Have you ever thought about how much time and life energy your job consumes? Or maybe you have thought about how much you don’t want to think about this!? We spend most of our waking life—and much of our life when we are not awake—focused on our career and the demands of the workplace. Some of the time we spend is obvious: if we work for someone else, we are expected to be on the job during certain hours. If we work for ourselves, we are interacting with customers or developing our business. But there is more to work time than the actual time we spend working.
The “Work of Work” can be invisible…
A lot of the time we spend may be hidden. For example, the time we spend commuting or buying clothes that we will only wear to our place of business or to meet with customers. What about the time spent preparing a lunch based on how well it will hold up until we can take a break, rather than on what we would really like or what is healthiest for us? How about the time you spend keeping up with your field or trying to expand your skill set with reading or classes or obtaining certifications? If you own your own business, or if you work in fields such as sales, you probably spend a lot of time networking with others. Most people spend at least some amount of time with our significant others and friends talking about the bad day we had at work or the great project we just completed, rather than just enjoying the time together.
In addition to the waking time that we spend, whether obvious or hidden, we may also find ourselves dreaming about work, work projects, co-workers, or customers. Even when we are on vacation, it is, sorry to say, essentially a longer break from work. There is often the rush to get things organized before we leave and there is the overwhelm of the tasks that require our immediate attention when we return. And this does not take into account what may be going through our heads while we are gone when we worry about the projects we left unfinished or the Inbox full of email that will greet us on our return. Too many people are unable to fully leave the workplace behind and take laptops, phones, and access to email on vacation, along with spouses, partners, the kids, and maybe the dog.
…and still be a major form of stress
Given the demands of our work life and the space it takes in our lives, it is no wonder that work and career, above and beyond the work itself, can be major sources of stress for many people. Some of the many common sources of work stress include wondering whether we are in the right profession, dealing with the politics of your particular work environment, and finding time for relaxation, the tasks of daily life, friends, and family while in a demanding job. Another less visible source of stress may be working in an environment where the work style does not match yours, for example, a company where people are expected to work long hours and “adopt” the workplace and their co-workers as home and family. While that may be great for many of your co-workers, this may not feel like a fit for you and can leave you feeling anxious, upset, or out of place.
Also in the category of less visible forms of work stress is the stress experienced by people who are in jobs that require some form of confidentiality: perhaps they are working on a confidential product or project, or they are part of the management or leadership team, or dealing with personnel issues that require discretion. People in these roles are faced with the challenge of having to remain silent about situations that may be upsetting, stressful, or simply too difficult to handle alone. Often resulting in the same forms of stress are jobs that are just plain emotionally difficult, e.g., working directly with the public or in specific fields that have an increased risk of burnout.
Therapy can help!
Because of the confidential nature of therapy, it can be a great place to find new answers and strategies, or just get a different perspective without the fear that confidential information will end up on someone’s Facebook page. It can give you an opportunity to explore ideas for change, or find much needed compassion and strength to handle the challenges you may be facing.
Prior to becoming a therapist, I spent more than two decades working for large and small companies, and I have been the owner of a small consulting company. I use this background, along with years of training and experience as a psychotherapist, to offer a practical and warm approach to help you look at your life in new and creative ways.
Questions about psychotherapy or about my approach to psychotherapy? Please see my website at www.marlacass.com and contact me at 415-218-2442 (phone link works from smartphones only) or at firstname.lastname@example.org.