Do You Feel Like “My Job is Making Me Sick?” – How to Overcome Work Sickness

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.

Recognizing the Signs of Work Sickness

Work sickness is a condition where fears about job security, lack of passion, or financial concerns start to negatively impact your well-being. Here are a few examples of what work sickness might look like:

  • You arrive at work tired from a restless night worrying about upcoming deadlines or difficult conversations.
  • Just glancing at your overflowing inbox and missed messages causes anxiety and a quickened pulse.
  • It’s been months since you’ve had time for self-care activities like going to the gym.
  • You daydream about having a job that offers flexibility, respect, and empowerment, but there’s no time to dwell on that.
  • You find yourself constantly apologizing for delayed responses due to being “crazy busy.”
  • Despite it being early in the day, you’re already feeling overwhelmed and fatigued.

Sound familiar? If so, you may be suffering from Work Sickness.

What is Work Sickness and How Does it Develop?

Work Sickness arises when fears about job security, money, work without engagement, or passion infect us. 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.

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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.

A Personal Experience with Work Sickness

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 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. Ultimately, my attitude caught up, and I was laid off.

Steps to Discovering and Living Your Professional Purpose

Losing the job forced me to develop a whole new perspective and confront my fears. 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.

Here are four practical steps to discover and live your Professional Purpose – where you bring your unique talents, skills, passions, and experience into the world while finding fulfillment, fun, and financial reward:

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1. 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?
  • Why?

2. 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.

3. 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 calls you’ve feared and developing ways to stand out!

4. 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?

Aligning Your Work with Your Purpose

Most importantly, make life about always being true to who you are and not who or what others 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.

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You do not have to work where your job makes you sick. By following these steps and discovering your Professional Purpose, you can find a fulfilling career that energizes you instead of draining you.

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