Is your work in need of a wellness check? After 18 months of disruption and uncertainty, many people are still adjusting to changes in their jobs and work environments. Some are rethinking career paths or looking for better balance between work and personal life.
Whatever your current work situation is, making time to consider how you’re feeling about your work can be helpful for you and your team. In fact, according to the Greater Good Science Center, being happy at work is good for our well-being on both individual and organizational levels. When we’re happy, we tend to be more creative and productive, and we can more easily find and connect with meaning in our work. Things like work relationships, conflict resolution, and resilience improve with happiness as well, and happy workplaces often experience less turnover, lower healthcare costs, and fewer mistakes.
But, after so much upheaval, it’s not unusual to find yourself focusing on the things about work that might feel frustrating, unfamiliar, and overwhelming, and – if this is the case – there’s things you can do to feel better on the job, starting with noticing how you respond to any current challenges. First, see if you can notice and interrupt thoughts about the negative parts of work by inviting your mind to dig a little deeper. Try to turn any worries or frustrations into questions you can answer or problems you can solve. Then, shift to seeking solutions.
For example, if you notice your mind stuck on thoughts like, “how will I ever handle the workload this fall?!” see if you can answer that question: “how WILL I handle the workload this fall?”
- What projects/deadlines should I anticipate and plan for?
- What does my calendar need to look like?
- What are my priorities? My limits?
- What can I prepare in advance?
- Who can help? What resources will I need?
- What additional resources are available?
Another thing to remember when work has you down is that, when we’re feeling stressed, it’s easy to get stuck in our negative attention bias – seeing only problems – and missing aspects of our work that are OK and even really good. Most jobs are a mix of good, bad, and neutral.
A second mental strategy you can use when you notice worry, overwhelm, or frustration about work is to meet that moment with compassion. Tell yourself something like, “This IS a difficult moment right now.” Then, take a slow, deep breath (5 seconds in, 5 seconds out) and invite your mind to consider other parts of your work or your day that feel better. For example:
- Who was helpful, kind, or humorous recently?
- What was something that I felt confident or competent doing?
- What step or task did I complete recently that felt good?
- What about my work do I feel grateful for right now?
Such reflections rarely solve all our work problems. But, they do help us to get centered physically, emotionally, and mentally and to calm the stress we may be feeling after a tough moment. Once we’ve brought our stress levels down with a positive shift in our attention and a deep breath, we’ll be better able to access our most effective attitudes, actions, and ideas that might make addressing any problems easier.
For the daily disruptions and frustrations, awareness of our mind’s activity and intentionally directing our attention to stay focused on what helps us feel well and effective can reduce stress levels and improve our resilience for work challenges. And, from a more resilient state, we’re better equipped to think through the longer-term planning and problem solving that can affect real change for overall career wellness.
For more guidance and ideas on how you can improve career wellness, check out the four-week group health-coaching series with OSU Health Plan Health Coach Amanda Fox: Career Wellness: Staying Resilient for Work. This group will meet Mondays from noon to 12:45 p.m. starting October 25 through November 15. In this series, you’ll learn about career resilience and why it’s important, discover ways to align your work with your best strengths, review ways to prevent or manage burnout, and set goals for habits that will help you feel engaged and resilient. To register, click the link above or visit linktohealth.osu.edu and search by date or keyword.
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