by Deanna Parkton
Have you ever found yourself dreaming about a work problem at night and tossing and turning in preparation for the next day? Do you struggle to turn off your brain when it comes to your job? Do you notice that you are having strong emotional responses to workplace problems?
It is no secret that work stress can have a profound impact on your physical, emotional and mental wellness. Aside from up and quitting your job, how can you decrease stress?
Consider this controversial idea – care less about your job.
For many of us, the thought of caring less about work goes against everything we have been taught. From a young age, we are told to work hard and give our full selves to everything we do. As our lives become more about our careers, this means that we invest not only our time but mental and emotional energy into our jobs.
The problem is that many of us are putting this mental and emotional burden on ourselves even when the issue at hand does not require it of us. Have you ever spent days stressing about a work issue that quickly and easily resolved itself? Have you ever worried about something that never became an issue, just something that had the potential to develop into a problem?
If the answer is yes, welcome to the club. In fact, clinical psychologist and author of “The Stress-Proof Brain” Melanie Greenberg estimates that 85 percent of the things people worry about never happen. The mental and emotional toll that many of us place on ourselves in regards to our jobs is unreasonable.
Wouldn’t it be nice to care just a little less about work?
By caring a little less, you can allow yourself the freedom to work and live with more ease, freeing up more time for strategic thinking and mindful actions. By removing the emotion, you can think more clearly about your next steps.
How? Set emotional boundaries when it comes to your job.
Emotional boundaries are limits regarding what you are going to take on emotionally in regards to a certain topic. By making an agreement to yourself to prioritize emotional boundaries, you can continually set your boundary on a regular basis to retrain your brain to respond differently.
This commitment to yourself means that when you start having an emotional response to something work-related, you place a big STOP sign in front of it. You then quickly move to an assessment mindset.
1. When the worry presents itself, stop and pause. Acknowledge the emotional and physical response. How is your body responding? First take steps to alleviate the physical response by taking a deep breath to slow your heart rate and allow space.
2. Next, assess the worry.
- Is your worry warranted? Is this an actual problem that needs to be dealt with or is this a worry about something that is not an actual current problem?
- Rate the worry on a scale from 1-3, with 1 being an unreasonable worry and 3 being a reasonable and tangible worry. Throw the 1s away, place the 2s to the side and focus on the 3s.
3. Assess the timing.
- Does this worry require your immediate response? (Nine times out of ten, this worry can wait). If it does require an immediate response, continue to put a STOP sign on the emotional response and move into a strategic mindset. What do you need to do to solve this problem? Who do you need to talk to? What is your first step?
- If the worry needs to be addressed but not at this moment, mark time on your calendar to brainstorm steps to resolve the issue. By writing it down, you are sending a signal to your brain that the problem is being dealt with and you can now remove it from your mental load.
It can take a lot of self-discipline to set boundaries when it comes to your emotional responses to work, but remember that you have tools to navigate the process. The more that you practice, the easier it will be to limit stress and anxiety and move into an action-oriented mindset. By prioritizing your mental health, you can bring your best self to your job.
For more ideas on how you can navigate your stress related to work, consider working with a career coach. A coach can help you identify strategies to set healthy boundaries while keeping a strategic mindset. Check out our executive coaching services and sign up for a free consultation here.
Deanna Parkton is a writer, career coach and educator with a passion for professional development and work wellness and happiness. With a focus on self-reflection, she works with individuals in their quest to reach their career goals as well as satisfaction in work-life balance. You can find more of her writing at workinglivingwell.com and she can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.