It’s still dark outside when my alarm rings. Almost immediately, my eyes are wide open and a familiar knot starts twisting in my stomach. Dreading the day ahead, I take a deep, resigned breath and roll out of bed.
If you can relate to workday anxiety hitting the moment you open your eyes, I’m guessing you’re not a big fan of your job.
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Before I transitioned to my career as a freelance writer, I couldn’t stand my job in retail. Working in customer services for a busy department store hardly felt like my calling, and every day was a wrench to get out of bed. Whether it was dealing with complaints from angry customers, drowning under a mountainous workload, or facing the wrath of my supervisor if I made a mistake, I just didn’t want to be there.
We spend most of our waking hours at work, so hating your job can have huge repercussions on your well-being. If you feel taken for granted in the workplace or your passion lies elsewhere, your motivation is quickly drained, especially if you aren’t well compensated for the hours you put in.
Sometimes, be it for financial or contractual reasons, you aren’t able to simply walk away from a job you hate. Thankfully, there are ways to make your workday bearable, even enjoyable. Here are the strategies I used to find joy in my nine-to-five.
Focus on what you can gain
Whether you’re on the bottom rung of a ladder to your dream job or your work is totally unrelated to your long-term career interests, I guarantee there’s a skill you can start building now that’ll help you in future endeavors.
Don’t be afraid to pitch an idea in line with your personal interests. If you’re a budding writer, see if your company has a blog that you could contribute to, or offer to start one. Maybe you’re keen to get into charitable work, in which case organizing an office fundraiser is a great way to build your skillset. It could be as simple as knowing that your dream job involves presentations, so really focusing on nailing those now.
Whatever it is, using your current job to build skills for the future will add purpose to your workday and reassure you that this is just a stepping stone to something more meaningful.
Find what makes it bearable
It’s unrealistic to expect to somehow flip a switch and suddenly love a job you previously loathed. Instead, focus on finding the thing that makes work bearable. For me, this was my work friends. Even if my day was a disaster from start to finish, letting off steam with a colleague never failed to cheer me up. It didn’t make my job any easier, but it meant that I left work with a lighter weight on my shoulders.
Maybe there’s a particular activity in your day that you enjoy more than others. I found that cataloguing returned items meant I could take a break from the phones and block out whatever was happening around me, so I volunteered to do that job every day. Perhaps you just can’t wait to catch up with your desk mate over a cup of tea – whatever it is about your work that gives you a moment of respite, do that as often as possible.
Prioritize your mental well-being
I used to be so unhappy at work that it seeped into every part of my life. I’d spend evenings mentally replaying customer calls that had left me close to tears, and even stopped making plans for Sunday afternoons, knowing that my foul mood about the week ahead would ruin the atmosphere for everyone else.
Eventually, though, I found a way to escape the slump. Having a support network who could empathize with what I was going through was by far the most helpful thing. Knowing there were people who cared about me boosted my confidence for the day ahead. Try writing a list of three people who you could call for a chat if you’ve had a tough day and actually use it when that happens!
I also set my alarm 15 minutes early each morning so that I could do something nice for myself before work. Yoga is a great way to boost your mood for the day ahead, or reading a chapter of your favorite book or even cooking yourself a delicious breakfast works too. When you start the morning well, it’s much easier to stay positive throughout the day.
Although I never enjoyed working in retail, I learned to stop dreading it and managed to find those moments of calm. Not all jobs will be your dream career, but with a little presence of mind, you can prevent them becoming a nightmare.