Burnout is the new black. It’s everywhere. One thing I have noticed, personally and with clients, is that at least some of the overwhelm that fuels burnout comes from ruminating on things that are ultimately out of your control.

Say you work in an office with antiquated or grossly inefficient processes for time management,  onboarding, annual reviews, etc. Or the boss has some toxic habits, like reading their email when meeting with you or being borderline abusive in staff meetings. Or perhaps you’ve been ordered to return to the office full-time.

You can always quit and look for another job, but you have kids and a mortgage, so that’s not so easy. You can and at times should try to influence the situation with a courageous conversation or two. But what you cannot do, what you do not have the power to do, is completely make the problem go away.

Now your rational brain knows that, I’m sure. But your ruminating brain can’t let go of the inefficiency, the wrongness, or the waste. And this is when this question comes in handy:

“Is this my problem to solve?”

If the answer is yes and you have the power to solve it and it’s an important priority for you, go ahead and fix it. If not, try putting it into the category of ‘unfortunate and uncontrollable’ and carry on. Make a list of the things that suck in your work life that are ultimately beyond your control. When you find yourself ruminating, pull out the list and refresh your memory.

The goal here is NOT to be cynical or nihilistic about these things. The goal here is also NOT to gaslight yourself into believing a toxic work environment isn’t toxic.

The goal IS to keep these ‘uncontrollables’ out of your working memory as much as possible. When you unclutter your working memory, overwhelm diminishes and focus increases.

In some cases quitting may be your best bet. But that’s a conversation for another day.