You’re sitting at work. The phone keeps ringing. You hear the chime of yet another email coming through, and you look up at the clock. You’re frustrated, tired, and feel like you have gotten little accomplished and there are still several hours before you can escape. What can you do to keep from… “losing it”?
Take Your Breaks!
Seriously guys. And, don’t even start. I hear you telling me how you’re too busy and you just have to keep going to get everything done. I’ve heard the productivity argument before. I’ve made the productivity argument before. Do you know what else I’ve done? I’ve struggled with burnout.
Trust me, getting 10 more minutes of work done isn’t worth going through that. I’ll talk about burnout in detail in a future blog. The bottom line is that you actually can be more productive if you take better care of yourself. You know as well as I do that you don’t think as clearly when you haven’t eaten and you’re tired.
Another thing to consider is that your experience of stress has a cumulative effect. If you don’t take a few minutes to relax and clear your mind, it just keeps building. Are you more likely to make an error or snap at a coworker when you’re stressed out? Be honest!
Keep Work and Home Separate
Okay, so maybe you work from home. Maybe there are some parts of your job that require you to be accessible. What then? First, we’re all tethered to our phones. We can be reached at any time via text, email, facetime, breaking news notifications… whatever.
Back in the day (don’t laugh at me, I’m not that old) we used to check our email periodically to see if we had anything that needed to be answered. The rest of the time. We weren’t thinking about email stuff. You have control over how notifications come through. Anything sent in an email isn’t an emergency. It should be handled during normal working hours.
So, maybe you can set the notifications so that only the badge (that little thing with the number of unread messages?) is what notifies you that you have emails to read. Then, put your work apps all in one page or folder on your phone. Only check it during designated work times. If you have an obligation to check these even when you are home or during what would typically be personal time only, set a limit on how long you spend doing so, and stick with it!
If you tend to struggle with anxiety, this can be a bit of a challenge. You may need to be aware of distorted thinking that makes it difficult to set such a boundary with yourself. These are thoughts that take things to the extreme. For example, you decide to turn the notifications for emails off on your phone as I suggested. You acknowledge that your job description doesn’t require you to be available outside of your regular duties and that you are not paid to be available all the time.
You check your email when you arrive at work the next day and realize that your boss emailed you after you left work for the day, at your normal time, the day before. There is a task that needs to be handled in a timely manner. You reply to let your boss know you are working on it. Your mind starts to spin. “I didn’t answer her last night. She’s probably angry with me. If I don’t resolve this in time I’m going to get fired! I’m probably going to get fired.”
Do you see how quickly it can escalate? Allowing yourself to perceive these types of thoughts as predictive or an accurate description of the situation can lead to high levels of anxiety. If you struggle with this, you may need additional help to cope.
Just Say No
No, you’re not having an 80s flashback. This one is all about knowing your limitations. There are times when you truly don’t have much of a choice and you must do what is asked of you. However, there are usually times when you have a choice about whether or not you take on additional work. I hear some of you saying, “Lillian if I don’t do what they ask, I’ll look bad.” To that, I say, what looks worse?
Fulfilling your job description duties well and not taking on additional work when you aren’t able to do so, or taking on everything that is thrown at you and doing none of those tasks well? This doesn’t mean you never take on any extra. It does mean that you think it through and decide what you can reasonably get done while not eliminating your ability to have time away from work.
Leave A Job That Makes You Miserable
Woe! Don’t just go turn in your resignation right now! The bottom line is that if you really are unhappy in your job, start looking for something else. Maybe you want to switch careers? The job you are in may have benefits or simply allow you the time to get some training or go back to school. You spend a lot of time at work, and it isn’t worth hanging in there for a job that you dread.
You may find yourself anxious about the unknown. Will the new job be worse than the one I have? What if it doesn’t work out and I get fired? To that I say, yes there is risk involved.
There is also a risk involved in staying in a job that makes you unhappy. Holding in all of that resentment, overwhelm, and frustration can make you vulnerable to making mistakes or unleashing your anger in a way that could put your job at risk. On the other hand, it tends to make your miserable job a little more endurable if you know you are working on a plan to get the heck out of there! You don’t feel so trapped and hopeless.
Making Changes and Decisions
What will you do? Will you take a step back and make a few changes in how you do things? Is it time to make a bigger change in your life? Whatever choice you make, I hope you will take the time to re-evaluate what is really important to you and make whatever changes you see fit to improve your life.
Lillian Hood is a therapist offering Online Therapy services to adults throughout the state of North Carolina. Her office is located in Wilmington, NC. She offers PTSD therapy, anxiety therapy, binge eating therapy, OCD therapy, and phobia therapy. Text 910.742.0433 to schedule a free phone consultation, or visit our Contact Us.