Are you heading towards burnout in what has been a crazy, high-stress year?

If so, you’re not alone. Many people are skating dangerously close to the edge and barely hanging on as they limp towards Christmas.

But while a lot has been totally outside our control in 2020, have you stopped to think about the self-sabotage traps you may be falling into that are making your stress even worse?

In this article in Harvard Business Review, author Kandi Wiens identifies five traps that contribute to stress and burnout.

They are:

  1. The overly adaptive trap.
  2. The perfectionist trap.
  3. The imposter syndrome trap.
  4. The over-engagement trap.
  5. The ‘I can’t do anything about it’ trap.

I encourage you to reflect honestly on whether you fall into one or more of these traps. I know I do (traps one and four are my danger zones).

Let me be clear: Talking about self-sabotage does not put responsibility for managing stress solely on the individual and absolve leaders and organisations from taking real action to care for their staff.

As Wiens says: “organisations must continue to examine and fix their major causes of burnout. And leaders must listen to and acknowledge their teams’ distress and take meaningful steps to alleviate that suffering.”

But in the meantime, we can increase our awareness of the traps we fall into personally and then take action to address them.


Leah Mether helps people get out of their own way with the development of soft skills (which are really hard). She is a speaker, trainer, facilitator, mentor and author of the book Soft is the New Hard: How to Communicate Effectively Under Pressure.