Stress

How to Avoid End-of-the-Year Work Burnout (Part 1)

The final few weeks before the winter holidays can be full of stress. That makes it peak time for burnout. If burnout is creeping in for you or your team, practicing a few resilience techniques can mean the difference between losing your cool and feeling peace on Earth.

Step 1 – Breathe and Break

The end of the year brings with it stressors that no other time of year seems to. At work there is often budgeting, fitting in last-minute meetings, and strategic planning for the next year.  At home there is frantic shopping, too much baking, and a whirlwind of parties you are expected to make room for in the busy calendar.

When we’re stressed, our brains produce the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol. When we add these stress hormones into the mix, our brains become worse at higher-order processing, the very skill we need to perform most jobs. So when we’re frantically crossing things off our to-do list, we probably aren’t completing those tasks at a very high level. To be at our best, we have to stop and breathe. We have to take a moment to let the adrenaline and cortisol clear out of our systems.

School teachers have known for years that the weeks leading up to the holidays are the exact wrong time to try to cram in last-minute work.  So take a cue from their playbook and schedule your day with fewer tasks and more breaks, getting done the very most important things and letting the others slide.  Find time to stop and take deep breaths in the middle of the chaos. The pile in your inbox will still be there the first week in January.

Step 2 – Set Realistic Expectations

We have a rosy picture of how the holiday season is supposed to go.  When it doesn’t meet our expectations, we’re filled with frustration.  But that frustration is of our own making, so being realistic on the front end can curb that freak-out feeling on the back end.

A large chunk of holiday stress comes from the mistaken belief that this time of year is going to be magically perfect and everyone should be happy. But people can’t be happy when they’re held to unrealistic standards – including you!

No, your toddler twins might not sit still for a greeting card picture, so don’t expect them to.  Your grandmother’s holiday roast recipe might not turn out as juicy as you remember it.  And your extended family might squabble from the stress of sharing one bathroom. If you prepare for reality to be… well… real in advance, and leave room for humans to be humans, and traffic to be traffic, and work to be work, and life to be life, you may find that some of the holiday screwups lead to the best stories that you’ll laugh at for years to come.

Check back after Thanksgiving for 2 more strategies to sidestep end-of-the-year work burnout!

Do You Have a Bad Attitude at Work? 8 Signs YOU’RE the Toxic Coworker (yes, #3 is real!)

Everybody gets stressed out by work. But regularly having a negative attitude at work can cause everyone to suffer: your coworkers, for having to put up with your negativity, and you, because you’ll miss opportunities and promotions in favor of people with good attitudes.

#1 – You gossip or complain to coworkers

This is the classic sign of someone with a bad attitude. Venting and gossiping at work is a telltale behavior of an employee who is feeling toxic and doesn’t care about bringing other people down with them. Venting feels good in the moment, but it’s been proven to be a poor strategy for relieving stress, because it fails to address the root problem.

#2 – You shoot down your colleagues’ ideas in early stages

If you find yourself rejecting someone else’s idea before you’ve followed the thought process through and really considered it, odds are good your colleagues are frustrated with you. It’s healthy for colleagues to question and test one another’s ideas. But if you shoot something down by saying “that’ll never work,” before the group has had time to really turn the idea over, you’ll be blocking conversation that can lead to good solutions.

#3 – You feel tired most of the day

Feeling that 3pm slump is normal. Feeling tired all day isn’t normal, and it’s a sign that you could be really disengaged at work. When I work with companies to help their teams build resilience, I remind them that burnout isn’t just about being busy – it’s about being busy plus having a lack of meaning and purpose in their work. If you feel like what you’re contributing doesn’t matter, then it may be hard for you to feel awake and excited to do your job.

#4 – You aren’t respectful to the people lower on the company hierarchy

I once worked with a guy who said “it’s not worth my time to care about Jan (at the front desk.) She doesn’t sign my checks!” What this guy didn’t know is that Jan often made decisions about which salesperson to transfer new callers to! Not to mention she ordered the company supplies, and could “rush” things if she wanted to. She was a good ally to have in your corner… but that guy didn’t know it. If you think it’s only worth kissing up to the higher-ups, your attitude could be harming your career more than you know. People notice, and people talk. Being respectful takes no more time than being rude, so make it a point to show respect to everyone.

#5 – You don’t pay attention during meetings or conversations

I get it: team meetings can interrupt your day and be a source of frustration. But tuning out isn’t the right solution. If a line of conversation doesn’t directly involve you, it’s a good idea to still listen, because it’s likely that somebody is going to get pulled into the conversation to answer a question or solve a problem. And if it’s you, you’re going to look silly if you were checking your phone or daydreaming about your fantasy football team.

#6 – You have large responses to small annoyances

My therapist calls this “turning a 2 into a 10.” Do you find yourself getting aggravated with everyday frustrations like somebody taking your sticky note pad? Or replying “thanks!” to an email chain that they could have just let drop? Sometimes we feel like life is frustrating, but it’s really our own reactions that are making us experience more frustration than we need to.

#7 – You don’t care or seem invested in critical workplace issues

When everyone else on your team is jumping to solve an important problem, are you hanging back? Being checked out at work can be particularly noticeable during a crunch time, when other people are spitballing ideas and getting creative. If you’ve lost your passion for your work, as we talked about in #3, then it’s hard to get invested in problem-solving.

#8 – You respond to simple corrections by correcting the other person back

Nobody likes being corrected. But watch your reaction next time somebody makes a small correction to your work. Do you find yourself wanting to correct a mistake of theirs? Or tell them why, in fact, your original version was right? It’s human nature to not enjoy being corrected, but successful companies are made up of employees with different backgrounds and strengths for a reason. The more eyes and hands on a project, the better the end result will be. Just take the direction, because we all need to get and give corrections sometimes.

 

These 8 behaviors don’t have to mean you’re a bad employee – they could mean that you’re a good employee who’s on the verge of burning out. But whether it’s your innate attitude or unaddressed burnout, it’s critical to take action and curb these behaviors before they impact your work any more.

Burned Out By Your Job? It’s Never Too Late to Change Careers

Are you burned out at work?

Thinking it’s time for a career change?

But worried you’re too old to change careers?

In fact, if you’re feeling burned out, a lack of motivation, and disconnected in your current career path, it’s NEVER too late to change careers!

Here are 3 steps to follow to make a career change at any age…

How to Deal With Things Out of Your Control

Feeling out-of-control is so frustrating. I’ll be honest… a LOT of things have felt out-of-control this year. I’m moving, packing, and budgeting for a major home renovation, while dealing with some health issues.

I’ve been relying on some of the coping skills I’ve researched, like “locus of control,” but ALSO adding some new ones of my own that seem to be working for me.

Are you feeling stressed or frustrated at things that are out of your control? Check out what I’m doing and see if it’ll work for you, too.

And comment below about what’s keeping you up at night, so we’ll all be in it together!!!

How To Use Humor in a Crisis

One of the fastest ways to stop freaking out when life is stressful is to use humor. But do you know how to tap into the funny stuff in life, even when things stink?

Well, thanks to a broken rib, I’ve had a crummy week. But it reminded me of how to laugh my way through the difficult moments. Here’s what you can do, even BEFORE things get stressful, to help you survive the tough times with a little humor.

How to Tell Your Boss You’re Feeling Burnout

With all the hours you spend at your job, it’s normal if you feel stressed at work (and yeah, I say “if” knowing full well that you ARE stressed at work a lot of the time, if the numbers are right.) And if you’re TOO stressed, you’re at risk of burnout.

Burnout is a leading cause of unnecessary job turnover, and yet it keeps happening because no one seems to know exactly how to handle it. Companies have few official resources for employees at risk of burning out, bosses don’t know how to address it, and employees worry that if they bring up their stress levels, they’ll be labeled “incapable” or “whiny.” Until we can address the ways our society has glorified stress as being a symbol of importance (I’m working on it, I promise!), it will be up to individuals to speak up for ourselves in a way that doesn’t risk our career success.

So how do you say “I’m about to burnout!” to your boss without committing career suicide?

Be Clear About What You Mean

It might be best to not even say the word burnout to your boss. If you think your boss might judge you for being stressed, or be the kind of manager who doesn’t care about your mindset as long as work gets done, then you can have this conversation without ever saying “burnout.” Instead, bring up specific challenges you’re facing that are getting in the way of your success, like being interrupted too much, not having the information you need, etc.

And did you know there are different kinds of burnout? Psychologists say there are 3 burnout subtypes: “frenetic,” “underchallenged,” and “worn out.” So even if you say “burnout” or “stress,” your boss’s idea of what that means might be different from yours. So clearly articulate whether you need more help from colleagues, more time on deadlines, or whatever it is that will actually help you manage the situation.

Be Solution-Oriented

In this video about telling your boss you’re stressed without seeming whiny, I go over the two types of coping: problem-focused and emotion-focused. In the workplace, most bosses prefer problem-focused coping. So before you talk to your boss, prepare at least three possible ideas for making the situation better. 

By coming to the meeting with ideas already ready, your boss will see that you aren’t just looking for an excuse or a reason to complain, but that you’re actually looking for help at doing the best possible job. Your boss may have more suggestions for you, or be able to help you help you find the resources you need to implement your ideas. But by showing up with a plan, you’re showing positivity and a willingness to fix the situation.

Be Laser-Focused

The odds are good that there are many issues causing you stress that are leading to your feelings of burned out. And it can be tempting to want to address ALL of them in this meeting. But when you’re on the verge of burnout, be aware that your brain isn’t operating at its best. If you try to address every single outstanding issue at your organization all at once, you might get distracted and fall down the rabbit hole, amping up your own irritation in the meantime. Stick to one or two main issues that are leading to your feelings of burnout. Issues that – if resolved – will clear up the majority of your frustration. Refer back to the list you made above, and your boss will hopefully get on board.


Don’t let the risk of burnout drive you away from a job you enjoy. It’s possible to work hard without being burned out, so if you think you’re on the verge, talk to your boss sooner rather than later and make a plan that will keep you productive and successful.

Courtney Clark first name signature keynote speaker
First name signature for resilience speaker Courtney Clark

How to Protect Yourself from an Emotional Bully

Bullies don’t always stop at the playground.

Most adult conflict happens when two people hold different (but at least somewhat valid) opinions, and they butt heads. But SOME people weren’t taught healthy conflict skills, and some of THOSE people end up just plain mean.

If you have an emotionally bully in your life who won’t leave you alone, there’s a 3-step process for handling yourself and dealing with them in a healthy, productive way.

Physical Distance

Most people dealing with an emotional bully will have the instinct to put space between themselves and the bully. Follow that instinct! The more physical distance you can have, the better it is for your mental health. When I was in my mid-20s, I had a good friend who used to get upset every time something good happened for me. If I got a new job, she complained I didn’t have enough time for her. If I got some recognition for work or my volunteering, she would make some undercutting remark. I don’t even think she realized she was doing it! But every good thing that happened in my life made her uncomfortable, and she’d start to beat me up for it.

There are two problems with this first step, though. The first problem? Most people stop there. They think physical distance will solve the problem, but usually an emotional bully isn’t deterred by a little space. Which brings up the second problem: that you can’t always put enough physical space between you and someone trying to get under your skin. Especially if the bully is a colleague, for example, you can’t just quit your job and run far away. So that’s when you deploy the second step…

Emotional Detachment

Getting emotionally detached is a tough one for me. I have what my family calls a “justice bone,” this innate piece of me that wants people to REALIZE when they’re being unkind, admit it, and knock it off. But with true emotional bullies, that’s a pipe dream. They may NEVER clue in, and you’ll be waiting a long time. (Spoiler alert: I’ll probably be waiting right there next to you on the bench!)

What I learned when I worked with a very scary bully (see this blog post here for a little more background) is that the best thing I could do when I HAD to interact with him was to be as unfazed as possible. No matter what ridiculous thing he suggested to make my job harder, I would nod and say “Mmmm… interesting thought.” If he’d say something vaguely threatening, I’d reply “Fascinating.” If he said something insulting: “What a strange thing to say.” The less I replied, the more he turned his focus to someone who would give him a more emotionally charged response. It’s just like my mom taught me when I was fighting with my brother as kids: “if you give him a reaction, he’s just going to keep going.”

Practicing emotional detachment works in two ways – it hopefully makes the bully back off because he’s not getting the payoff he wants, plus it keeps you from being quite as frustrated, because you allow yourself to be less invested in “fixing” the bully. 

Healthy Outlet

No matter how good you are at emotional detachment in the moment, you’re still going to have some feelings come up. And you’re for SURE going to need to deal with those feelings. It’s important to find someone who is NOT a part of the environment where the bully is, to be your sounding board. Depending on how severe the situation is, I highly recommend going for at least a few sessions with a professional. The strategies I’ve learned for how to manage MYSELF (and the other person) in these situations have been incredibly valuable.

Whether a friend, family member, or a professional, find someone whose advice-giving style aligns with what you’re looking for. If you just want some sympathy, don’t turn to a well-known problem-solver. You’ll both be frustrated. Before you start the conversation, lay out clearly what you’re looking for (just to vent, advice, someone to be in your corner, etc.). Dealing with an emotional bully can feel lonely, so getting someone on your team is a critical part of the coping process.

Even as adults, we may still run into bullies sometimes. I like this Inc. article’s list of the 5 types of adult bullies. Dealing with an emotional bully is draining, so take these three steps to protect yourself mentally, so you’ll have the energy you need to keep focusing on what YOU need to get done.

4 Things To Do To Stop Feeling Burned Out

🔥You don’t have to just suffer, if you feel burnout at work (or in life!)

There are 4 important changes you can make that go right to the heart of burnout, and we’ll keep you from throwing in the towel. Learn which 4 small adjustments you can make in your situation to side step burnout before you get burned!

How to Survive Holiday Stress

It’s the Christmas home stretch!

… sooooo… you’re probably feeling major stress to get everything done.

If you’d rather be feeling the holiday spirit than feeling so much stress, I have 3 really simple tips you can try, that will keep holiday stress at a minumum.

The first thing you can do is be more realistic!

Try these 3 steps over the next few days and see how much better you’ll be at keeping the holiday hoopla in perspective.

What To Do When You Want to Quit But Can’t

If you’ve ever had one of those moments where you just wanted to scream “I quit!” and clean out your desk, then you know what I’m talking about.

 

I recently got a LinkedIn connection request from the worst manager I ever had. He refused to stick up for me (or any of my colleagues) when we were being undermined, bullied, harassed, and prevented from doing our jobs by the manager of another department. Employee after employee asked for his help getting this other manager out of our way. Employee after employee begged him to intervene. Employee after employee quit.

 

There were so many times during this job that I just wanted to pack my stuff up and go home. The problem? I LOVED what I was doing. Everything besides the toxic leadership at this job was amazing. The work was great, my other colleagues were great… and of course I needed the paycheck.

 

During those long months before I finally handed in my resignation letter, I came up with a plan to make staying survivable. Here’s what I did when I wanted to quit, but couldn’t:

 

Start In Two Places At The Same Time

 

When you’re facing a frustrating situation, our brains tend to recognize two ways we can help ourselves feel better: fixing the problem, or soothing our emotions. Psychologists call these two strategies Problem-Focused Coping and Emotion-Focused Coping. Research shows that using coping techniques that fall into not one but both categories – simultaneously – gets us the best results. (So if you were one of those people who learned that successful people only use Problem-Focused Coping, it’s time to un-learn that bad habit!)

 

The Heart of the Matter

 

Emotion-Focused Coping in the middle of a bad job experience can be things like finding a friend or mental health professional to talk to about the stress. Leaning on other people for support is a coping mechanism that most of us take for granted, but it’s one of the strongest ones we can use. The only catch is that sometimes we may find ourselves “venting” instead of actually processing. Venting is when we just rehash our anger over and over, always staying at the boiling point. In a healthy conversation, you’ll want to use your listener as support to help you feel better and maybe even find some new coping ideas.

 

Another option is volunteering. When I was researching my book The Giving Prescription, I found that giving back to others is one of the best ways to help you get perspective even when life is challenging or frustrating. All through my initial cancer diagnosis, I was volunteering every week at a nursing home, doing singing and dancing performances with a group of other young women. I was scared and struggling, but two things happened during those evening performances: I could see I wasn’t the only one struggling in life, and I also recognized that despite my illness, I had the ability to bring joy to people’s lives.

 

Taking Baby Steps

 

Problem-Focused Coping is using strategies and taking action that will hopefully solve the root cause of the issue. Interestingly, though, studies show that just taking any action might be enough to help you feel better, even if the action doesn’t have a direct result, because action-taking helps us feel more in control.

 

When it comes to staying in a job where you want to quit but can’t, Problem-Focused Coping might look like coming up with ways to keep your boss happy and conflict at a minimum. In my job with the poor manager who let the other manager harass us, I started anticipating ways the other manager was going to “accidentally” sabotage my programs, and building in safeguards to make it more difficult for that to happen.

 

It might also mean starting to make a plan for when you can look for a new job. An important element that helps internal resilience is something called “future orientation.” When we make plans for the future, it helps us keep our drive up, even in tough situations. So tell yourself “I can’t quit now. But I can start job hunting in six months.” And then work backwards from there. “So I’ll need to start brushing up my resume in five months. Maybe I’ll hire a career counselor in four months to help rewrite the resume. So starting next month, I can start putting some money aside for that career coach…” And all of a sudden you’ve got something you can do right now to help plan for the future.

 

It’s More In Your Hands Than You Think

 

When you want to quit but can’t, it’s easy to feel stuck. But even if you can’t make the final move right now, you can set yourself up – both emotionally and tactically – so you’ll be ready to move on and be successful as soon as possible.