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5 Ways To Avoid Burnout At Work (And Find Inner Peace)

5 Ways To Avoid Burnout At Work (And Find Inner Peace)

Though much advise has been published on balancing work life and personal life, it doesn’t always match up with your own reality. This is especially the case when it comes to the “life” part of “work-life balance”. It’s true that overworking yourself and allowing for little time to focus on other parts of your life is poor for your well-being and performance at work. It’s also always a bit scary to change a long-standing routine, even if it’s a bad one. And if you’re getting advice that’s detracting too much from work in an attempt to promote leisure, you’re likely to end up more stressed and unsure than you were before.

This last point is what author Matias Dalsgaard noticed during his quest to help people achieve practical work-life balance plans. Rather than advising people on how to escape stressful times completely, his tips take a subtly different approach that focuses on making the most stressful parts of our lives work within the whole system. And, hopefully, you can find some inner peace in the whole thing.

Most people seek some degree of inner peace at work, and it can be difficult to obtain. Work is stressful, and most of us tend to either overwork ourselves or we are, for other reasons, negatively affected by things happening at work.

The struggle to maintain one’s inner peace and avoid burnout has become a standard ingredient of modern working life. Many of us attend seminars on work-life-balance, we see therapists, we meditate, or we seek advice on how to handle stressful careers. The balancing of one’s personal life and work life is a challenge to all of us who aspire to be successful – by whatever relevant metric. It is not surprising that so much is being said and written on the topic.

Unfortunately, I have noticed a tendency to talk about the dangers of burnout at work in terms that provoke fear and panic in the stressed individual rather than lead him or her to slow down. Our methods of discussing the dangers of stress and burnout are too defensive and too reactive. We tend to think that the busyness of work is somehow dangerous, and that we need to balance out the busyness with the emptiness of non-work.

Our emphasis on practices such as meditation, yoga, mindfulness – or simply just periods of nothingness – as means of balancing out the stress of work illustrates this point. All of these things can be good and helpful in their own right, but they all stand for a “letting go” of things. They are defined by inactivity. This logic leads to a kind of life where the “active” is considered to be dangerous and something that should always be balanced out by the “inactive”. We oscillate between the two extremes – fearful of staying too long in any of the camps. This oscillation is stressful in itself.

It would be much better if we had a way of living that could embrace, enjoy, and handle the tough, everyday work life rather than constantly looking for ways to escape it.

I have five suggestions for how this can be accomplished.

1. Work hard

Working hard and achieving results individually or as a team is a source of satisfaction and fulfillment. Do not get trapped in the fear of working too hard and embrace the rush that hard work can give you. If your life becomes nothing but work, you will of course need to take a step back and reconsider your lifestyle. Periods of hard work and excitement should not be avoided – but rather enjoyed. Hard work is part of life, and you should embrace it rather than be afraid of working too hard.

2. Make bold decisions

Burnout centres on the loss of control. People burn out when they start feeling that they are just another brick in the wall, just another cog in the machine. Making bold decisions at work puts you back on track – suddenly it matters how you handle the situation, because the success or failure of a project is wholly down to you. This might sound stressful, and it can be. On the other hand, making bold decisions is invigorating and can inject new purpose into your work, turning you from someone whose life is run by others to someone running their own life.

3. Stimulate your imagination

Rather than seeking ways of emptying out your mind, you can use your spare time to “fill” it with ideas and inspiration instead. Read books. Watch movies. Enjoy art. Perhaps study religion or history. Nothing is a stronger remedy for burnout than being so rich on knowledge and imagination that you are able to mentally rise above the situation. Most burnouts occur when someone is stuck in a simple perspective on life. The burned out individual no longer sees the bigger picture or the meaning in what they do, and his or her life is narrowed down to being about work and merely surviving the job. Rich interests and a rich imagination keep one going when situations get tough.

4. Take time off

Even if I suggest means other than “emptying out” your mind in order to combat burnouts, you do need time off, time to think about things other than work. As does everybody. However, time off might not necessarily mean a weekend or a holiday in the traditional sense. What is important is that you find regular time to let your thoughts, your imagination, and your emotions run freely. Let your mind wander. This can and should happen every day, not only on weekends or during vacations. It is a sign of health if you are able just to let go of things – and enjoy free thinking and feeling. This can happen over a cup of coffee, in the shower, or wherever.

5. Have a sense of humour

The humorous person is larger than life. If you are able to find humour amidst hard work, the work will never control you. There is a pleasure in working hard, but it is important that you are able to rise above the simple problem-solving level of your job. Humour is a perfect example of how to do this. The humorous person sees things from another angle; he takes himself and his work less seriously. This is not intended to produce mediocre results, but rather to not be overrun by work. The humorous individual is playful and innovative in problem solving, and can do so because they are on top of things and not ruled by work.

Matias Dalsgaard is an author, Ph.D. in Philosophy and CEO of the successful Danish startup, GoMore. Read more in his recently published book, Don’t Despair – Letters to a Modern Man, which describes ways of preserving oneself in an environment of pressure and ambitions.

Five ways to avoid burnout at work and find inner peace | Matias Dalsgaard

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Featured photo credit: Home office from the Brilliance range/Betta Living via flic.kr

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Last Updated on March 29, 2021

5 Types of Horrible Bosses and How to Beat Them All

5 Types of Horrible Bosses and How to Beat Them All

When I left university I took a job immediately, I had been lucky as I had spent a year earning almost nothing as an intern so I was offered a role. On my first day I found that I had not been allocated a desk, there was no one to greet me so I was left for some hours ignored. I happened to snipe about this to another employee at the coffee machine two things happened. The first was that the person I had complained to was my new manager’s wife, and the second was, in his own words, ‘that he would come down on me like a ton of bricks if I crossed him…’

What a great start to a job! I had moved to a new city, and had been at work for less than a morning when I had my first run in with the first style of bad manager. I didn’t stay long enough to find out what Mr Agressive would do next. Bad managers are a major issue. Research from Approved Index shows that more than four in ten employees (42%) state that they have previously quit a job because of a bad manager.

The Dream Type Of Manager

My best manager was a total opposite. A man who had been the head of the UK tax system and was working his retirement running a company I was a very junior and green employee for. I made a stupid mistake, one which cost a lot of time and money and I felt I was going to be sacked without doubt.

I was nervous, beating myself up about what I had done, what would happen. At the end of the day I was called to his office, he had made me wait and I had spent that day talking to other employees, trying to understand where I had gone wrong. It had been a simple mistyped line of code which sent a massive print job out totally wrong. I learn how I should have done it and I fretted.

My boss asked me to step into his office, he asked me to sit down. “Do you know what you did?” I babbled, yes, I had been stupid, I had not double-checked or asked for advice when I was doing something I had not really understood. It was totally my fault. He paused. “Will you do that again?” Of course I told him I would not, I would always double check, ask for help and not try to be so clever when I was not!

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“Okay…”

That was it. I paused and asked, should I clear my desk. He smiled. “You have learnt a valuable lesson, I can be sure that you will never make a mistake like that again. Why would I want to get rid of an employee who knows that?”

I stayed with that company for many years, the way I was treated was a real object lesson in good management. Sadly, far too many poor managers exist out there.

The Complete Catalogue of Bad Managers

The Bully

My first boss fitted into the classic bully class. This is so often the ‘old school’ management by power style. I encountered this style again in the retail sector where one manager felt the only way to get the best from staff was to bawl and yell.

However, like so many bullies you will often find that this can be someone who either knows no better or is under stress and they are themselves running scared of the situation they have found themselves in.

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The Invisible Boss

This can either present itself as management from afar (usually the golf course or ‘important meetings) or just a boss who is too busy being important to deal with their staff.

It can feel refreshing as you will often have almost total freedom with your manager taking little or no interest in your activities, however you will soon find that you also lack the support that a good manager will provide. Without direction you may feel you are doing well just to find that you are not delivering against expectations you were not told about and suddenly it is all your fault.

The Micro Manager

The frustration of having a manager who feels the need to be involved in everything you do. The polar opposite to the Invisible Boss you will feel that there is no trust in your work as they will want to meddle in everything you do.

Dealing with the micro-manager can be difficult. Often their management style comes from their own insecurity. You can try confronting them, tell them that you can do your job however in many cases this will not succeed and can in fact make things worse.

The Over Promoted Boss

The Over promoted boss categorises someone who has no idea. They have found themselves in a management position through service, family or some corporate mystery. They are people who are not only highly unqualified to be managers they will generally be unable to do even your job.

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You can find yourself persistently frustrated by the situation you are in, however it can seem impossible to get out without handing over your resignation.

The Credit Stealer

The credit stealer is the boss who will never publically acknowledge the work you do. You will put in the extra hours working on a project and you know that, in the ‘big meeting’ it will be your credit stealing boss who will take all of the credit!

Again it is demoralising, you see all of the credit for your labour being stolen and this can often lead to good employees looking for new careers.

3 Essential Ways to Work (Cope) with Bad Managers

Whatever type of bad boss you have there are certain things that you can do to ensure that you get the recognition and protection you require to not only remain sane but to also build your career.

1. Keep evidence

Whether it is incidents with the bully or examples of projects you have completed with the credit stealer you will always be well served to keep notes and supporting evidence for projects you are working on.

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Buy your own notebook and ensure that you are always making notes, it becomes a habit and a very useful one as you have a constant reminder as well as somewhere to explore ideas.

Importantly, if you do have to go to HR or stand-up for yourself you will have clear records! Also, don’t always trust that corporate servers or emails will always be available or not tampered with. Keep your own content.

2. Hold regular meetings

Ensure that you make time for regular meetings with your boss. This is especially useful for the over-promoted or the invisible boss to allow you to ‘manage upwards’. Take charge where you can to set your objectives and use these meetings to set clear objectives and document the status of your work.

3. Stand your ground, but be ready to jump…

Remember that you don’t have to put up with poor management. If you have issues you should face them with your boss, maybe they do not know that they are coming across in a bad way.

However, be ready to recognise if the situation is not going to change. If that is the case, keep your head down and get working on polishing your CV! If it isn’t working, there will be something better out there for you!

Good luck!

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