I’ve been reading a lot about burnout lately, and the narrative is always the same – blame your workload, blame office culture, blame outside factors. Blame your job.

But what if burnout had nothing to do with the office, but rather how we take care of ourselves outside of it? 

The workplace can be a place of great happiness. Every day is an opportunity to learn something new, to grow as a person, and to work on projects you’re passionate about. Doing great work can elevate you. 

But when you’re feeling overwhelmed, it’s easy to shift the blame on the office.

Here’s how it happens: 

When you’re not taking care of yourself outside of the office, you bring that weight with you. If you ignore it, it seeps out in other ways and impacts your behavior – cloudy ideas, lapses in judgement, anger. Those feelings – feelings that, deep down, have nothing to do with work – suddenly become translated into the workplace. And since you spend a majority of the time in the office, you come to the conclusion that “it’s not you, it’s work.”

This is incredibly dangerous, because you’re not addressing the true root of your problem. You’re deflecting the issue, and risking getting stuck in a loop that can cause you to self-sabotage, and feed the very burnout you’ve felt the whole time. If you blame work first, you ignore all the other influences that could be bringing you down, both inside and outside the office.

I’m not saying that work isn’t always to blame – bad workplace culture and unrealistic workload can often be a catalyst (there wouldn’t be so many articles about it if it wasn’t). But when work isn’t the enemy — and actually a place that makes you happy — don’t make it the enemy.

When you’re feeling burnt out, start by looking internally. Are you getting enough sleep? Are you eating well? Exercising? By taking responsibility for your life, you take control of your burnout, and can start to overcome it.

And that will help you fight those stressful moments at work. How? 

When you understand yourself, and feel fulfilled outside of the office, you bring that confidence with you. The empathy you gain by understanding that people are dealing with their own outside pressures make you more understanding when office conflicts do occur. And self-awareness allows you to understand how to balance your work in a way that’s best for you.

Work can be a place of great satisfaction, and such a powerful outlet for fulfillment and happiness. With empathy and self-awareness, you can work to find the balance you need to truly embrace it.