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I am Not Buying this Stress & Burned Out Story

Updated: May 3

I am not buying this "I am stressed" narrative anymore. It is impossible that "everyone" at work is stressed and burned out! I think people picked up on these words and use them at convenience. Let me reframe things here. 



Stress


When employees complain about being stressed, I always ask, "What stresses you out?" or "What does stress look like to you?" I get answers like "My boss asks me to do random tasks", "My coworkers are gossiping about me", "I sit in useless meetings all day", "I sit in traffic", "I have a heavy workload" (when you dig deep it is not heavy, it is disorganised chaos the person could fix or a medium level of workload), "I feel nobody is supporting me" (but when I asked if the person sought for help the answer is no, "Job security" (you have no control over that so stop stressing about it). 

All of these are annoyances and not the reasons that one should be stressed about. Are we using the words "stress" & "burnout" carelessly, or are we that weak that we cannot handle normal life stuff? Are we really stressed, or are we stressed because others told us that we are supposed to be stressed? Ok, let's say people are stressed. My question is, what do you do about it? Are you waiting for everyone, including the workplace, to change around you so you can be less stressed, or do you take control and see how you can be less impacted by your perceived stressors? 


Problems that need solving are not stressors! Tasks that need to be done are not stressors! Things you have no control over are not stressors! Decisions that need to be made are not stressors! Conversations that need to take place are not stressors! Your inability or unwillingness to do them are your stressors. 


So, stop monitoring your silly watch that tells you you are stressed and get things done, make that decision, have that conversation, or solve that problem. Write down everything that is stressing you out or worrying you, then cross everything out you have no control over, focus on the things you have, and act on them. Stop handing over your power and crying when you are stressed. Stress and anxiety (if you really have them) are just natural signs that things are not ok, and you need to take action. That's all they are! Most of the time, it is up to you to stay in that state. I was stressed once in my life, during COVID-19, which impacted my sleep for a few weeks. I knew I had to take action, so I took on a 3 - months role in Ireland instead of sitting in Dubai waiting for the job market to recover. I swear to god, I did it for my sleep (mental health), not for money or out of boredom. Those 3 months changed my energy and removed the stress, and by the time I finished there, my new job was waiting for me here back in Dubai. I didn't want to spend one more night awake tossing and turning, and I was ready to do anything to eliminate it. Are you ready to do anything to positively respond to the natural signals (stress and anxiety) of your body or do you just like to be in that state and complain about it? MOVE!


Burnout


I would like to reframe burnout for you because it is not as bad as social media presents it. Nothing is bad or good; it just is. You attach meaning to things based on what others are telling you. I see burnout very differently. It is not the evil you must avoid at all costs! 


Burnout is, you, testing your limits and boundaries. When you get burned out, you know that you went too far, and that's ok as long as you learned your lesson and didn't kill yourself in the process. No great achievements have ever happened in life without pushing those boundaries. Sports and explorers/adventurers are the perfect examples of pushing their limits or, more aptly put, playing with fire. Do they get burned? Hell yes! But you don't see them stop but rather learn from those experiences, so next time, they approach the challenge differently. Imagine if Sherpa Tenzing and Hillary had never risked their lives and pushed themselves to their absolute limits, they would have never summited Everest. Burnout is all about, "Oops I went a little too far, let's take a step back, recover, and then go again."


I want people to push themselves because that's the only way to find out what they are capable of. Don't be scared of burnout, but don't kill yourself either. Push forward, but monitor yourself, see how far you can go, and don't be afraid of a little fire. That's where achievement is. But once you get there (achievement - summit), step back and recover so you can go and summit another mountain. That's it, there is nothing more to burnout, so don't let social media program your brain otherwise with stories of "I got burned out as a CEO". When is the vomit emoji when I need it? 

In fact, all the social media gurus out there are doing the same while urging you to sit back and watch life pass by. They go on those speaking or book promotion tours for months, telling you not to burn yourself out. Do you know how heavy that is on the body and their mental capacity? But once the tour is over, they sit at home for six months to a year and recover so they can go and make more money out of you taking it easy and not achieving anything great you want because it might get you burned. Go and get burned a little, see where your limits are and how much you can achieve. 


PS: If meetings or being asked to complete random tasks by your boss stress you out, you need to leave the corporate environment. Go and grow vegetables in the garden and live off the land. Work is work, you will be required to do things you don't want or like. Would that stress me out? No! I can sit at any meeting as long as they pay me. I zone out and have no idea what they are talking about. They pay for my physical presence, but they cannot control my mind. Anyway, most meetings aren't worth the price of a McDonald's meal. 


PPS: There are real stresses in life one's family member being sick, being financially crippled with children to look after and so on. A bullying boss or a gossiping coworker is not one. MOVE or become a little more resilient and confront them and see what happens. It is not easy, but what other choice do you have left? Staying stressed, anxious or miserable? 


Exciting news! My second book, "Blind Leading the Disengaged - From Kindergarten to Employee Experience," is dropping in April! It's a treasure trove of solutions and cool ideas to shake up your people management game. But before we get there, let's chat about where we're at now—The Corporate Kindergarten, as I spilled the beans in my first book. Check it out, and let's transform your workplace from a daycare to an awesome employee experience hub!



Join me on YouTube where I drop some ridiculous but helpful content about people management. Let's stop the Kindergarten together:




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