You are not your work

In the next few weeks I will be writing about making things “work at work.” I will give you thoughts and tips for coping and thriving in an intense workplace. In these blogs, I will be thinking about my amazing clients who work for non-profits and for-profits. Both are high stress jobs. Most places people work are stressful environments nowadays.

The basic equation looks like this:

Less money to hire employees + more work to be done = fewer employees doing more.

A lot of what happens in an organization is not in our control. However, we do play a role in team dynamics, our work product, our outlook, and our own stress management. In this series I will focus on the things we can control.

When your work is really hard…

projects stacking up all around you…
demands to do more with less…
unhappy clients and customers…
a gossipy, complaining co-worker…
a boss that does not understand your workload…
…these are the days you feel like you need to put your head down and just plow through.

These are the days you are heading toward burnout. Too many of these days in a row and it may be really hard to find anything good about your work.

This is a critical time. It is when you need a BIG reminder that you are NOT your work.

Say it out loud. Get in your car after work and declare:


Even if you do work that does real good in this world — like growing food or teaching children:


Even if you are really good at your work — like delivering the best service to grumpy customers or perfectly stitching up someone’s wound:


Even if your primary work is raising your own children. They are very close to your own identity, but your children are not you.


So then what?

Well, when the work is really tough (or even when it is peachy) a great way to stay sane is to do things outside your work and your family — things that will remind you of your “you-ness”.
Put the work down and do something for yourself. Something that makes you feel like you.

What if you don’t know what that is?

Start by spending a little time alone. Perhaps write about things you enjoy. What makes you feel cozy and content? What restores and energizes you? You’ll start to see the best ways to get in touch with you.

Here are a few activities that will help you remember you are more than your work:

  • A walk or bike ride by yourself
  • Time out for coffee or tea (without work, electronic devices, or media)
  • Lunch alone, away from your desk
  • A few extra minutes in bed in the morning to say hi to yourself
  • A quick chat with yourself in the mirror
  • Writing about anything that is not your work
  • A creative project you can work on for few moments each day — something just for you. (Knit a few rows, work on your bike, cook something yummy.)

Why do this?

Because taking a little bit of time away from the work and reconnecting to yourself reminds you that you are not your work.

Then, when you are at work and stuff is hitting the fan you can think:

“I am going to do my best with this, but you know what? How I do this work right now is not all there is and not all of who I am.”

That sense of separation from the work will increase your ability to actually do the work.

Wild? I know.

Now take yourself for a walk.

Annie Von EssenYou are not your work

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