • Set realistic goals - setting unrealistic goals can be a major cause of stress in the workplace. Be realistic with your goal setting and try to break them into smaller achievable steps. Celebrate every milestone, no matter how small.

  • Communicate effectively - effective communication is critical in a high-pressure workplace where things can quickly get out of hand. Regularly communicate your progress to your colleagues and superiors. If you are facing any challenges, ask for help.

  • Stay organised - a cluttered workspace can increase stress levels. Create a schedule or a to-do list and stick to it. Keep your workspace clean and organised to avoid unnecessary distractions.

  • Learn to say 'no' -  it's important to recognise your limits and be able to say 'no' when necessary. Taking on too many responsibilities can lead to burnout and stress. Prioritise your own well-being and set boundaries.

A healthy diet, regular exercise and enough sleep can help to reduce stress levels. Don't neglect your physical and mental health in the pursuit of work goals.

Burnout is not the same as stress

white office worker man sat at a desk with a stressed expression on his face as he looks at a laptop

So, now that we’ve covered some ways to manage stress, it’s important to acknowledge that burnout is also a very real problem faced by many professionals.

Burnout is a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion that results from prolonged or chronic stress. It is often characterised by feelings of cynicism, detachment and reduced effectiveness at work. Burnout can occur when someone feels overwhelmed, unsupported, or undervalued and may result in a range of negative health outcomes, including depression, anxiety, poor sleep along with a weakened immune system.

While stress and burnout are closely connected, they require different approaches to management and treatment. While stress can often be alleviated through stress-reducing activities such as exercise, mindfulness meditation and a healthy diet, burnout often requires more significant change to  a person's work environment or lifestyle. For example, it may be necessary to set clearer boundaries around work-life balance, seek out more supportive colleagues or supervisors, or take time off to recharge and recover.

Find expert help for burnout in London

When seeing a patient with burnout at Schoen Clinic Chelsea, leading London Consultant Psychiatrist Dr Tara Tofiq carefully uncovers the various underlying causes in order to address them effectively. What is key, is that it’s about two people meeting and leaving the persona at the office and taking the space to reclaim a sense of wholeness.

A typical appointment for burnout would involve an open and honest conversation about how the patient is feeling with regard to varying aspects of their life. Are they feeling pressure at home or at work? Are they having relationship problems or suffering from a loss?

Sometimes it may feel as though there is no true cause for feeling burnt out, but as a strong believer in truly listening, Dr Tofiq allows each individual to share their experiences in order to identify any key areas for concern and management. Understanding that each person is unique and responds to stressors in their own way ensures that each individual receives a tailored approach to treatment.

After all, what one person finds stressful, another may thrive on.


Regardless of whether someone is experiencing stress or burnout, it is essential to take steps to minimise the impact on their physical, emotional and mental well-being. This may involve reaching out to a mental health professional like our specialists at Schoen Clinic Chelsea, seeking stress management training, or developing a self-care routine that includes regular exercise, healthy meals and quality sleep.

Ultimately, managing stress and burnout requires a proactive approach, and it is essential for employers, colleagues and individuals alike to prioritise their own well-being and that of those around them.

Managing stress in a high-pressure workplace is essential for your wellbeing and productivity. Prioritise tasks, take regular breaks, set realistic goals, communicate effectively, stay organised, learn to say 'no' and take care of yourself. By following these tips, you can effectively manage stress levels in your workplace and maintain your overall health and wellbeing.

By taking proactive steps to manage stress and burnout, individuals can remain healthy, productive and engaged in their work, contributing positively to their own well-being and that of their colleagues and employers alike.

If you need support for stress, burnout or another mental health condition, our specialists at our leading London clinic Schoen Clinic Chelsea are available, offering a variety of treatments and therapies.

headshot of Dr Tara Tofiq a Consultant Psychiatrist

Dr Tofiq is a specialist in a range of mental health conditions and has extensive experience in treating professionals with burnout. Dr Tofiq welcomes privately insured and self-funding patients to her burnout clinic in London.

This article was reviewed by Dr Tara Tofiq, Consultant Psychiatrist at Schoen Clinic Chelsea on 27th April 2023.

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