I recognise the warning signs straight away. Having grown increasingly frustrated in my current job for the last few months for a myriad of reasons, I am close to giving up. I am also close to snapping and venting my frustrations on the under-performing members of my team and my boss. I have to catch myself at times and even then I don’t get a full grasp and my transparent mask slips. In light of this, and in light of another day where I’ve allowed my emotions to win, I thought it would be prudent to talk about minding your physical and mental health in a toxic environment.
“HA!”, I hear you exclaim, spitting your Earl Grey tea from your mouth in derision.
“Martha?!”, you call, gesticulating at your servant to mop up the mess you made on the flagstone tiles of your impressive, modern kitchen. “Martha, this buffoon just offered to give us tips on minding our mental health while he himself has allowed himself to fall into another slump! HA HA HA how humourous, Martha, don’t you think?! MARTHA!!!”
“Too right you are, Master!”, she replies in a Cornish accent. “I wouldn’t claim to know nothin’ about such matters but it does seem a bit ironic that that there young man would claim to give tips. ‘Specially as he’s using us made up folks with outdated English tropes to allude to the obvious fact that he’s deeply unhappy in his work.”
“Clean up that bloody tea, girl! I don’t pay you to talk. In fact, I don’t pay you at all! HA HA HA HA!”
In between coping mechanisms such as the above daydream that flowed through my fingers onto the keyboard, there are some practical things you can do to get through the day. Breathing, as cliched as it sounds, is the most important of these. Don’t count to any particular number. Just take a deep breath in through your nose an leave it out through your mouth. Think about why this current situation is affecting you so much. Think about your end goal. Is this job a means to an end? Is there a target you are trying to reach before you can walk away from the toxicity? Can you possibly make the positives outweigh the negatives for long enough to allow yourself to leave with a clean conscience?
In a personal example, when I dream of getting out of my chair and screaming into the unknown abyss that is in fact an open office plan populated by my coworkers and superiors, I think about the trip I should have been going on in April. As that has been cancelled, and with it my last vestige of interest in the place, my resolve is swiftly dwindling. Time to book another holiday then!
If, like me, you are in an office job, invest in a pair of headphones or earphones (if you are allowed to wear them) and have your favourite music/podcast to listen to on hand. It may be hard at first to get into the groove of listening to someone talk when you are trying to work but if the music and life lessons can drone out the offensive jokes of your boss and the deafening roar of rage building up behind your temples then you’ve done the trick!
One of the most self-destructive things I’ve done in the last number of years is place alot of blame on myself with regards to my satisfaction in jobs. It seems that every job starts off great and then, almost inevitably, the cracks start to show. Although it is far easier to blame others for your happiness or lack thereof in work, I turn to myself and ask why I can’t just be happy? Instead of blaming myself for not enjoying another job, or blaming others for their actions, I ask myself why I am letting it affect me this way. I had a sort of breakthrough last night and identified the factors that were bringing me down. Now, I am attempting to block them out or to think about them before I react too quickly. It will be a journey and there will be slips, but if I can lock down where the negativity is coming from then surely I can avoid the source.
If you’re not happy in your job, where you spend a third of your day, then you will never be truly happy. How could you be? It is hard to cultivate an intrinsic sense of worth and happiness if, for 40 odd hours a week, you are stressed and upset. Inevitably, you will bring that depression into other areas and relationships in your life. You will pull away from people and isolate yourself. That is why I truly believe that once you sit down and try hard to identify the source(s) of your happiness, it will only be a matter of time until you can get back to some semblance of normality.
Remember, while characters like Michael Scott, Dwight Schrute and Kevin Malone are funny to watch on The Office: An American Workplace, if you worked with someone that vaguely acted like them in real life you would lose your shit.
How do you deal with workplace stresses affecting your overall happiness?