We’ve all been there. In fact, most of us go there at least once a week.
You find yourself knee-deep and stressed in work you wish you’d never taken on.
Whether it’s a project or task you’ve been given at the office, or whether you’ve promised someone you’d do something for them and don’t want to let them down, you’re obliged and determined to see it through.
Perhaps the work is mentally challenging and requires maximum brainpower, or darn right frustrating and annoyingly long. Either way, such tasks put you through a range of emotions that can make you feel like the world is caving in.
Why did I say yes in the first place?
Why am I even in this job?
I’m not cut out for this!
I just haven’t got the patience anymore!
I’m not capable enough!
This isn’t for me…
The more stressful a task becomes the more difficult and frustrating it gets. Yet we have a tendency to push on, to get another coffee, to squint at the screen that bit harder, to carry on doing the work in the same exasperating way.
It’s the ‘quitters never win; winners never quit‘ mentality engrained in our brains. If you give up, you automatically become a loser, or at least so we think. So we press on.
It’s stressful living like this, especially if your work life is like this day-in-day-out.
But we don’t need to quit. We just need to know the right time to stop.
When you feel those huffy-puffy breaths coming on, when you start snapping at those who innocently interrupt you, when things get blurry and your brain is struggling to produce the fuel you need to perform at your best, don’t force yourself to continue.
What’s the point?
It is a recipe for stress, frustration, demoralisation and disappointment.
If you can, completely leave the task alone until another day. You are most likely over-tired, definitely uninspired and certainly not at your best. Get an early night and come back fresh the next day.
If you are at work, take a tea break or an early lunch. Go and sit outside for a while and read a book or listen to some music. Tell your boss you need some fresh air for half an hour and you’ll make up the time later in the week. Take yourself out of the situation and allow yourself space to breathe.
If you are at home, do what I did today when some work I was doing got the best of my better nature: stop and immerse yourself in something you enjoy, like a hobby, playing with your kid(s) or doing something creative like painting or playing music. I decided to spend an hour playing with my daughter and, when it was her bedtime, I sat down to write this post and share my thoughts on a page.
I feel much better now, and I’ll have another crack at that work tomorrow.
Often our environment is part of the problem too. External distractions like your chair being comfortable, a workman drilling outside, or the room being too hot or too cold can easily impact your mood and throw off your concentration. It is better to simply stop, let go of what you are doing and focus on something else to cultivate some mental spaciousness.
One of the hardest things to admit is that much of the mental suffering we endure is our own doing.
For example, I’m sure your boss wouldn’t mind if you said, “I’m really struggling to focus on my work at the moment, I’d like to step outside and take 15 minutes to clear my head”.
Your boss would know that you are far more likely to produce better work if you took that break, yet you think that your boss will think you want to skive off for a while; when in fact you are just being a human instead of trying to perform like a robot.
Similarly, when you have promised to do something for someone, but begin to struggle because you are under pressure for time and feeling tired, a good friend or compassionate colleague won’t mind waiting that bit longer if it means you’ll be a happier bunny.
Quitting temporarily is not failure, and it is not really quitting either. It is being kind to yourself. Doing so will enable a more positive frame of mind that will mean coming back calmer, happier and capable of doing your best.
Keep being awesome.