Consider this post my own personal therapy as I struggle to find contentment with where I'm at professionally. As I write this, I'm stuck in a season of "the grass is greener", whether that be about professional pipe dreams or the job I left in Colorado, believing anything is better than this. I don't believe you need to be happy to wake up for work every single morning, but it seems reasonable to be happy the majority of the time and maybe, if you're lucky, you also feel passionate about your work and feel like you're accomplishing your life's purpose. When you're not feeling that at work, the daily grind is even grindier than usual and it's really difficult to wake up, get out of bed, go to work, and make it through the day. It's not enjoyable to count down the hours--or minutes--until you're off and stare out your window longing to be anywhere but there, every single day.
To be clear, my job isn't that bad. But I have a bad egg coworker who I have to work with quite closely and just generally don't enjoy or care about the tasks I'm responsible for. Yeah, I've had a handful of particularly bad days, just like everyone else, but at the end of the day, it comes down to what I mentioned above: Believing there's something better out there or I had something better before and letting that feeling take over.
So here's my two cents about five things that helped me find some solace in the midst of it. Even though I'm not great at it every single day, I try to do at least one of them a day to make things more bearable for both me and Luke, my partner and my colleague.
The hardest part is just remembering that the grass is greener where you water it.
CREATE A CALMING MORNING ROUTINE
There are few things worse than hearing your alarm for work when you hate your job. It's a crap way to start your day as you're immediately reminded of the dread you feel heading into work for the day. But you're in control of your emotions and how you perceive things, so you have to find a way to start your day on the right foot, even if you have to fake it till you make it. Find whatever works for you, which may mean waking up a little earlier to make time to do something you want to do. Whether that be working out, yoga, reading, Bible study, sipping a cup of coffee or tea, etc., just find what's going to help you start your day calmly. I've found that sleeping until the last minute reinforces the idea that the day ahead isn't worth waking up for and it's actually interrupting my precious sleep. Before going to bed, make sure the house is tidied up to your standard so you don't add to the frustration by finding your kitchen a mess and a pile of dishes in the sink, something that's really important to me. That contributes to my mood before I leave the house and ensures that when I get home from work, I don't have more tasks to do that I don't actually want to do.
After seeing a few people post about Headspace on social media, I decided to give it a try last fall. I wasn't sure what to make of meditation in general, but I was willing to try it for a free month. I tried to do a session every morning, but I was more consistent at using it to fall asleep. When we signed up for 6 months for £20 in January, I wanted to look more at the app to see what else they had to offer and took advantage of some of the more calming exercises for stress and frustration. After a particular tense exchange one morning that left me nearly in tears in front of half the office, I grabbed my phone and headphones and left to cool off. In the women's bathroom, the only place I was sure to be uninterrupted, I did a 5 minute exercise on frustration, which made a world of difference. No, I wasn't able to shake it off completely, but I was certainly more in control of my emotions and able to more calmly communicate with my supervisors about the exchange and why I was so upset. Meditation can often put people off at the offset because of what we think of as meditation, but I think it's worth looking beyond that and discovering what meditation is actually about. Headspace is great for beginners and those who aren't sure what meditation truly looks like.
TAKE RELAXATION TO THE NEXT LEVEL
Everyone has their own favourite way to relax. My dream relaxation method would be a hot bath in a beautiful tub, maybe with a glass of wine and definitely with a good book or a podcast. Unfortunately, we don't have a bath tub at our house, let alone a perfectly Instagrammable claw foot tub in a pristine white bathroom with a trendy tray laid across the tub to keep my candle, wine, and book. So I need to find something different that works for me now. Whatever way you choose to relax, I say go over the top with it. Create a space in your home--maybe it's even electronics-free--or treat yourself to the items you want for your relaxation time or space. There's nothing wrong with investing in yourself and your sanity. If buying an expensive candle or a nice bottle of wine means you can chill out after work and get your head right for the next day, it's worth it, isn't it?
SET VENTING LIMITATIONS
Look, I get it. I can vent along with the best of 'em. I'm an external processor, so even when I'm by myself, I'll vent out loud. In the States, I would drive home and bitch out loud to my steering wheel in an empty car. Now, I usually vent to Luke. But since we're not only partners and roommates, but also colleagues, it can get out of hand quickly. We drive to work together every day. We have lunch together every day. We go home together every day. That's a lot of time available to vent or complain, so I have to set limitations on that. Sometimes I'm not great with it, but ideally, the work chat stops when we get home, especially if it was a particularly bad day. If I'm spending 8 hours of my day at work where I'm unhappy, why then take that home and spend my entire evening being unhappy about work and dreading going back the next day?
FOCUS ON THE POSITIVE
This might be the hardest one, but it's probably the most important. Most jobs offer at least some benefit to your life, even if you have to look pretty hard to find it. For me, I get to financially contribute to our household and make my own money to buy things I want. No matter what happens at work, at the end of the month, I get a paycheck and that feels pretty great after going 6 months without any source of income. I also get to work with my husband, which is something I don't take for granted. After the aforementioned tense exchange, my supervisor told me to go grab Luke and take a few minutes. Most people would have to sneak away to call their partner, but I'm lucky enough to be able to stand with him and get a hug if I need it. Not to mention having lunch together is a good reset for the rest of the day. Some days, those are the only two positives I can find, but I cling to them nonetheless when needed.
I think most people are probably searching for more contentment in their life in some area, but for some reason--at least to me--professional discontentment seems a little bit more crushing than in other areas. If we're unhappy with where we live, we can move. If we're unhappy with a relationship, we can end it. But if we're unhappy at work, most people don't have the luxury of quitting until there's another offer on the table and sometimes that takes time, which can be really difficult to endure. Hopefully there's a light at the end of the tunnel, but we're also capable of creating our own light in the meantime.
Updated March 2019.