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Have you ever prayed extremely hard for a professional opportunity, and then when it manifests, you find yourself drained, ultimately questioning if you should even be there? If so, you are not alone—I have found myself in that exact position a couple of times before. Being in that particular situation can evoke various feelings; for me, it was mostly guilt for complaining after working my butt off to secure the position in the first place.
Lets face it: the workplace can develop and sharpen professional skills, but can also create stress. I have often found myself overcome with excitement due to finally working in a particular position I had hoped for, until being faced with high demands and challenging tasks. Don't get me wrong, I pride myself in being able to overcome these daily challenges because it is beneficial to my professional growth, but I slowly began to notice the impact it had on me after I clocked out.
Every job has its pros and cons; however, I became more self-aware of certain mistakes that I was making, which was a source of fuel for my stress. After becoming more aware of the things that I could control, I have been able to address and manage workplace stress by utilizing several strategies.
1. Set Boundaries Between Personal Life and Work Life
I have heard the saying, “Don't bring your work home,” numerous times throughout my life. Although the saying was drilled into my head, I subconsciously was still bringing my work home with me. Every night I would go to bed and think about all the cases and tasks that were still left on my weekly agenda. It got so bad that I was eventually diagnosed with insomnia and anxiety. As a new professional, I struggled with work life balance and learning how to shut down work related tasks once I clocked out for the day.
I quickly realized that I was becoming too invested into my work life, creating an unhealthy balance between work and personal life. I decided that I would commit to letting go of all the things that I did not complete at work each day and start fresh the next morning. I repeated to myself daily, “If it is not life threatening, it can wait.” It wasn't a cop out for any inability to manage time wisely, but a way to prevent bringing home any issues. I also learned to speak positive affirmations and give myself praise for the things that I did manage to complete, which was important in maintaining feelings of self-efficacy. Adopting these tools and developing positive thinking and self-talk may make it easier to develop a healthier balance.
2. Connect with People in the Same Profession
I cannot stress enough (no pun intended) how essential it is to bond and network with other individuals who are in your profession. Being the only social worker in a family full of educators, I would often feel alone and as if what I went through with my profession was not fully understood, which increased my stress. It was crucial for me to find other individuals with the same career whom I could relate to, problem solve, and vent to. Once I did, I no longer felt alone and was more confident in the work that I was doing. Furthermore, I would encourage my readers to join different networking events, Facebook groups, conferences, and organizations to engage with other professionals to help foster a feeling of connectedness and provide a safe outlet.
3. Give Yourself Mental Breaks
Take your breaks! This means take PTO, vacations, daily lunch breaks, etc. It can become easy to fall into the habit of giving your all to a job while neglecting your own mental health. If some horrible circumstance occurred where you had to quit your job today, your employer would replace you with someone else deemed qualified for the position as quickly as possible. That's not to say that your workplace does not care about you, but if something were to happen, the position would eventually get filled. It is okay to be a hardworking employee, but do not run yourself into the dirt, especially when you are easily replaceable.
Furthermore, take advantage of your benefits and use them whenever you need to recharge. No matter how busy you may be throughout the day, set time aside to take a lunch break to mentally and physically recharge. Remember, part of being an exemplary employee is ensuring that you take care of yourself so you can then provide the best service possible to others.
4. Evaluate Your Position
Despite engaging in positive coping skills and following all the above strategies, there may come a time where a particular job may not be beneficial to you anymore, and that is perfectly fine. Weigh out the pros and cons before making a definite decision. Ultimately, do what is best for you—if that means securing another opportunity, then by all means, go for it.
As a young professional, I am constantly growing. I'm learning how to set clearer boundaries and becoming more aware of the things that I can and cannot control. Do not give everything you have to a job, to the point where it leaves you feeling mentally, physically, and emotionally drained, because that only leads to stress, which can put a damper on your work performance. Instead, learn some techniques to combat stress, and remain mindful of the things that you cannot control!
XOXOXO! I would like to hear from you. Have you ever experienced a time where you had a poor work and personal life balance? Comment below with some ways that you developed clearer boundaries and/or managed stress in the workplace.