8 Toxic Habits That Lead To Burnout


In our unique culture of hustling and bustling, we are programmed to push ourselves far above and beyond what we are capable of. It’s not necessarily a bad thing to push yourself beyond your limits and test them, but when you’re not mixing your productivity and seriousness with relaxation and lightheartedness, you can suffer from burnout. 

Burnout typically is characterized as physical, emotional and mental exhaustion, loss of drive and motivation, the inability to concentrate at work or school, feeling apathetic or lacking in emotion and a decline in productivity. These symptoms can even lead to depression and anxiety disorders, because of the cynicism and hopelessness. While this is not diagnosing burnout, which is better left in the hands of professionals, it’s a list of 8 habits that can be factors in experiencing burnout and that you should be on the lookout for, if you’re experiencing this. 

  1. Not Taking Or Enjoying Breaks

When you don’t use your “off” switch or you lack one, you stand a higher chance of having burnout. Not taking breaks doesn’t have the effect that we think it does. It may seem like you’re saying “look at how hard I’m working” but you’re actually depleting your productivity. 

A study by The Interview Guys showed that people who skipped lunch had a burnout score of 73% and those who ate lunch at their desks had a burnout score of 54%. Even minor breaks like taking a brief walk throughout the day, eating a healthy snack or even a quick meditation session can lessen your stress levels and decrease your levels of burnout. 

  1. Perfectionism

When you’re a perfectionist, your only standard is perfection and it’s an extremely high standard. You are a high achiever whose ambition won’t let them settle for second best. You push yourself in all of the areas of your life and people around you may wonder how you manage to do it all. 

You work twice as hard as everyone around you to appear perfect. You might even do your work again because you’re unsatisfied with it. This traps you in a vicious cycle of appearing like you’ve got everything in control and you’re doing so well that you don’t need help. By trying to always look good, you burnout because you can’t maintain this image of perfection forever and it’s an exhausting task to continuously do. 

  1. Not Saying No Or Advocating For Yourself

Agreeing to take things on that you don’t actually have the time for will result in you being burned out. By always saying yes, you may commit yourself to an endless to-do list and your workload (that might already be gigantic) becomes a weight on your chest and your shoulders. You allow yourself to have work or study overload when you don’t set boundaries for yourself. 

Nobody is obligated to stand up and speak up for you. Learning how to is an essential life skill. If you don’t speak up about an issue or mistreatment towards you or try to negotiate better terms for yourself, your initial anger morphs into resentment and hopelessness. You start hating where you are and what you’re doing. It might not always end up in your favour but it’s always important to advocate for your own interests.

  1. Poor Sleep

Some of us have such demanding schedules that having proper sleep is just a dream and a reality for other people. As adults and young adults, it’s recommended that we get 7-9 hours of sleep. If you already have a sleep cycle that helps you and that you agree with, then you don’t need to change anything. 

Pulling all-nighters doesn’t help long-term with your performance. Our brains need time to properly retain what we’ve learnt and consolidate what we’ve been through during the day and sleep is a necessary tool for that. You don’t want to be performing at less than half battery power at school or work. Take naps and use your alarm clock to wake you up if you struggle with waking up from naps (like me.) 

  1. Poor Time Management and Procrastination

You said you’d do it today but you’ll just do it tomorrow since it’s too late, even though you had the time. We all procrastinate occasionally, but when it becomes a lifestyle, that can lead to work or study overload because of putting off tasks and projects, therefore heightening stress levels. 

If you struggle with time management and procrastination, it would help you to do research on how you can avoid putting off things and how to better use your time so that you can work, play and relax. Good time management helps us create a better balance in our lives. 

  1. Not Exercising Or Going Outside

Besides increasing your serotonin and dopamine levels, boosting your metabolism and strengthening your immune system, exercise reduces your stress and hypertension levels. It’s recommended that we exercise 3 times a week, for about 30 minutes. Even taking short walks if you sit most of the time for study or work causes circulation in your legs, preventing blood clots from occurring, as seen in long distance truck drivers. 

If you don’t go outside for some time out in nature, you’re missing out! Being in nature reduces psychological stress levels, according to a study by Ewert and Chang. And you don’t need to be outside for long. Just 15 minutes can do the trick! 

  1. Failure To Perform Self-care Routines

You’re feeling the fatigue and the lack of motivation but you tell yourself that you’ll keep going even though you’re pretty sure that your brain might split in two if you keep working. When you don’t acknowledge the stress in your life and don’t counter it with self-care routines, you increase your burnout levels.

It’s vitally important to have a balanced life. Adequate sleep, exercise, healthy diet and coping mechanisms for stress are all necessary to achieve this balance. Don’t forget about days off and holidays! If you have paid time off, it benefits you to take it. Do activities that you enjoy and that soothe and relax you.

  1. Not Asking For Help

For some people, it’s common to not want to reach out for help. Maybe we’re afraid of rejection, ridicule (it happens), imposing on our fellow students, colleagues or our supervisors and professors. Or we just prefer to control everything ourselves and don’t want external interference.

Not a lot of us were taught to ask for help or even had help growing up so that mindset of doing things alone is more of a defense mechanism and survival tool we use to protect ourselves from the uncertainty and uncomfortably of asking for help and receiving it. The truth is, it’s hard to shoulder everything ourselves and it’s also impossible. There are just certain things that we don’t know that we have to go outside of ourselves and ask for guidance and clarity on. It’s not a weakness to ask for help when you need it. Help is a necessity. 


Being burned out is the reality for many people who work or study in high-stress,  demanding environments. While it may not be completely possible for people to cut back on studying and working, it is highly recommended that you find ways to detach from your tasks, physically and emotionally, so that you don’t carry the weight of your work on your shoulders perpetually. A little goes a long way, so even 5 minutes of leaving your work and walking somewhere and then coming back has a great effect. Take the time to clear your mind so that you can show up for yourself and do your best at work. 

See you later. 


*Ewert, A., & Chang, Y. (2018, May 17). Levels of nature and stress response. Behavioral sciences (Basel, Switzerland). Retrieved October 7, 2021, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5981243/

*Garone , S. (2018, April 18). 5 toxic habits that are sabotaging your mental health at work. Google. Retrieved October 7, 2021, from https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.brit.co/amp/toxic-work-habits-affecting-mental-health-2639475964/.

*Henry. (2021, May 28). Academic burnout: How to prevent it and what to do: Uopeople. University of the People. Retrieved October 7, 2021, from https://www.uopeople.edu/blog/what-is-academic-burnout/

*Salmons, I. (2015, October 7). The 7 habits of highly burned-out people. ilona. Retrieved October 7, 2021, from https://www.ilonasalmons.com/single-post/2015/10/07/the-7-habits-of-highly-burnedout-people

*Yun, J. (2019, November 1). Toxic workplace habits leading to Burnout. Yahoo! Finance. Retrieved October 7, 2021, from https://au.finance.yahoo.com/news/toxic-workplace-habits-burnout-011010550.html?guce_referrer=aHR0cHM6Ly93d3cuZ29vZ2xlLmNvbS8&guce_referrer_sig=AQAAAHnSHPW0OCrNBOIEKImPmq-3ygYEikhbidYCSlE3Sgah3NYHLSngpYSbHEyrBUcpc_8AgRzwfsXU63C1o1MCSSBaFrdbeUTyH7_hAPUyiXJ5CMX3A3tqJDFqEbUXJrKCJ96BZOudjD3IWJNn6vM5AskpZwfEToyF4zbC8MoGs6Az

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