Achieving emotional equilibrium at work
When to spot a demanding workload turning unhealthy. Knowing the symptoms of bad stress. Identifying a positive self-care regime. Effective time management tools and prioritising your workload.
So your boss is highly demanding? You work in a fast paced environment where there is an expectation of long hours and hard work? Achieving an emotional equilibrium at work involves effective time management tools and prioritising your workload. Having a demanding workload with competing demands and lots of multitasking can be energising, motivating and exhilarating. There can be a feeling of fulfilment in meeting each challenge and learning to balance competing requests from your boss and other senior managers as you stretch yourself personally and professionally.
A demanding workload begins to turn unhealthy, however, when you start to experience negative emotional fallout in other parts of your life. Work-related stress can typically involve physical symptoms of anxiety such as shortness of breath, heart palpitations, tense shoulders and headaches. Certain levels of stress can be a motivating influence (we would be bored stiff if we didn’t have some level of stress) but excessive amounts of stress leave you feeling overwhelmed and demotivated, and viewing your heavy workload as an insurmountable heap. Unhealthy levels of stress can also impact on your physical health with negative consequences for diet, sleep and relationships. It is one thing to feel motivated by having a huge to-do list and never having a dull moment but it is another thing to be waking up in the middle of the night thinking about uncompleted parts of the to-do lists.
Being conscientious about hard work can enhance your career progression. It can be detrimental, though, when you are not able to leave the office until every single item on your to-do list is completed. Your negative internal scripts might be telling you that you are not good enough unless you exceed expectations. Unhealthy practices are when you regularly work through lunch breaks, not have time for visits to the gym, stay stuck to your computer screen when eating and cancel planned holiday because of a mounting workload.
Staying healthy with a demanding workload means adhering to a self-care regime that allows you to enjoy regular physical exercise, to eat and sleep well, take breaks and to enjoy time off. It also means being able to set healthy boundaries, delegate where appropriate and to negotiate the demands being placed upon you. That might involve politely saying ‘no’, even to the most demanding boss. If this is not possible, and you work for a bullying boss within a toxic corporate culture, then devising a transition plan to a more suitable job, perhaps in a different sector, might represent your next steps. Life is short. Try to embrace your working life with enthusiasm and find an environment that rewards your unique contribution and satisfies your creativity.
Counselling and psychotherapy can help you to assess your attitude to your work. It could prove to be beneficial to acknowledge any perfectionist tendencies and where they might come from. Is there, for instance, any unconscious processes at play that make it hard to leave the office unless every single task is completed? Might there be old mental scripts at play that are driving you to seek perfection all the time? What messages did you receive as a child about what it means to be ambitious, successful and fulfilled? It could prove useful to investigate any people-pleasing behaviour and anything else that prevents you from negotiating work plans with your boss.