I’m sure you’ve had a terrible day, or a string of days at work. It wasn’t a single event that caused your stress and grief, not necessarily, but things going wrong just little by little. All the while, you’re getting more and more distressed without even having realized it.
It doesn’t really matter what it was, the report you put on your boss’ desk wasn’t exactly perfect even though you double and triple checked everything… again… maybe you said something stupid to a coworker that you’re sitting there dreading what they think of you, maybe for some reason, instead of having a difficult customer once every day, like you’re used it, it seems to be once per hour. Maybe you’re not sure if the customers are just terrible, but your own stress is more visible to the customers than you like which is putting them at a sense of unease, so they don’t have confidence in you.
Just like how you’ve lost confidence in yourself.
Finally, the moment comes that you’ve been waiting for. You clock out of work to go enjoy your weekend (or whenever your day off happens to be), you’ve finally escaped work. You can just relax an enjoy yourself, maybe even get stuff done that YOU want instead of whoever you’re working for!
Guess again, pal.
Your day off comes along, and maybe you’re just so burnt out that all you can do is sit in front of the computer watching Netflix or playing video games. Then, your day is gone before you know it, and you’re back at work again.
You don’t feel rested, your muscles ache with the weight of the events of the previous week. That day off-or even that entire weekend- might as well have been a hour lunch.
Or maybe you’re one of those crazy people that actually continue to wake up early on the weekends, you have a dream you’re working towards, and you’ve made progress. Your way of relaxing is drawing or painting a picture, you might have done some blogging, some research on how to make passive income, maybe did some chores around the house.
Only, you don’t feel accomplished. You are still carrying that weight from that awful week at work. All those little things you accomplished over the weekend didn’t restore your confidence in yourself as much as you were sure it would.
You might have had nightmares about work.
You found yourself in quiet moments-without realizing it-going through situations that went wrong at work and figure out what you would have done differently to make them better, then you would feel your heart race and get upset.
Then you would get angry. This is my time off! Why has my job treated me so badly that I’m spending my own time worrying about that?
I know it might sound like PTSD, but I wouldn’t go so far as to call it that.
I’m not here to tell you that’s not all that bad, you’ve heard that already. I’m not even here to tell you how to make the most of your weekend. If you need to veg out and essentially reboot yourself after an awful week, that’s great! You deserve it!
I’m here to share with you something that helps me when I’m supposed to be enjoying my time, but the stress from work is getting to be too much.
Now, I don’t just do this, I also keep a daily journal, read philosophy, and exercise, which I’m sure helps significantly.
When you start to feel panicky and remember your terrible time at work, stop. Stop everything you’re doing and look up. You need to remember that you can’t change the past, you can’t look to the future. You are currently living in the present moment. Look up. Look at the environment around you while taking three, slow deep breaths.
Where are you? You’re not at work. Look at a few objects in the place you’re in. If you’re at the desk, look any pictures on the wall, look at the coffee mug in front of you. Look at your sketchbook. Remember. This is not work. This is your space. You can do just about anything you want in this space. No grouchy customers (unless they’re your own if you’re that aforementioned small side business-owner), no boss breathing down your neck, no reports you have to check. Just your space.
If you’re outside, look at the plant life, look at the big sky above you, maybe there’s a dog, or a squirrel near by. Again. This is not work. This is the space you’re in right now. You can’t always control what happens at work. You definitely can’t control and fix all the things that went wrong this week. If you keep worrying about what’s going to happen at work, then you’re just going to be miserable and miss out on the great time you could be having right now.
If your stress is particularly brutal, I recommend doing some journaling. Write down five to seven things that you’re grateful for. I know it sounds dumb, but it’s much easier to focus and fret over what’s going wrong than on the things that are going right in you life. They don’t even have to be big things. Is it sunny out? Be thankful for that! Is no one dying right now? That’s a plus. You’re not starving? There you go.
Did someone just smile back at you as you were you thinking of your list because they thought you were starting to smile at them? Well, that’s a combination of nice with a bit of sweet humor (this actually happened to me, it was really the highlight of my day!).
It is helpful to think of a different list every day, otherwise these things will lose their magic.
Right now, you need a boost. Any boost.
Also, please, do not be alone during this time. Human beings are social animals, and now would be a good time to reconnect with a friend. If you live with your family, or partner, this would also be a good time to do something nice for them (make them a card, offer to do one of their chores, tell them they look great). Showing an act of kindness to someone instantly makes you feel good.
It’s important to remember that even though your job might make you feel like a worthless husk- a cog in a machine- instead of a human being, you matter to someone else.
It doesn’t feel like that right now.
But you do.
Also, if your job is particularly toxic, to the point where you feel this terrible most of the time, look for other jobs. Oh, “Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t”? don’t be so sure. Have been looking for other jobs, but no luck? Keep looking!
You also may want to consider volunteering once a week, that will make you feel like you’re making a difference, you’ll be picking up new job skills, and your future employer will really like the fact that you’re volunteering. That’s not always fun either, but the benefits of volunteering outweigh the negatives.
These things don’t necessarily need to be practiced purely on the weekends either, you can also do these exercises when you get home from work, or even on your lunch break (actually, ESPECIALLY on your lunch break, where there’s a pretty good chance that besides eating, all you can think about is going back to work).
Also, I want it to be clear that I’m not saying you should ignore your problems. If you have difficulties at work that you can need to improve on and overcome, you should do everything you can to do so. At work. On the weekends, or time you’re not being paid to deal with work (unless you’re a teacher or some other profession that requires you to do work related things on your time off), that time and place belongs to you.
- Stop. Observe Your Surroundings, Remember You’re Not at Work
- Take Three Deep Breaths
- List 5-7 Small Things You’re Grateful for
- Do Something Nice for Someone Else
- Change What’s Wrong With Your Situation if You Can (get a different job, learn additional skills, volunteer).