There is a common story being told, one of sheer and utter exhaustion. Whether it’s the unrelenting demands of work and dealing with a crisis, stress of personal circumstances or navigating uncertainty after uncertainty.
That sense of ‘there has to be something better’ can be driven by a complex web of feelings, so it makes it challenging to know how to resolve it – especially if this has been a recurring feeling. You may have considered, ‘should I just quit’? But should you actually do it? Well, it depends.
If any situation is having a detrimental effect on your mental or physical health then you should seriously consider an exit plan. But, many a decision made in haste can have consequences, which if not prepared for, may be going from the frying pan straight into the fire. It is useful advice to never make a big decision in an emotional state.
Two examples of this relate to finances and having a sense of purpose. Some people are comfortable living without a steady salary and can ride through a period of uncertainty, but for others the regular salary provides a basic sense of security. Being suddenly without an income can cause some people anxiety and panic, and they take the first role that comes along. This flight to a new job may not address the core reasons for leaving the previous employer or add to their career development clarity.
The second example can have a similar negative effect. While having a sense of purpose has a deeper meaning, employment for many people provides a structure and daily purpose, and without self-discipline some people can feel disorientated and their confidence is undermined. At first, walking away from a negative situation can be liberating, but it can risk turning into fear and uncertainty.
So, what can you do?
1. Step back from the situation
Take a few deep breaths, reflect on your emotions and the situation.
- What is the underlying cause of the situation?
- Has the situation actually become worse or just how you feel about it?
- Is the situation something that should be referred to HR?
- Are you inadvertently reacting and playing into other people’s bad behaviour?
Get clear on what steps you can take to improve the situation or whether it is untenable.
2. Talk to someone
Are you constantly getting sick or just can’t shake that last cold? Is your sleep broken and when you do sleep are you waking feeling exhausted? Do you constantly feel irritated or unable to focus? Do you feel you’re always in conflict situations? Are friends or colleagues regularly asking how you are or commenting on your behaviour? If you answered yes to one or more of these questions, it may be time to ask for support.
Start with a trusted friend or family member that you can talk openly about how you’re feeling. If you feel you need professional support, book in to see your doctor, complementary therapist, counsellor or coach. Being in the midst of a stressful situation, it can be hard to see the impacts on yourself, but a professional can help you think objectively and provide the support and strategies to navigate the situation.
3. Schedule regular self-care
Frustration towards work and other obligations can build because we’re so busy fulfilling all the other things on our plate that we forget to fuel our own needs and take time for ourselves. This could be eating well, making physical activity a priority, or making time to be social and connecting with people who fill your cup. It shouldn’t be a guilty pleasure, but a priority like eating and drinking.
4. Take a break
It has been challenging to book holidays over the past two years, the thought of using up annual leave to be in lockdown seemed pointless. But long periods of intense work without a break can lead to fatigue, illness and your impact mental health. If you are feeling like you’re nearly at breaking point, consider when you last took a break? Whether you go away or make it a staycation, book time off. To give yourself the mental break, above all else, turn off your notifications, turn on an out of office message and ensure someone else can pick up your communications until you are back.
Research has found the optimal number of days away is eight days to feel the benefits of switching off and recharging. Longer holidays are of course great, but if that is not possible, eight is a good number to aim for.
5. Get your finances in order
Whether you are under actually under financial stress, or you are just concerned by money worries, the impact on your physical and mental wellbeing has found to be the same. Understanding your financial situation can give you the freedom to decide or at least create a plan for the future.
Can you afford time off? If you’ve been considering a change, it doesn’t necessarily mean a pay cut but it’s useful to know what salary you need to live on to facilitate a transition.
6. Change the situation or change your situation
Did you always feel this way about your job? What changed and when did it change? Brad Pugh in The Fit Factors talks about the four elements that create the right job fit:
These are unique to each individual and to achieve the right fit, you need to first be aware what elements are right for you. Ask your current employer about potential opportunities that meet your ‘fit factors’ or start looking elsewhere.
Even with all of your best efforts, if the environment you’re working in or your role design makes it difficult to live a sustainable and healthy life, you have three options.
- Raise the issues with your employer to enact change and support
- If #1 is not productive, make a plan to exit.
- Your third choice is to wait and see, but just be conscious of what signals you’re waiting for and not just avoiding taking action.
7. Reconnect with your network
Everyone is busy and it’s easy to lose contact with personal and professional contacts without intentional effort. The good news is everyone is in the same boat. So if you haven’t been in touch with an old colleague for in a year or two, it doesn’t matter, get in contact. By keeping in touch with your network, you may uncover new job opportunities and at the very least broaden your outlook. You may also gain insight into other organisations and industries, identifying where the grass may truly be greener.
Change is constant and many industries have navigated seismic challenges and are facing continued uncertainty. This build up of pressure with poor leadership can result in unhealthy workplaces. It can be due to increasing workloads, poor communication and transparency, fear, or anxiety caused by extended periods of uncertainty. If you feel like you have just about had enough, know you are not alone. And if you are unsure of what to do next, take a step back and get clear on what you need to do before taking a giant leap forward.