Sorry to break to ya, but stress is unavoidable. It’s not even inherently bad, either: if we can manage it, stress is the neurological motivator many need to push through a tenuous period. That tangential ‘if’ is the key, though, and it’s not always present, especially when it comes to work matters.
We’ve all fallen into periods where our jobs overtake all else, but when it becomes the norm, it’s time to reassess. When you’re struggling to switch off and your weekends are based around admin and ‘meal preps’ for the working week, you’ve gotta make some changes. Here’s how to reclaim your hours around the 9-5.
If you’re the type of person to take work home or catch yourself checking emails at dinner, then buddy, you gotta stop. It’s all too easy to be all-consumed, but it’s definitely not healthy.
Setting some guidelines for yourself will wean you off it, but blanket bans are hard to abide by. You can try a couple of self-disciplining apps like Forest or site-blocking browser extensions like Self Control, if you want to take it out of your hands. Personally, if I’m stuck in a phone-checking loop while I wait on one tiny email, I’m a big fan of the cinema, since it’s pretty much the only time it’s 110% socially unacceptable to use your phone.
But that’s a bit of a band-aid solution, isn’t it?
If you’ve got an obsessive need to check up on things and shoot off late-night emails, then it suggests that probably a sign that you need to: A), find a hobby; B), organise yourself better while at work; or C), stop replying to things OOO. If you’re struggling to stay afloat, we’d recommend trying an email sorter like Boomerang.
Really though, it’s probs just a question of perspective. Our jobs can and ideally should be fulfilling, but they shouldn’t be the overriding source of fulfilment.
Having said that – and at the risk at sounding like a Black Mirror fable – get off your phone and go do something, you lug.
MASTER & COMMANDER
Apologies to the reference to the 2003 ‘Russell Crowe-but-at-sea’ film romp we had all rightfully forgotten. But it has purpose, I swear: we, as humans, are hard-wired to loving that feeling of really mastering something, difficulty and all.
Old mate Aristotle wrote about it aeons ago: luckily for us, Brad Stuhlberg wrote about it more recently for The Cut, so you don’t actually have to read Aristotle. Essentially, we all like to feel like we’re growing, right? Improving ourselves, becoming our best self, that sort of thing. Brad posits that work has been positioned as one of our sole sources of meaning, yet pre-Protestant Ethic, humans found that sense of growth in the sorts of things we low-key disparage by calling them ‘hobbies’. He’s got a few studies that back him up, too.
In short, learning to play a few chords of the guitar might not make a big blimp in your life, but it’s exciting! Knitting with a new cross-stitch might not shift your future forever, but it subconsciously takes the pressure off your job. You could even take some short or online classes.
Being a volly is an obvious way to feel part of something bigger and better than yourself. We’re not going to tell you where to volunteer, but just that there’s a million places looking for assistance, from large-scale charities to local community projects and even festivals like Vivid Sydney. Do it.
SWEAT IT OUT
For an immediate stress release, nothing beats a bit of exercise. You know this, I know this. So, maybe try doing it? Svelte Sydney pop-star Donny Benet provides the perf soundtrack, too:
Alternatively, I’ve always loved a good confession. If you’ve gone for a run but your thoughts are still swirling and stress is rising, simply writing down your feels dairy style can de-clutter your mind. It gives a physical sense of distance, and by forcing your brain to go translate things into a hopefully coherent, linear account, you’ll have a much better map of your problems.
Similarly, have you tried meditation? Seemingly every successful person in the world swears by it – from RuPaul to Zuckerberg, Oprah to David Lynch – so even a YouTube video or two might be worth a try.
IT’S OKAY TO SAY NO
Of course, it’s more than possible you’re just over-extending yourself, taking on more than you should. Here’s a friendly, gentle reminder that you are allowed to say you’re too busy to do an extra task. You’re even allowed to just flat-out say no. As any self-help vlogger might say, you have to give yourself permission to say no – it’s not going to kill your career.
Image credit: The People V. OJ Simpson