What can you do if you feel like, “My job is making me sick.”
This is more than just having a bad day at work because we all have had a day we wish we could do over or erase.
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Here are a few examples of what work sickness might look like
You arrive at work tired from a restless night worrying about a “must-win” proposal or how to ask for a well-needed raise.
Just glancing at your full inbox and your phone’s message button blinking a menacing shade of red makes your pulse quicken with anxiety.
It’s been months since you’ve had a chance to let off steam at the gym.
What would it be like, you wonder, to look ahead this year knowing you’ll have a chance to use the thirty-some-odd vacation days you’ve accrued over the past two years?
Or to have a job that offered flexibility, respect, and empowerment?
With the morning’s first meeting starting in just a few minutes, there’s no time to linger on that daydream.
Instead, you bang out emails that begin, “Sorry for the delayed response but I’ve been crazy busy.”
It’s barely 8 a.m., but already you’re overwhelmed, and your entire body burns with fatigue.
Do You Suffer From “Work Sickness?”
What It Is and How to Beat It
If so, you may be suffering from a condition I call Work Sickness.
Work Sickness arises when fears about job security, money, work without engagement, or passion infect us.
One or all of these might be why you think, ‘My Job is making me sick.’
Driven by angst about not having enough, we make pursuing wealth and status our mission.
Even when we’re not passionate about the process.
We work more, play less, and neglect the very reason for our existence: to experience the joy in life.
In addition to feeling anxious, fatigued, and overwhelmed, the symptoms of Work Sickness include frustration and despair.
The deadline for that “must-win” proposal looms; getting there seems to leave you utterly drained.
A difficult conversation with a colleague leaves you seething and wishing you could flee.
All the while, your inbox just keeps getting fuller.
You feel like you’re treading water at a furious pace yet barely staying afloat.
Needless to say, this takes a toll far more profound than meets the eye.
Work Sickness stems from fear and from focusing on all the things we don’t want to happen.
It hurts the body while delving deep into the human psyche and creating a division between mind and soul.
It disrupts our balance, saps creativity and energy, and impedes the pursuit of personal passions.
Work Sickness affects productivity, morale, and even the manner in which we interact with one another while robbing us of time and happiness.
It eclipses the joy of working with a sense of obligation, self-sacrifice, and a lack of control.
My job once made me sick, too
As the VP of product management at a digital media delivery provider, I often felt that the long hours I plugged in felt pointless.
The goal of getting more people to watch TV on their smartphones contradicted my most fundamental values about the importance of face-to-face human connections.
The environment was toxic.
Yet I was on the grid around the clock, fighting for the job security I craved and believed I needed since my income and lifestyle- my creature comforts- went hand in hand.
I ached to devote my time to something I felt more viscerally passionate about.
Over time, I lost my filter and stopped refraining from throwing up my hands in disgust or coming right out and telling people I wasn’t happy.
Losing the job forced me to develop a whole new perspective: I was a blank slate out in the world with nothing.
In seeking where to turn next, I began seeing a career coach who helped me focus on my innate gifts, what I do well, and what I love doing.
It was scary to be alone!
But once I decided to help others find their passion as a career coach, my business and client network started taking on their own life.
My business grew fast through word of mouth alone.
In the trenches of the corporate world, it’s hard to see past where you are — the little valley you are in.
You have to confront your fears and actually go out and search both the outside world and your soul to find your Professional Purpose.
Professional Purpose is where you bring your unique talents, skills, passions, and experience into the world while finding fulfillment, fun, and financial reward.
Without it, we will all feel like our jobs are making us sick.
The following are four practical steps to discover and live your Professional Purpose:
Tap Your Inner-Knowing
Ask questions instead of coming to conclusions.
Questions lead to growth and expansion, conclusions lead to dead-ends.
For example: What am I thinking?
What else is possible?
Would I love this?
And simply: Why?
Design a Passion Plan
Surf the web and create a Passion plan comprised of three buckets:
- Companies that pique your interest
- Job descriptions that sound fun
- Specific functions you would enjoy from job descriptions.
Once you have your lists, you can determine where to look, what additional training you might need, companies to contact, and people to add to your network.
Do the 40/20
Structure your time so that you work your 40 hours but budget 20 additional hours outside of your job to:
- Assemble your passion list
- Develop & refine your messaging (LinkedIn profile, resume, etc.)
- Network and talk to everyone: Take bold actions like making the calls you’ve always feared and developing ways to stand out from the crowd!
See the Big Picture
Look for patterns and themes in your life.
Have they prepared you to do something?
What do others come to you for advice?
What comes as quickly to you as breathing but is a struggle for others?
No one wants to constantly feel like ‘My job is making me sick’
Most importantly, make life about always being true to who you are and not who or what family, friends, teachers, and society tell you you ‘should’ be, and you will discover your purpose.
The more aligned your thoughts and beliefs are to your purpose and passions, the easier it becomes to make decisions, set and achieve goals, and keep work stress from infecting your life — both professional, personal, and at the many places where the two intersect.
You do not have to work where your job makes you sick.