In my experience in working as a counsellor, work-related stress is one of the issues that consistently comes up in sessions. Whether it’s the day to day stress of a job, not enjoying what they do, conflicts with colleagues, or questioning whether they have chosen the right career, people seem to focus much of their time and energy on worrying about work.
Since work takes up so much time during the week, it’s difficult to ignore negative feelings about a job or to just go through the motions when you are feeling unsettled or having a difficult time managing the demands of your career. These feelings are valid and deserve to be addressed. But I believe there's a deeper meaning as to why this topic seems to come up so frequently in my work with clients.
It seems that many people have bought into the idea that what they do for their career defines their worth as a person, and as such feel a disproportionate amount of pressure in this area of their lives.
It’s not hard to see why many people feel like they are defined by what they do for their career. In any setting where people are meeting for the first time, one of the first questions always asked is, “So, what do you do for a living?” The idea that our value is tied up with our career is continually reinforced in these types of situations along with other social pressures.
So, how do we adjust this mindset?
A good place to start with changing one's mindset is self-examination. Pause and reflect on the amount of time your career not only takes out of your week, but how much it occupies your thoughts and your conversations as well. You may want to consider asking yourself questions such as: Am I able to switch off when I get home from work? Am I practising healthy boundaries with leaving work at work?
Consider setting some firm boundaries for yourself such as leaving work on time, taking your full lunch break, etc., and you will be amazed at how these small changes start to allow you to feel a difference in your work-life balance. Putting boundaries around your work can enable you to feel more equipped to handle the inevitable stresses that arise on the job, and can serve as a reminder that although work is important, it is not ultimately what defines you as a person, unless you allow it to.
Hanna Counselling is a professional counselling service based in Belfast, Northern Ireland, and seeks to help people improve their mental, emotional, and relational health through one to one and group counselling. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.