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Eliminate work unhappiness with these steps.
Dreading the sound of your morning alarm? You’re not alone! Women of color are among the least contented at the workplace, with about one in three reporting overall job satisfaction, according to data crunched by Vanderbilt University. No longer loving your job (or never really having been enamored of it in the first place) can lead to tedious days. The unhappiness can also take a bite out of your health, causing headaches, a churning stomach, sleep trouble and more, says Jerry D. Smith, Jr., Psy.D., a psychologist in Nederland, Texas. Your love life can suffer, too.
“Personal relationships often bear the brunt of discontent at work,” says Smith. But that doesn’t mean you’re destined for drudgery day in and day out. Recognizing that you’ve lost the passion for your current position and knowing how to rekindle that spark can lead to less clock-watching and more fulfillment. Here are some tips to help you achieve just that.
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IDENTIFYING A WORK RUT A constant knot in the pit of your stomach, or angst over having to spend one more second with an oh, so annoying coworker, is a sign the romance is over with your job. But there are a few other indicators that you’re unhappy there. Recognize yourself in any of these instances? If so, it could be time for a professional intervention.
YOU’RE OUT OF PAID TIME OFF Have you used up all your vacation and personal or sick days? Unless they were spent on actual vacays or you had a legitimate reason (your child woke up with the stomach flu, for example), burning through those days just to avoid going in to the office could mean you’re growing restless and dispirited. “When you feel stuck at work, you care less about your performance. You’re no longer the perky, productive person you once were,” says Tandee Salter, a business coach, consultant and founder of Tandee Salter Unlimited, LLC, in Columbus, Georgia. That goes for trading away work shifts, too.
THE CLOCK IS SLOW Let’s face it: Few of us have a position that’s continually filled with excitement, so you’re going to have to muddle through a long, monotonous workday on occasion. But time at your desk shouldn’t consistently be marked by regularly checking the clock whose minute hand never seems to turn. Sometimes your typical eight hours can feel more like 18, says Benton McTaggart, a career strategist and coach at SoFi, an online lending company in Dallas. “Those feelings of apathy can lead to mental checkouts,” he says, “and you wishing you were somewhere else, doing something else.”
YOU DUCK OUT OF THE BREAK ROOM You once enjoyed bumping into a coworker near the coffee, but lately you’re trying to time your mug refills for moments when you can avoid chitchat. Or maybe your latest go-to fashion accessory is a set of earbuds that reduce the odds that a colleague passing by will stop to strike up a conversation even a friendly one. McTaggart says those actions show you’re someplace you don’t want to be: “Even eating lunch alone every day by choice or [being irked by] small requests like “can you pass me a pen,” may indicate workplace dissatisfaction.” Designing the blueprint for a rewarding career takes time, passion and effort.
IT’S JUST A PAYCHECK If you can’t picture yourself growing old at your current place of employment, or only see your 9-to-5 as a necessary evil to pay for the roof over your head or to have health insurance, you’ve lost connection to your job. “You may even start using distancing language such as “their project” instead of “our project,” ” says McTaggart. The same is true for spacing out during conference calls or meetings. “Walking away from those situations having no idea what was discussed, even though there was much discussion and a clear agenda, signals your passion for your work has fizzled,” says McTaggart.
REIGNITING THE SPARK Try these tricks to get back in the swing of things:
TAKE ON AN UNFAMILIAR ROLE
Mixing up your work routine can create opportunities to discover fresh interests and expand your professional skills. Patricia Thompson, Ph.D., a corporate psychologist and president of Silver Lining Psychology in Atlanta, says looking for new challenges can be reinvigorating even with an old job: “Find out if there are any “stretch” assignments you can tackle.” Flexing your creative muscles and going outside your comfort zone can stimulate excitement to show up to work every day.
HANG OUT WITH PEOPLE WHO LOVE WHAT THEY DO
As with any successful relationship, building a career takes time, passion and lots of hard work. And sometimes those things can be learned by keeping company with coworkers, others in your industry or even close friends in unrelated fields who are enthusiastic about their career. “Seek out mentors, friends or family who have been able to keep the fire alive in their jobs to help you rediscover your passion for yours,” says McTaggart. “That may remind you of why you fell in love with your job.”
DON’T SQUANDER BREAKS
Forgoing a ten-minute walk around another floor of your building can make you resent your job. “Avoid eating lunch at your desk. You need to tune out for a little bit to give yourself a breather,” explains Thompson. “We often think keeping a nose to the grindstone and working more makes us more effective.” She adds that taking mindful downtime can boost energy, which can then impact productivity.
WRITE A DIFFERENT STORY
Every work interaction is the chance to change the narrative. “Before letting any type of communication or experience dull your passion for your job, ask yourself if there’s another, less emotional, explanation for what’s happening,” suggests Thompson. “By activating the logical, versus the emotional, parts of your brain, you can adjust the tone of your day and create a happier environment.”
This feature originally appeared in the ESSENCE Feburary 2017 Issue
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