Despite an increased understanding of the risks of employee burnout, American workers are still overwhelmed at work.
According to a survey by the American Psychological Association, 79% of employees experience work-related stress, and they report severe effects, including cognitive weariness, emotional exhaustion, and physical fatigue.
You might be nearing or experiencing burnout from work if you experience these feelings defined by the World Health Organization:
- Energy depletion and exhaustion
- Mental distance from your job
- Negative feelings or cynicism toward your job
- Reduced efficacy at work
Why do we subject ourselves to this punishment from our jobs? For many, it’s because we’re afraid to lose what we think only our jobs can provide for us: financial security.
The key to combating burnout and regaining ease and joy in your work is letting go of that belief. That’s going to require a deep dive into your relationship with money.
You don't need the job.
Yes, combating burnout when it comes requires accepting rest and self care—slowing down, giving yourself space to recover.
But combating burnout in the long term, and preventing it from happening again, requires that you release the mindset that you need the job. Let go of the belief that you have to compete for it, constantly prove you’re worthy of it, or put it ahead of your own well-being. You absolutely don’t, but I know that can be hard to believe.
Letting go of this limiting belief starts with examining your relationship with money.
Why do you feel that financial security is so tenuous that you have to burn yourself out at a job to be worthy of the money you need to live?
I know there are some obvious, seemingly practical answers here. You have bills to pay, a home to keep, maybe children to feed. Working puts money in your coffers so you can pay for those things. But if you dig below the surface of these realities, you can find a lot of unexplored possibility. You have a ton of power to make choices about where your money comes from and where it goes — but your power might be getting muted by our society’s toxic messages about money.
Examining Your Relationship With Money
To understand why you feel so beholden to a job that you’d lead yourself to burnout for it, you have to understand your relationship with money.
Many of us are mired in a set of beliefs around money that I call budget culture — messages that reward restriction and deprivation, and promote a fantastical ideal about financial wellness centered on being “rich.”
This cultural norm convinces us there’s one right way to do money — and it’s all about discipline. Earn as much as possible, spend as little as possible. It shames you if you don’t have enough, blaming you for working too little and caring for yourself too much. It convinces you money is finite, so you have to hoard what you can get and fight to earn more.
Even if you’re not an active budgeter, it’s worth examining how budget culture messages might be affecting your relationship with money. How have experiences and messages throughout your life impacted how you feel about earning, spending, saving, and sharing money? How do your finances influence your judgment of yourself?
Here are a few exercises to get you started thinking about your relationship with money and how it affects your approach to work:
- Consider messages you’ve gotten about money from family, friends, colleagues, educators and other influencers throughout your life.
- Think back through your experiences with work and money, how others responded to your choices and how you’ve responded to financial circumstances.
- Have a conversation with someone you trust, or journal about how you feel when people talk about money.
- Identify beliefs you have about money, and note whether those serve your aspirations or hold you back.
- Experiment with new money habits like practicing generosity, trying new money management techniques, and negotiating for pay. Note how they make you feel and where you feel resistance.
None of these are things you can do quickly. They require reflection and attention. Mindset work is a never-ending process — but it comes with some satisfying breakthroughs!
Put in the work to get familiar with your relationship with money, and you’ll be on your way to a healthier, easier and more joyful approach to work.