It’s Monday morning (Monday morning number 357, to be exact) of the many Monday’s you’ve spent waking up for your job. Your alarm rudely awakens you with a glaring reminder of the current time. As tempting as it is to push that fat snooze button (designed as such for even the sloppiest of snoozers) and go back to sleep, doing so would mean a slippery slope filled with undesirable consequences.
So, you begrudgingly mobilize in the wee hours of the morning, partially delirious from the sleep hangover, partially disillusioned that you have another long week ahead…
This story doesn’t have to remain so glum, but unfortunately for many of us that sleep hangover and disillusionment can carry over well into the week as a cloud of unfulfilled desires manifesting as moodiness. America’s aggressively capitalistic society model demands maximum output from employees with minimum compensation. So many factors go into what we experience in the work place individually, but the one thing we all have in common is this:
We are all human.
We simply aren’t built to stare at computer screens or engage in manual, menial labor for 8+ hours.
We aren’t designed to engage in city structures filled with environmental pollutants and physical/mental/emotional triggers and traumas on a daily basis.
We aren’t naturally inclined to force ourselves to interact with disagreeable people or situations for extended periods of time.
Sooner or later, these things begin to manifest in the psyche and in the body as disease. Discussions of mental health are coming more into the limelight of modern discourse around our wellbeing but the mind-body connection from a holistic standpoint aren’t often reiterated. A sound mind will equate a sound body, and when the mind is under a lot of stress from a boss who seems to forget that you are indeed a whole person…
Who knows what will happen?
Doctors do, and they’ve been able to determine that you are at a much higher risk for illnesses such as coronary heart disease, hypertension, obesity, etc.
The one thing you must keep in mind next time you are at the job and see a nervous breakdown on the horizon is that, in the grand scheme of the machine, you are a small cog. Significant enough to provide value in the moment, but if something was to happen to you…
You will be replaced without mercy or hesitation.
The dilemma for most of us isn’t in realizing that “hey, I need to take a break or else my body and mind will break!”, it’s that we do not exist in a system that makes allowances for human circumstance. Paid Time Off is not adequate; it is treated as a meager privilege when it should be an extensive human right. Companies are working now to mediate the gap between PTO and the everyday, but it simply isn’t making the cut. Taking an 8 hour PTO day when you feel like you are going to jump off the nearest ledge becomes another Sophie’s Choice because that means one less day for your destination vacation to the Bahamas.
Where does that leave you when it’s time to save your own life and sanity?
Here are some suggestions:
1.) Suggest a Rotating Team-wide Work From Home Schedule
Now that we are in an age of digital eminence, working from home is becoming a trend. Companies that empower their workforce with laptops are doing so with the intention that you can, in theory, never stop working. If possible, leverage that by suggesting a team-wide WFH schedule that allows everyone one personal work from home day at an appropriate interval (perhaps once or twice a month each). On this day, you need to be online and available to do work, getting your deliverables done, but you can also use that day to get any personal chores (bill paying, doctor’s visits, etc.) done. Plus, a day to do work in your PJ’s can’t hurt, can it?
2.) Be Intentional With Your PTO
We all love a Girl’s Trip type of PTO plan, but having an extravagant vacation planned for one specific time of the year isn’t the only way to do PTO. Mix things up, get creative! For example, take a random PTO day on a Friday/Monday to give yourself an extended weekend. Or, take a Wednesday off to Do Not Pass Go the usual Hump Day doldrums. You’d be surprised how even a little time off during a time when you are usually working can relax you. Be sure to keep up with your company’s PTO policies as well; racking hours up as a result of severe workaholicism may seem shrewd, but depending on how your company’s calendar works, you could lose hours if they don’t roll over for certain periods.
3.) Create a Workspace Haven
Your environment plays a dominant factor in the way you internalize and process energy. A lot of external factors govern how your day will go and, more often than not, things beyond your control will come to trigger you when you least expect it. Fight back by making a home away from home at your desk! Bring pictures of loved ones to watch over you while you are at your desk. Make a tea caddy with your favorite teas and coffees from home. Install a plug-in air freshener or an oil vaporizer with your favorite scent to give you some emergency aromatherapy on the job. On the go without a dedicated workspace? Try carrying around a toy or two that reminds you of childhood, or a stress ball. No matter what the specificities of your work situation may be, find some way to personalize your space, whether that be a cubicle or your own laptop. It’s a truly viable way to reclaim a small piece your sanity.
4.) Learn to Meditate
No, I’m not talking about sitting down in the middle of the day and humming loudly over the whirr of copy machines and office chatter (although that works too!). Find a way to center yourself in the midst of the storm. There are great breathing exercises out there that you can do discretely in the bathroom, at your desk, on the train, etc. that can really ground you (and help to keep your blood pressure low). Listen to soothing sounds (lo-fi, instrumentals, binaural beats, or whatever floats your boat to Peace Valley) to take your energy levels to a more even pace. Try to close your laptop while eating lunch and take time to chew your food thoroughly, savoring each bite. In small ways, awaken your senses and keep the madness at bay.
Remember this: you only get one mind and one body. One chance to get it right. Once something is gone, most often times it’s gone forever. Capitalism pays the bills, but it certainly won’t compensate you enough for your struggle. Make every effort to take your mental health into your own hands so that you can achieve a true work-life balance.