Staying Sane at Work

When you’re a newly minted member of the workforce, it’s natural to want to do well. That enthusiasm and work ethic will be valuable to you as long as they don’t pave the road to burnout. Balance out your need to succeed with a few tips for staying sane at work — which will only make you more successful in the long run.

Take breaks

This may seem simple, but many workers don’t take short breaks or stop working for meals. If you’re working at a computer or desk, make sure you’re getting up regularly and stretching. Instead of using a break to check social media, take a walk or read a book to give your body or mind a break from the screen.

At first I was hesitant to take a full hour for my lunch break at my first salaried job, but as time went on, I began to take that hour to shop, take a yoga class, go out to lunch with a co-worker or catch up on my reading. I always returned to work with more energy after the mental and physical break.

Make friends

Most of us spend large amounts of time with our co-workers. Those people can make a big difference in how we view our jobs. Whether or not you spend time with your colleagues outside of work, they can certainly enhance the time you spend there. More than that, it’s important to acknowledge the humanity of the people you work with. Like you, they will have personal struggles, good days and bad days.

Over the years, my co-workers have been wonderful sounding boards, both professionally and personally. They have been people to process the weekend with, and they were understanding when I wasn’t at my best after saying goodbye to my childhood dog. Because we made an effort to connect, I didn’t feel like a cog in a machine, but a part of the team.

Customize your space

Whether you have an office, a desk, a locker or a counter, think about ways that you can make your workspace your own. While you don’t want to go overboard, a plant, a photo and a stash of snacks can enhance your sense of well-being during the workday.


If you’re unclear about something or you need some direction on what to do next, don’t be afraid to ask. In most cases your boss wants you to succeed, but they aren’t able to read your mind. If you’re looking to take on more responsibility or are overwhelmed, schedule a meeting and talk about it.

I once had a boss who told me that if there were any surprises in a performance review, she wasn’t doing her job. When anything came up, she made sure we handled it as quickly as possible. Since then, I’ve tried to follow her example. Initiating communication with my boss has made me nervous sometimes, but talking about whatever issue I have has usually relieved my anxiety (and resulted in forward motion).

Make the most of it

You might not be in your dream job at the moment, but my guess is that there is something there for you. It might be a great discount on a gym membership or a customer who will become an important connection. You might be learning skills that will translate into your next step, or you might simply be making the money you need to live. Even as you work toward the future, don’t forget to pay attention to the good things about your situation here and now.

I recently had a conversation with a woman who didn’t begin working in her vocation until middle age, but as she looked back on her life, she was able to see that the path she’d taken, even when it didn’t make a lot of sense, was leading her to a career that she loves. A little way down the road, that might be you.

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