We spend a large portion of our lives at work often seeing our coworkers more than our own families. I’m sure you’ve heard that saying before and for many people it’s true. In fact, It’s been estimated that you will spend about 90,000 hours of your life working, or roughly 1/3 of your life. That’s assuming that you work 40 hours a week from age 20 to 65 with 2 weeks of vacation a year. So you can imagine, working long hours—as we’re known to do here in the U.S— coupled with long commutes often an hour or more each way, and feelings of unfulfillment, underappreciation, etc. is a recipe for career burnout. And worse than that, depression. And career burnout = life burnout. If you hate your job, you’ll hate your life.
When we experience chronic stress from our jobs, it bleeds into our personal lives. It takes a toll on our health and relationships. There is a more proactive approach that you can take to make sure that your job stress doesn’t become your life stress. And it doesn’t always mean that you have to leave your current job. That’s not always the right solution.
Here is a quick little self-test to know if your job stress is becoming a problem…
Are you tired all the time?
Do you feel less motivated than you used to be?
Are you gaining weight?
Are you getting sick more often?
Do you feel like your personal relationship have become strained?
Do you have more depressive thoughts than you used to?
Do your friends and family express concern for you?
Here are four actions that you can immediately implement to start reducing your stress right now, in your current job.
- Understand that work-life balance is created, not found. People talk a lot about finding work-life balance, but that will never happen. It will not fall from the sky and land in between your eyes like a drop of rain. You must consciously and actively create balance in your life. It’s your responsibility to make sure that you have balance in your life, not your employer’s responsibility. Ultimately, this is a good thing because it puts the power in your hands to change the situation.
- Set boundaries and respect them. And I’m not just talking about other people respecting your boundaries. I’m talking about YOU respecting your boundaries. When you respect your boundaries, other people will automatically. For example, if your boss or co-workers email you on the weekend, do you reply? If you do, you are teaching them that emailing you on the weekends is okay and that you’ll respond.If you ignore their emails and reply on Monday, eventually they will stop.
- Don’t take anything personally. So your boss comes up to you and says, “I need that report immediately. Do you have it done yet?” You interpret this as: my boss is a jerk and doesn’t like me. Well, maybe that’s true, but maybe it’s not. Let’s not jump to conclusions. Maybe they are simply under stress of their own and aren’t managing it very well. Maybe they have pressure, and deadlines, and obligations and they feel bad that they are behind in their own work and so they take it out on other people.
- Have a creative outlet. Everyone needs an enjoyable, creative outlet. Do you like to paint? Or write? Or maybe you play a sport or read books or volunteer. It doesn’t matter what it is. Have something joyful and meaningful that you do in your free time. Or, it can be completely mindless like watching TV. This is very necessary. If you don’t feel that you have any free time at all, then you need to take a hard look at your schedule and your situation and figure out what you can eliminate.
What if none of these things work? Well, sometimes changing jobs is the answer. And sometimes, if it’s bad enough, you may need to go ahead and quit before you find the next one. Sometimes you are so caught up in the stress and demands of your current job that you couldn’t possibly conduct a job search and you need to detoxify the first job out of your system before you find the next one. If you aren’t sure if you should do that, contact me. We can do some coaching and see if leaving your job makes sense or not. That’s a serious decision but one that is necessary sometimes.
Want THREE MORE strategies for overcoming burnout? To get my full advice on this issue, hear my companion podcast episode on www.inflowradio.com/shows/careeruprising.