Is Your Toxic Boss Hurting Your Health?


10 Strategies to Promote Mental Wellness at Work

Work-related stress and burnout is a serious problem that affects employees worldwide. We’ve all experienced a negative work environment but you may be surprised to learn that a negative work environment, especially a toxic boss, can actually increase your risk of heart disease and other serious health conditions. 

A 10-year Swedish study examined the relationship between manager leadership style and incidences of heart disease across 3,000 male employees. Researchers found that employees who had managers that were incompetent, inconsiderate, secretive, and uncommunicative were 60% more likely to have suffered a heart attack. 

So, when we use expressions about our heart being hurt, the reality is that toxic relationships can actually physically hurt us. Other physical symptoms of how burnout or a toxic boss can affect our health include chronic headaches, gastrointestinal issues, fatigue, pain, or insomnia. In addition to cardiovascular disease, chronic stress can also lead to anxiety, depression, diabetes, high blood pressure, and even a PTSD trauma response. Overall, prolonged stress in the workplace weakens the immune system, making individuals more vulnerable to disease and illness. 

Most employees experiencing burnout do not feel comfortable disclosing their health issues to management or employers for fear of losing their job, promotion, or stigma. This perpetuates the cycle of unhealthy coping and isolation. 

However, by creating a work culture that prioritizes health and wellness, you can transform the workplace from a source of stress to a supportive environment that promotes wellbeing and protects both your physical and mental health.  

Shift From Burnout to Balance

Here are 10 practical strategies to build a work environment that will help you shift from burnout to balance.

  1. Establish Clear Boundaries: Setting healthy boundaries between work and your personal life will allow you to have better work life balance instead of work blending into your personal time. Don’t check email after work hours and make sure you take regular breaks during the workday. This practice helps prevent burnout by allowing you to recharge your batteries and maintain focus on some of your personal goals and activities. 
  2. Use Open Communication: Create open and non-judgmental conversations with colleagues or friends whom you can trust. By expressing your feelings and concerns, you are releasing held tension from your body. Additionally, regular check-ins, feedback sessions, and team-building activities can help foster a sense of belonging and support within the workplace.
  3. Flexible Work Schedule: Every person has unique needs and circumstances. Consider asking for flexible work arrangements, such as remote work options or flexible hours, to accommodate your personal needs. This flexibility can significantly reduce stress and enhance work-life balance.
  4. Build In Time for Physical Activity: Carve out time for physical activity during work hours with simple strategies like participating in team fitness challenges, walking meetings, or accessing on-site gyms. Regular exercise has proven benefits in reducing stress and improving overall mental health.
  5. Practice Stress Reduction Skills: Mindfulness is trending right now, for good reasons! Stress reduction techniques like meditation, deep breathing exercises, or yoga are proven to lower blood pressure, improve emotional reactivity, and boost calmness and clarity. 
  6. Foster Meaningful Relationships: We are wired for social interaction and connectivity and the workplace should be no exception. Looks for ways to create and strengthen more meaningful connections at work. 
  7. Ask About Professional Development Opportunities: Feeling stagnant in one’s role can lead to burnout. Therefore, identifying opportunities for growth and skill development are key in allowing individuals to advance in their careers. 
  8. Sign up for Employee Wellness Programs: Many companies have wellness programs that focus on physical, mental, and emotional health. Join the workshops, webinars, or seminars on stress management, mindfulness, and coping techniques to help build resilience and better handle workplace challenges.
  9. Utilize Employee Assistance Programs (EAP) for Therapy Services: EAPs are designed to provide a range of services, such as counseling, mental health support, financial advice, and legal assistance. By utilizing the EAP, you can seek help and guidance in a safe and confidential manner.
  10. Lead by Example: If you’re in a leadership role, look at ways to shape a healthy and positive work culture. Lead by example by embracing work-life balance, taking breaks, and utilizing mental health resources yourself. When employees witness this behavior from their employers, they are more likely to adopt similar practices. 

Building a work culture that prioritizes mental health is a collective effort, involving employers, managers, and yourself. By practicing these strategies daily or sharing this article with your work team, it can help organizations transform workplaces from breeding grounds for burnout to supportive environments that promote work-life balance. 

Therapy in Orange County 

Burnout and stress can take a tremendous toll on an individual’s mental and physical health. It can be challenging to identify ways to boost self-esteem and mood when work may be taking up a lot of your mental energy. This article is meant to highlight concrete ways to create a more meaningful work culture and adopt work-life balance.

For additional support from a licensed therapist, contact Orange County Health Psychologists by calling 949.528.6300 or emailing

Written by Dr. Sharline Shah for OC Health Psychologists