Is your job making you sick?
Is your job making you sick?
Not in a physical sense, unless your job is manual and hurting your body, I'm thinking about our mindset and how we feel about work.
So what can you do if you feel that you're stressed? What can you do if you feel that your job is not helping you, or actually making you sick?
Unfortunately this is all too common in my experience.
My work history, like a lot of people is that I fell into a finance job when I was very young, I found that I was good at it and quite enjoyed it. When I first started my career I worked really hard I studied, and ended up in quite a senior role. And then as quite often happens in life, you don't really realise until you stop and reflect back and realise, how very stressful it was. I was promoted, at first to a supervisor, then a manager and then to a Director,
Impressive eh? Not really, I was constantly stressed, and for many I was really unhappy at work. But I just thought that's just life it’s simply what you have to do if you want to earn decent money.
But is that really true?
I really believe that stress was a huge contributing factor for me getting breast cancer, whether that's true or not, I'll never know probably, and it doesn't really help me. But what I can do is look back and think about the lessons that I've learned. And one of the lessons that I've learned is maybe it wasn't the stress, maybe it was my reaction to the stress. And so what can I do about that? Well, I've learned a lot of coping strategies, I've learned a lot about stress management. I've learned a lot about self care. And I've also learned a lot about setting boundaries. Because as a reformed people pleaser, in the past, I was all too keen to volunteer to do extra things, to work long hours to do things that weren't really my job, or really just be a ‘good girl’ a ‘top performer’ = or even just to try and be as good as everybody else.
I have now learned how to protect my boundaries a little bit more. And that's part of my story.
But I’d also like to think generally what work gives us, it’s not all about stress and unhappiness, although that's quite common for a lot of people that I speak to. But I also want to talk about the positive aspects of work. Because being in a positive work environment work can be so good for us for our mental health.
It can give us growth. I studied for years, and I grew because I learned lots of new things, I learned lots of new systems, I learned lots of new ways of working, and I became a people manager and so I learned about leadership skills, communication, interpersonal skills. So I learned a lot from my job.
And that was a really positive part of the job, a lot of that was what got me out of bed in the morning and got me motivated in some of the roles that I had was the growth and sense of fulfilment.
Another thing that work can also give us is a sense of belonging. Because it's great when you're part of a really good team. And there is giving and taking in that team, and you're there to support each other. It is a great feeling to feel that you're belonging to something. And even better if you're working for a company who shares your values, a company that you think he's doing some good in the world. And I have had experience of working in teams like that. And part of the reason why I think my redundancy wounded me so deeply at one stage was that I felt like I was in a great team working for a company that I really respected the values of, and then it felt like it was taken away from me. It felt very cruel and unfair, and that was another hard lesson. I'm not the only one I know most people have been touched by redundancy or losing a job, and it was my role that was redundant – not me, but it’s hard not to take it personally.
So those are all the positive aspects that I've experienced of being in work being in the world of work, the growth, the belonging, the community, the joint purpose, something bigger than yourself. That can be a wonderful aspects of your life and something that really enriches your life and makes it better.
For a lot of us in the pandemic people started working in a different way, many people started working online. And a lot of people started working in a hybrid way which is like some days in the office and some days at home. I've also come across a lot of people who maybe have become a little bit disillusioned with work and are thinking about different ways of working, whether that's self employment, whether that's different employment, whether that's thinking about working online, I know many people that have set up online businesses, which sometimes can be a great way of working, but sometimes can be quite lonely. I also know some people that have set up what they call portfolio careers, which is really enjoying multiple streams of income. So you're not just dependent on one job, or one employer or one business, but more becoming the boss of yourself.
But I really think that where you work, and how you work is secondary to why you were working. And I'd invite you to take some time out to think about why are you working? Yes, you may say, well, ‘we've all got to work, we all need money’ . We do. And that's probably a fundamental one, we know that.
But what about the next level? I've talked before about growth and belonging, but what is work given to you? What do you need from work, what can work offer you? And it's really, really hard. I know, some people struggle and think, Well, I've always done this job, I have no other skills, I'm not qualified for anything else. But I have so many examples now of people that I've met that have inspired me, people who have changed careers or created something new. I do think the internet is a massive enabler is what they call it to just create whatever you want to.
I talked to my last podcast to Melanie O'Neill, who said when she was a little girl, she dreamt of being a performer. And she also dreamt of being a makeup artist. And that was something that she never thought she could do. And she's now, in her late 40s she does perform and she does make up , using video blogging She creates videos of showing people how to do skincare and makeup, which is something she kind of takes for granted because she could do it without thinking about it. So many people, including myself, learn things from her videos and love them. So that's one way of thinking about the opportunities that the internet can give you.
Another example is my son, Justin, who loves Manchester United, his favourite football team. And he’s actually created a business, just sitting there with his pals, having a great old time talking about Manchester United (I’m sure there’s more to it than that!) But who knew there was so much to talk about? But they've created a podcast channel and , a video channel. And they've got a lot of followers now, and he's making a good living from that, doing something that he loves, something that he's interested in and passionate about.
You may think for some people, that's just not realistic. You can't make a job for something that you enjoy that much. Why not? And if you're really struggling to think about what you could do, I'd invite you to think about when you were a small child, what did you want to do? What did you want to spend your time doing? What did you want your day to look like? What sort of people did you want to interact with? What makes your heart sing? If you had no money worries, if you won the lottery? What would you do with your time? What would be the thing that makes you happy? And is there a way that you can bring more of that into your life. So I would ask you to think about that, because I've spent a lot of time reflecting on that. What makes me happy. When I was a child, I wanted to be a journalist. And again, I was told that was a bit ‘pie in the sky’ for people like me, I didn't end up being a journalist. But now I've got my own podcast, I've got my own blog, I've got my own video channel. Anyone can do that. Now if that's what you want to do, anyone can do is so easy to start that. And if anybody wants any help or guidance with that, get in touch with me, and I'll give you some pointers on that. But I'm really want you to think about how to work in a way that supports you. Because work can be such a source of stress and mental anguish for a lot of people. And you might think that you don't want to change much, you may want to say in the job that you’re in now. But maybe you’d like to be happier in that job? And I'd like to suggest to you if you do have days when you're stressed or days when you're unhappy, one of the things that I learned was it's a good thing to take responsibility for your own mental health. Yes, your company might be wonderful at supporting you and you might have all sorts of Employee Assistance programmes. But at the end of the day, the best person to support you is YOU. Don't expect your company to solve your mental health issues, Yes, of course sometimes we do need support. We might need counselling, or we might need therapists. You might just need a good friend to sit down and have a cup of tea, a cup of coffee and a good chat. But don't rely on your employer to provide that. Taking responsibility for yourself is one of the big things that I have learned. Mental health is your own responsibility. But it is also okay to ask for help. help when you need it.
I would like to leave you with the fact that we all have choices, even if you think you haven't got a choice. Even if you think you're trapped in a job, that is something that you don't enjoy. What can you do to change that?
I know somebody who simply from working a job that they don't like going from five days a week, going down to four days a week, has found that shift in the home life balance has provided them with a lot more energy, and a lot more time for themselves so that they can work on their own mental health. They were struggling, being in the office five days a week, and two days for the weekend was just not long enough. So making that change, has really helped them. And that's great, but I really think that's step one, because they're still in a job that they don't enjoy. So now they have a little bit of space and a little bit of time to take that step back and think about what is it that they want to do? What things can I do to care for my own health, my mental health and my physical health? What can I do that's going to make me feel better? It’s a great first step, but I don't think just changing your hours in a job that you don't like is enough. This my personal view, again, there's no judgement. I'm not here to tell you what to do. But I would say to you, if your job is making you sick, please think about making a change.
If you want somebody to talk to or you want to bounce some ideas off, you know where I am, I'm always here for you. I'd love to hear from you. But remember, we weren't put on this planet to pay bills and die. We were born to be happy. And again, some people think that's pie in the sky and very unrealistic. I'm happy to be unrealistic I'm happy to have my goal of being happy every day. Life isn't all rainbows. We know that there's ups and downs for everybody. But please don't stay in a job that you're unhappy with. There is absolutely no need for you to do that. That's not how we're supposed to be. Look after yourself. Don't wait until you get a diagnosis, or for something awful to happen to push you over the edge. Make that choice from a good place from a positive place of caring for you. There is absolutely nothing wrong and caring for you and putting yourself first. So I'll leave you with that thought.
Thanks for reading, Stay sane, stay safe!
I'd love to send you a free gift - from my heart to your heart - click below to get my book, Confidence after Cancer: