Stress leads to Burnout. But what leads to stress?

Stress comes from too much work? Or are our goals behind it?

Working towards the wrong goals. Stressing through life for the wrong reason. Expecting different results with the same logical approach. That was pure stress.

Click here for the original article in German language.

Burnout for me was the result of a wrong lifestyle

Depression made me aware of how I was feeling and lead me, after a long period of suffering and a lot of stress, onto the right path. Thoughts about how much energy I invested into the wrong way of life, I can block by now.

With “wrong way of life” I mean that I was doing things that didn’t fit to me. Jobs which I hated or didn’t even possess the adequate skills for. I lived in places where I didn’t belong and stayed with people I didn’t like.

With energy I mean the motivation I filled my wrong life with. Struggling through the wrong job, working for the dreams of others, accepting the sad place I lived in and trying to get along with unpleasant people. It was a pure waste of energy and the growth media for an exhausting, stressful life.

Misuse of Stress

Stress for me is a type of energy. It develops in exceptional situations. When a snake rattles with its tail, it’s great that my body switches into stress-mode. All my bodily functions are adjusted so it can react accordingly to this danger.

The stress that I used to feel however, was not a short reaction to danger. My stress was a lasting state interrupted by disease, weekends or vacation. And even that stressed me out.

I liked to picture other people being the reason to this. I realized that this was complete nonsense later on. Do I play the game or do I force it onto someone? I myself decided to play along.

Additionally, I tried to convince myself that I was only feeling “positive stress”. Today I’m aware that this was just me making up an excuse. I pretended to be strong enough, a cool dude that had everything under control. “Positive stress?” Yeah right

Victim of my own pursuits

I trusted my gut feeling, strived for things other people were striving for. I pursued goals of which I thought were meaningful in this world. Materialistic ownership, status, recognition.

Even when my emotions showed me that I didn’t really need those things, I was trapped in this circle like a Hamster in its wheel.

No matter what I did, how hard I tried, it was never enough. There was always some dream, an expectation, a goal, I was running after. The idea to question my own priorities, never came to my mind. My hamster’s wheel was spinning too fast.

With stress at work towards insanity

More and more often questions popped up in my mind. “What should I do if the boss constantly puts pressure on me and I had to do more and more in less and less time? Properly tell him my opinion? Quit?”

No, of course not. It’s okay providing all of your energy for someone else to achieve their goals. You own goals are not important. It is not your life which you, according to today’s science, will only live once.

Please pardon my sarcasm. I never found a realistic possibility to exit this vicious circle. Instead, I realized just in time, that I had to focus on my own goals. To fight against my own nature doesn’t work. Adapting my personality to these awful jobs to function in this economical system, is not an option.

Devotion to your own life

Very often I saw other people that didn’t make the impression as if they were stressed, even though they were working a lot more than I was. Today I understand why. These people enjoy what they do. They know themselves and know what’s good for them.

People that find their work and diverse life easy, aren’t stressed. They are capable of something very admirable. Devotion. This is something very different to stress. These people found what works for them and work on things that fit their personality, what brings them forward in life.

I wasn’t given this devotion. Although everything was screaming inside of me, I held on to old habits. When I wasn’t working, my mind was still consumed by my job. I was proud of constantly working on ideas, proud of being stressed. I thought it was wrong not to be all worked up. Completely insane.

Why are we doing this to ourselves?

Maybe because we are pursuing the wrong expectations, priorities, goals. Because we have the wrong dreams? Instead of asking ourselves whether we really need that new car, we plan the next wellness-weekend, to cope with stress at work, so we can earn money for that new car.

Instead of building a big house that will run us into debt for the next 20 years, I could think about whether I really want to invest a lot of money in a dead concrete block. After all it’s my choice to step into the dependency-trap. From then on, my B+B would rule over my mood. My boss and my banker.

Out of commodity we stay in burnt out relationships. Starting a new life by myself when I just perfected my routine? The shame of giving up on yet another relationship? This kind of unfinished thoughts are self-made producers of stress.

The tiny bit of compliments from my boss or my clients for all the extra work and effort? Just to work even more? The short-termed bit of spotlight for your new clothes? The attention and appreciation from people around you for living up to their expectations?

Is this all worth rushing through life?

After all, this was the key question. The possible answers opened my eyes.


Then I accept it, stop complaining over the stress and don’t blame others for it. It’s oaky, you decided to live this life. Everything else will tear you apart, never knowing whether you do the right thing. The result of that would again be stress.


Then stop. Open up to a new life. It will take time to find the right way, use this chance.

I decided, almost too late, for “no”. Shortly after I left the company I founded with a friend. I ended a long-lost relationship, left my flat and went back to where I came from. My situation got more precarious. But I felt that I was on the right path to a life that deserved to be called “my life”.

If you don’t like how the table is set, turn over the table

Stress, depression, burnout. It didn’t get to this point because of someone or because I was unlucky. I was there because I decided to do so. A decision that turned out to be wrong.

I fight against my nature, against my personality. Finally, I realized: the goals I had so far, were not worth chasing. I took some radical decisions, which changed my life inherently. Suddenly I had nothing. No money, no job, no relationship.

The following period was tough. However, the fact that I was able to take my own decisions, leading me onto a new path, was incredibly liberating. Now I was focusing on solving problems, on discovering who I really was and what I needed in my life.

Prerequisites of change: new ways of thinking and new goals

“How am I supposed to avoid stress, when I’m stuck in this life? I have to earn money and the availability of good jobs isn’t like sand in the ocean. Performance, ownership and status are worth so much in this world. Life is not a bowl of cherries.

Those were my thoughts and they were constantly pulling me down. Adjusting my life to this kind of thoughts, felt like a train rushing towards you and staying on the tracks. So I walked away, onto a different track.

This method didn’t get me anywhere though. To pave the way for change, I had to challenge my thoughts, find new goals and question my expectations.

I found out many things I didn’t need and could liberate myself from them. So I didn’t have to work as hard anymore, could be independent, stopped fighting or reaching my own psychological limits. My stress level was continuously decreasing.

The great economist and thinker Peter Ferdinand Drucker put it straight to the point:

“The biggest threat in times of change, is not the change itself, but acting with Yesterday’s logic”

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