6 Ways to Protect Your Mental Health at Work by Retiring

“Neglected.” It was the mantra we used just to carry out the project. I was leading a massive change management effort for a large hospital system, and almost everyone on the project described themselves, at least behind closed doors, as miserable. We miss deadlines due to executive inaction and hit walls due to the company’s all-too-normal behavior of waiting for things to change without greater clarity or capacity for staff.

The frustration and disappointment we feel are not exclusive to change projects that are likely to change very little. It is in the IT employee who feels the work approach lacks creativity and is disappointed by the level of talent they work with. Who is in the middle management frustrated with layoffs while executive compensation is not affected.

May appear on disconnection for those who work for companies that rank as a better place work and feel that the amount of work they are burdened with is unfair. Or it can be felt by the person who has not yet recovered from the impact of the covid-19 pandemic.

I spent almost two decades of my career trying to change companies and even gave a TEDx talk about taking ownership of his career and operating as a withinentrepreneur However, even I can attest that sometimes we need to rein in our big ideas and aspirations and just focus on doing the essential work asked of us and ourselves.

Many of us have put too many happy eggs in the basket of jobs, and as an investment portfolio, we could benefit from diversification. But how can you “worry less” while maintaining your integrity? And your work?

A “worry less” approach can help your mental health and performance

I was once leading a round of layoffs at a company and contacted as many remaining employees as I could. I asked him, “How is this affecting you right now?” Some shared that they were sad for their now former co-workers, while others were worried about more work piling up. However, one of our best interpreters did not seem out of date. He said: “I don’t think about work in the same way that others do. I have a lot of things that keep me happy, and I try not to rely too much on work to do that for me, so I’m not worrying about it. It’s just a job. What did he know that most people don’t?

It has been shown that having a job is better for your mental health than not having one. But when you experience mental health problems at work, due to life or work or the environment, it can be expensive for your productivity or impact. (As researchers referring to a study conducted by The Integrated Benefits Institute He once put it: “Physical health symptoms primarily affect absenteeism, mental health problems tend to affect performance, and unsupportive work cultures exacerbate the effects of both”).

6 Ways to “Worry Less” About Work Without Getting Fired

While we may realize that we need adequate distance between our work and well-being, most of us don’t want to suddenly become distant or try to sabotage others. Caring less is not about hitting the man; it’s about making sure you don’t sacrifice his own well-being for the good of the system. Here are tactics you can implement to make an impact at work while protecting yourself:

Define your new strategy.

The book of the economist Albert Hirschman, Exit, Voice and Loyalty: Responses to the Decline in Companies, Organizations and Statesshares four responses that one can choose when dissatisfied at work, or in their relationship with their government, etc.:

  • get out: get out of the situation
  • Voice: try to improve the situation
  • Persistence: smile and bear it
  • Negligence: stay but reduce effort

While I suggest you “care less” which falls squarely under the category of negligence, another course of action may make more sense, depending on your situation. So before you do anything else, take stock of your situation so that you feel empowered to choose the strategy that will work best for you right now.

Give yourself permission for a defined period

Any strategy you choose is a reaction to your current environment and situation. It doesn’t have to last forever. Instead, consider giving yourself permission to try this for a specific period of time, maybe two weeks, a month, or even a quarter. This will help you remember that you are in control while making room for new behaviors that serve your well-being.

Remove company events

Unless attendance is mandatory, consider skipping the meeting and asking a trusted colleague, or your leader, for the highlights. If attending makes you anxious or leaves you feeling frustrated and unable to do your job, don’t go. This includes company-wide meetings, happy hours, and holiday parties – Zoom or in person.

Office Gossip CliffsNotes

Your best friend at work tells you, “You won’t believe what just happened!” Instead of taking the bait, consider responding and saying, “I will stay away from office gossip that will upset me. Is there anything I should know that could affect me or my job?” Set boundaries for the facts that matter, and most people will learn to honor them and start sharing only the details that can be helpful.

Ask for priorities

Most companies are not good at prioritizing, but that shouldn’t stop you from trying to fully understand what is expected of you. Make a list of your current projects (formal or informal), recurring tasks, and other important categories of work that demand your attention. Estimate how long each one takes you and assign a priority number between one and three: 1 for high priority, 2 for medium, and 3 for low. Share your analysis with your leader, and here’s the key: let them know you’re working to maximize their impact while taking care of yourself.

Then ask them to help you adjust the priority levels and how much time is spent on each. Finally, ask if there’s any work on their plate that they feel should go to someone else (hello, ability!). Leaders often leave these conversations shocked by the amount on employees’ plates and ready to do something about it.

Build a “Careless Team”

Many find it risky to speak openly about frustrations or concerns about others or their company. While you are right to be cautious, don’t sacrifice the support of others by never speaking your truth. A sense of community at work, even with just a small handful of people who feel the same way, can help you feel less alone. They can also advise you when you are stuck or want to understand how to react to a specific situation.

How employers can react to the “worry less” approach

Even if done simultaneously, the six steps above probably won’t get you fired. In fact, most leaders will be delighted to hear that you want to maximize your impact and will respect your desire to foster their well-being. And if you try a few of the suggestions in succession, they’ll see that you’re not giving up, but harnessing your energy in new, ideally more impactful ways.

Maybe you are an executive or a leader hoping to find balance for yourself. Prestige! But know that this adjustment to work is for all levels of your company. Author Simon Sinek, one of my people and work gurus, was featured in Brene Brown’s Dare to Lead Podcast and shared the following when considering junior workers: “I hear from a lot of seniors who work fewer hours, finish the day a little earlier, don’t rush back to their emails, and we commend that behavior and say, ‘Oh, that person is finding balance. But if a young person does it, we call it quiet stop smoking. I realize there’s a judgment in it because maybe that younger person is also trying to find balance.”

If you’re a leader whose blood pressure rises after you think your employees are “rebelling” like this, there’s good news: Their behavior is within your control. First, improve the company’s strategy and operations. Establish better and less priorities. While the mental health benefits are nice, they will only move the needle if you have put into practice the culture and strategy of the company you keep promoting. Motivate your employees, equip them to maximize their impact, and make changes that support their work, and they’ll care more and be mentally healthier while doing so. I’d take that over a yearly subscription to a meditation app any day.

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