01/25/2013 04:04 pm ET Updated Mar 27, 2013

Are You on the Fast Track to Burnout?

Do you feel that sometimes juggling work and life is a never-ending treadmill? From interviewing numerous high achievers, I've identified three common barriers that give rise to stress: deep-seated guilt, inability to say "no," and lack of self-established clarity. By taking back control while having a forgiving attitude, you can stay energized and focused year round! Here are some tips to help you do just that.

1. Release the guilt

Ever feel guilty because you are not working in the evenings? Or that you don't deserve a break until you've proved yourself to others? Letting go of emotional burdens enables you to be more present with your life and mentally engaged with all that you do. You gain mind space to explore, learn and discover things you enjoy or connect with people who matter. If you're guilty of being guilty, monitor how often you indulge in this emotion and observe what you're telling yourself you "should" be doing. Notice with whose standard are you measuring yourself? Turn that guilt around by accepting that you've done your best up to the present and dedicate yourself to a standard that you can enjoy honoring.

2. It's OK to say no!

Bill Cosby, actor and comedian, once said "I don't know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody." Do you believe that choosing to not go the extra mile in everything you do will make you look bad? You can set boundaries and doing so actually earns you more respect. It's fine to say "I'd be happy to work with you on this project, but I'm at capacity right now. I am on staff for three other projects and so I cannot realistically meet your deadline. However, I can take a look at this for you sometime next week." People generally understand your situation when you communicate your workload, provide a rationale and propose a solution. Being selective in what you take on makes it possible for you say yes to things that you actually want to do.

3. Avoid morning mayhem

Ever notice that when you start the day in chaos, the rest of the day feels off? Commit to starting your day with clarity and purpose. If you are in a job where unpredictability rules, positive morning practices are a simple way to re-incorporate predictability in your life. Express thanks for the clean water when you step into the shower. Take three slow breaths before you rise from the bed. Or take a brief walking meditation around the neighborhood before heading to work. You can take the practice with you wherever you go to center yourself again when the day gets hectic. Taking time for yourself before the day gets started will help you make decisions with clarity and get more done in less time.

By cultivating attitudes and practices that release self-induced pressure, you can have the work-life balance that you want. Even the smallest decisions can transform the way you work and live. Take a deep breath and start right now.

Catherine Chen, Ph.D., is a Health Coach who supports high-octane women to achieve with ease, have time for what they love and live a balanced life. Prior launching her wellness practice, she worked in the management consulting industry and at one of the leading cancer research biotechnology companies. She'd love to hear from you and can be reached by email at or sign-up to get work-life balance tips from her at