Workplace stress is all too common, with burnout now officially recognised as an occupational phenomenon.
I know all about this – I had years of almost invisible stress in different corporations, and then a bout of depression, and finally extreme fatigue, which led to me re-evaluating my life, and retraining as a coach and wellness expert.
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Of course it’s not always necessary to completely change your life and career. Here are some pragmatic tips for what to do when your job is slowly killing you, as well as some pointers for how to recognise when you really do need to leave.
1. Remember you
By this I mean, it can be easy to get so caught up in deadlines, priorities and different urgencies that we forget to have time for ourselves, and to do the things that actually nurture us.
I love to have at least an hour a day, and a day a week where I do something that I really enjoy – a walk in the woods, a massage, a day at the seaside, it’s different for all of us.
I often find my best ideas come when I am no longer at my desk, and that new clients contact me when I am not stressing about whether they will or not.
I also then carry that space of being nurtured into the workspace, and find that I am more productive, often accomplishing way more as a result of doing something different.
2. Ask some simple questions
If you find the stress ‘taking over’, I would suggest asking some simple questions. My favourite question for gaining a different perspective is: Will this matter in five years’ time?
Then I love to ask: what other possibilities are available here? And what other possibilities are there that I haven’t even considered yet?
These questions get us out of that space where all we can see is the problem, and take us into an expansive state where there are possibilities beyond what our stressed out minds can see.
3. Be willing to voice what’s true for you
We sometimes think that we are powerless in a work situation – we may be worried about offending our boss, and missing the next promotion, or worse being fired and not having the salary we need. The problem with this is that it’s disempowering and tiring to not express ourselves.
My suggestion, if you have a workplace issue to discuss, is to ask these questions first: What words can this person hear? What words will create the most here?
You will then find that the words just come to you, without you having to plan or worry – you just find yourself saying them, and often finding a solution to what was bothering you, leaving you feeling empowered and fulfilled.
4. Do what you love
When I worked as an accountant, one of my jobs was in an international lighting company. At first, I loved the buzz of travelling around Europe, going to different countries, and meeting interesting people.
After a while, however, I began to notice that, whether our company sold more light bulbs than a competitor, was not motivation enough to keep me going through the difficult times. I changed that by working for the International Red Cross, and had some very intense and challenging times in both Russia and India.
However, the overall aim of what we were doing, and the brilliant, capable people I worked with, really sustained me.
5. Know when it is actually time to move on
For me, moving to the Red Cross was a creative solution to my stress, boredom and lack of motivation at work. However, it was not permanent. The work I was doing was still quite demanding accounting work, and I was living a very unbalanced life, where I was not looking after myself.
It was almost as If I was living in my head, and had forgotten my body, and my body showed me that very clearly – extreme fatigue, that lasted six years.
I had had some signs prior to that I had ignored, because they did not actually stop me in my tracks. So, I would suggest being willing to listen to your body, and the signs it is giving you – stress headaches, insomnia, even just not enjoying your life so much can all be signs it is time to move on.
Remember that nothing is forever, and moving on is not a sign of failure.
When we are able to recognise where we need to make changes or adjustments in our lives, we are then able to truly live a life that feels fulfilling, creative and happy.
Rather than by allowing things to happen, we take control of where we wish to go by empowering ourselves to make these changes, one step at a time.
Fiona Cutts is a communications coach, linguist and facilitator for Right Voice for You, a special program by Access Consciousness. A chartered accountant, she has worked in corporations throughout Europe and with the Red Cross organisation, based in India.
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