It would be irresponsible to run your car without fuel or giving it a regular service. The same goes for your body. Taking time out regularly to avoid burnout is vital for your physical and mental health

South Africans have an international reputation for being hard workers. According to research done by Reuters and Ipsos, a staggering 53% percent of us choose to forgo our annual leave. Entrepreneurs, too, who schedule their own working hours, are often reluctant to take time off or entrust their ventures to others to run.

However, while hard work is a virtue and being the first one in and the last one out the office might seem like a good way to guarantee a rise up the corporate ladder, the exhaustion that comes with burnout can lead to decreased productivity, unmanageable stress, severe depression and serious illness, including cardiac disease.

According to online business and employee management journal HR Pulse, other effects of workplace stress can include headaches, anxiety, hypertension and substance.

Psychology Today describes burnout as “a state of emotional, mental and often physical exhaustion brought on by prolonged or repeated stress”. It’s become so common that the World Health Organisation (WHO) now recognises it as a medical condition.

While occasional stress is to be expected in most jobs, the continuing, daily stress that leads to burnout is often characterised by “feelings of depletion or exhaustion, increased distance from one’s job or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job, as well as reduced professional efficacy”, according to the WHO. Added to this is impaired emotional functioning, resulting in relationship problems and increased isolation.

For many millions of working women, burnout at work is exacerbated by the burden of running a household, and caring and providing for children.

So how can we cope with the pressure we’re under and deal with stress in healthy ways? We asked some high-flying women for their tips.