Do you like your job?
Do you enjoy your work?
These are similar questions that can deliver very different answers. And it matters because your mental health depends on it.
During my decades of experience in the workplace, there have definitely been some really bad days. The kind of days where I questioned whether I could possibly find the strength to go back and face it again. Days where I felt so helpless, hopeless, trapped, and defeated—I was just…done.
But during any time I was not enjoying my job, I never ever stopped loving my work. My career. My calling. The older I get, the more I realize just how special and rare that can be. I’ve always liked what I chose to do, and I’ve never regretted it.
With family support and working several part-time positions, I was able to earn my college degree. In college I discovered video and fell in love with broadcasting—then spent two glorious decades working in television newsrooms with wonderful, smart, and clever people. As life changed, I’ve moved on to do new things in new places, but always building on those skills and that passion for doing work that I really enjoy.
I’m sharing this because, by some measures, we spend fully one-third of our lives in the workplace. That’s a lot of time to spend doing something you really don’t enjoy. I have friends who chose badly when they were picking an employment path. They loved science but pursued business. They loved art but pursed engineering. They did not follow their own heart. Maybe they followed the money. Maybe it was the safe path on which the jobs were plentiful. All fine if the passion is there, too.
Everyone has some occasional job anxiety, but there are few things worse than chronic job stress based in truly hating what you do 40 hours a week or more.
Medicinenet.com defines job stress as, “The harmful physical and emotional responses that occur when the requirements of the job do not match the capabilities, resources, or needs of the worker. Job stress can lead to poor health and even injury.”
Immediate physical symptoms include headache, chronic insomnia, difficulty concentrating, short temper and an upset stomach. Studies have linked long-term job stress and dissatisfaction to heart disease, musculoskeletal problems, workplace injury, and psychological disorders such as depression.
“Many of our clients are seeking coping skills,” says Pegg Siemek-Asche of Lutheran Family Services. “A bad fit or other difficulties in the workplace can make people feel trapped. Because they need their paychecks, they put up with a lot more than they usually would, and that sense that they lack control of their own lives can really
So, step one is simply being aware of just how much impact your job situation is having on your well-being and personal relationships. While it’s always best if your career starts out as a good fit, simply realizing that you should be doing something different is a great first step in developing a plan to relieve some of the pressure you are feeling.
Maybe it’s not just doing the same job at a different company. Can you pursue a different position with your current employer? Can you transfer your skills to a different industry? Can you find the ideas and resources to start your own business? Can you enhance your current skills or education in a way that opens up new possibilities for you? The challenge is learning how to stop the flow of anxious or depressing thoughts long enough to take a deep breath and consider other possibilities. You deserve to have a joy-filled work life.