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Stress at Work?Don't Let Burnout Have its Way! How to drain the workplace swamp

Updated: Sep 6, 2023

Happy woman who has freed herself from the stress at work
Escape Burnout

In a striking number of posts on the subject of burnout, companies are being urged to take more responsibility for the burnout prevention of their employees. While the commitment of companies may be generally helpful, personally, I find it much more important to take one's own prevention into one's own hands. When people facing job-related stress turn to me for coaching, they sometimes refer to their situation as a 'swamp'. By this, they mean a mixture of several elements that lead to stress and overwhelm: too many tasks, tight deadlines, poor leadership, conflicts, toxic teams, overtime, chaos, communication problems, and so on.

In my career, I've found myself in such a stress swamp more than once and have learned from it. Getting yourself out of the stress before it turns into a full-blown burnout often requires no more than combining certain tactics with a new mindset.

Here are the key ingredients that have helped me and many others who were on the verge of a burnout:

  1. Realigning Your Thinking What goes through your mind when you think about your stressful job situation? Are these thoughts like: "The circumstances, the environment, and my bosses are the real problem." "I've tried so many times to get a grip on the stress; it just doesn't work." "I'm doing the work of two people." "The most important thing is to take it easy and conserve energy." "Only a new job can save me." "Others will think poorly of me if I don't work overtime." If you want to drain the swamp, you must realize that the way you describe the problem can act as an amplifier for the problem itself. It's very easy to maneuver yourself into a victim role with your own stressful thoughts, which can then make you feel paralyzed and powerless. Therefore, question your negative thoughts and CONSCIOUSLY DECIDE how you want to think about the situation. Decide WHO you want to be when facing the situation.

  2. Focus on the Value Understand the value you create in your job and for whom (a little tip: it's usually your direct supervisor). Find out what this value really consists of. Don't look for it in the standard job description, but rather in conversation with your boss. What are the 3-5 points that matter to your supervisor? This knowledge is extremely valuable. Focus 80% of your energy and time on the job exactly on that, communicate it with your boss, make it your "brand." Don't be the person known for working overtime for the company, but the person who creates value. Get paid for the value of your work, not for the time you are "there" or the role you fulfill (even if your salary is tied to a 40-hour week). There is so much power in that alone that you can build your entire career on it.

  3. Use a Weekly Plan and Decide on Your Availability Don't keep to-do lists, but work according to a weekly plan where you determine what you will accomplish and when, and when you will be available for appointments with others. Schedule so-called flexi-times every day to be able to handle the unforeseen. Also include your leisure activities and time with friends/family outside of work in your weekly plan and treat them as seriously as your work appointments.

  4. Practice Meeting Hygiene Don't let others determine your daily schedule and set the pace. Don't attend meetings to which you have been invited simply because they deal with topics somehow related to your area of work. Insist on information about why you are needed and what is expected of you. Learn to say "no" to meetings and tasks that have nothing to do with the value you are focusing on (see 1).

  5. Be Prepared for Conflicts Never shy away from conflicts. If you don't let yourself be guided by the idea that conflicts can only be won or lost, you create space for solutions. What if you realize that you don't necessarily have to be right? Look for the 10% in other people's opinions that you can agree with - highlight this common ground in your discussion. And don't be surprised when the people with whom you have conflicts eventually become your biggest supporters.

  6. Find Your Why Engage in self-reflection to determine what is important to you and what you want to achieve professionally. Ask yourself if the job you are currently doing is leading you in that direction. If not, a conscious decision is required. This decision could also mean continuing with the job because there are other important reasons for doing so (money, bridging period, etc.). By consciously examining these reasons, it helps you avoid inner conflicts. This creates a foundation for a decision that you can stand by, regardless of how little fulfillment the job brings you. You no longer have to condemn the job or yourself for doing it.

  7. Your Passion Outside of Work Don't make your work your sole passion. What are the things that ignite your passion outside of work? What are the things you look forward to in the evening? What is worth organizing your work well for so that you can stop after 8 hours? Don't let it solely be your "family obligations."

  8. Get Ideas for Better Work Organization We are not all equally good at organizing our work. Usually, there is at least one person in your environment who manages to organize at least a part of their work better than you do. How about exchanging ideas with them about what they do differently and what works particularly well for them? In my 28 years of professional experience, I have never encountered anyone who didn't want to share that.

  9. The Superpower Learn to observe and direct your thoughts and emotions in order to...

- consciously decide from what mindset you approach your work

- keep going when it gets tough

- not be afraid of setbacks and mistakes

- solve problems more effectively

- achieve better results

- be able to say "no"

- create passion and energy

Do not give up control over how you feel in your job. It is not the job of your company or your supervisor to ensure that you feel good—it is your job. When you fully accept this, you not only succeed in reducing stress and preventing burnout but also pave the way to grow in your job.

It's normal to get stuck and not see the forest for the trees. Sometimes the overwhelm is simply too big to break out on your own.

As a coach, I can help you to find the right strategies to overcome your personal situation and guide you through it.

I offer online coaching on an hourly basis: personal, effective, and uncomplicated.

Are you ready? Let's get to work!

You can schedule a free discovery session here:


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