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You know that feeling you get on a Sunday afternoon? That shudder you get when you think, “Ohhh – tomorrow’s Monday. I have to go back to work.” That’s not really a great way to live, but it’s how the majority of us do. There are many polls and surveys out there, from Gallup, Monster, and others that put the percentage of working people who get “Sunday Night Blues” as between 60 and 76. That’s a lot of unhappy people.
So why does work have to be such a drag? Why does it seem for so many people that employment can be as depressing as unemployment? Situations differ of course, but there are things that can be done. Here are my six ways to stay happier at work.
- Talk regularly with your manager. If your manager is the source of your sadness, or even if they are supportive, a good relationship with that person is vital to feeling better and more empowered. Schedule a “huddle,” a one-on-one meeting, and do what they do in a football huddle: talk about the game plan and what needs to be done. Often, workplace blues comes from a feeling of being isolated, misunderstood, or unacknowledged. To fix this, it’s up to you to reach out and ask for some “us time.” This is where you can start to understand your manager’s own concerns while sharing a little more about what you’re up against. This should not be a complaint or gripe session, but simply an opportunity to talk and to listen; to give your manager a reminder of what your job is about. Managers often forget what it was like when they sat in your chair.
- Seek small wins. When you meet with your manager, don’t try to boil the ocean or change the world. If you are feeling overwhelmed by your work, look for small wins, such as getting approval to delegate some of your work to someone else, or to assign some time per day, such as half an hour, to catch up on your email backlog. Small victories deliver a small rush of endorphins, which feel good, but they also give you a greater sense of control over your work, which feels even better. A good manager should always be looking out for ways to improve the workflow. Come to the meeting armed with ideas, and explanations as to how they will help everyone.
- Identify and seek out more engaging assignments or skills. If boredom or career frustration are getting you down, ask yourself, “what would I like to do instead?” Jobs and assignments can be adjusted to match the motivations and skills of employees. Make a list of the tasks you love doing and the tasks you hate doing to see if they light the way towards other opportunities. Take advantage of any training, or PD courses on offer to add to your skillset or discover something new that you’ve never tried before.
- Understand your coworkers. At-work colleagues can be a primary source of frustration or even conflict. We can’t choose them any more than we can choose our neighbors. They are who they are. Some are nice, some are not so nice. But understanding people goes a long way towards alleviating bad-will, especially when it is caused by a misunderstanding or an incorrect assumption. Every person is fighting a battle of some sort. Taking the opportunity to get to know your co-workers, especially the difficult ones, can be the source of a positive breakthrough in the relationship as well as eliminating some of the stress of having to work with them.
- Move around. Any form of exercise that you can sneak into your day, from climbing the stairs to doing deep-knee bends at your desk, and actually getting out and walking around on your lunch break, releases endorphins, makes your body feel better, and gives your mind a chance to relax and think more clearly. The human body needs to move, and science is discovering that sitting for long periods can be as harmful to your health as smoking. So set a timer and move around (away from your desk) at least once per hour.
- Have something to look forward to. This is my favorite suggestion of all. There are so many possibilities: a vacation, buying yourself something special, a dinner out, a hobby. Anticipating a positive, fulfilling event is another source of good feeling for mind and body. In fact, it packs a triple positive punch:
- 1. the anticipation of the event
- 2. the event itself, and
- 3. the memory of the event. Make sure you always have something good on the horizon. And once it happens, plan the next one.
Those are six ways you can feel better at work, and also feel better on your days off. Dread is a lousy thing, but action can neutralize it and replace it with something much better. It just needs you to take that first step.