As someone who enjoys working and being busy, this was hard for me to grasp. When I am in something I am full force, pedal to the metal, submerged. This can be good in moments when I need to be attentive or exude a lot of energy, but also a down fall.
When you are growing up you have shift work jobs where you work 3 times a week, four hours at a time. When you get into corporate America, you work at least 40 hours a week, which breaks down to 8 hours a day of work and one hour a day for lunch. Although you technically work 40 hours you are away from home for at least 45 hours, not including your drive. On a “normal” week I leave my place at 6 am and get home around 5:15 pm. I generally pump myself up for work on my way there and decompress on my way home which means I am spending a little over 11 hours in work mode. IT IS HARD TO TURN OFF. I tend to find myself having a hard time clocking out mentally at 4 pm along with my body.
For the first couple months of my job in corporate, I dwelt on my work constantly. I couldn’t take my mind off of it. I was excited and ambitious but it led me down a rough road. I started getting irritable, I was waking up in the middle of the night with items I needed to add to my checklist, and I was panicking over everything I did.
I did hit my breaking point. I was exhausted, my co-worker had quit, we were hiring someone new, I never rested, I was working 10.5 hour days (not including the hour commute) and I couldn’t take my mind off work. My mental health had taken a serious hit. One day, I was sitting at work and felt my toes and hands starting to hurt. I looked down and there were red spots all over my feet! I went to the doctor, they took my blood pressure (which was through the roof), and found out that because of all the stress I was putting on myself, my immune system was low and I got hand, foot, and mouth disease.
This forced me to rest. I was out of work for four days and spent all day, every day, lying down. Awful, but glorious because I got so much rest! A mental vacation was what I needed. From that breaking point I have trained my brain to turn off of work mode. Mental breaks are not easy and it took practice believe it or not, but sometimes you have to choose not to think about something. here is how I did it:
- I started by actively doing something after work that I enjoyed, like blogging! TV and social media doesn’t do it for me, I don’t need something mindless, I need something that I can focus on that brings me joy and sweeps me away.
- I stopped talking about work on my free time. I still do this if something is bothering me but I try to make a conscious effort not to talk about it to fill space.
- I started planning events to look forward to so when I was stressed I could remember what I had planned that was going to be fun and NOT WORK!
- I stopped giving all of myself to everyone. When I did this I let in room to take care of myself, my husband, and my job. It became a lot easier to balance.
It gets better, but it does take time and effort.
Photography by Naomi Ledford: