Learning to Cope
The first strategy to help you cope with tough conditions at work is to recognise you have a choice. You will ALWAYS have choices (even if some of them aren’t that attractive), but just knowing there are other options is a very empowering position to be in. You just need to acknowledge that even though you don’t choose to pursue them, those other choices are there.
Worst case scenario: if you did lose your job, are there other ways you could cover off your financial commitments?
- If you have a mortgage can you switch it temporarily to interest only, or clear out and rent a room?
- For the bills do you have skills you could use short term via outsource agencies or internet freelance sites?
- How much are you putting away each paycheck to invest or save? How long would that support you?
- Have you worked out the bare bones minimum you’d need to survive?
- How about working out how many hours you’d need at your current job to meet that minimum (if there’s a restructure, you could offer to go part time to avoid getting laid off entirely)
- Which regular payments would allow you to freeze memberships etc while you were out of work?
- Have you got a hobby you could turn into a side income to build up your savings while you’re at work, and help you out financially if you leave?
- What contacts do you have in your industry that you could approach to do contract work to support yourself? Or to point you towards another job?
If you spend some time thinking about it, you might discover that you’re not as far away from being able to choose to leave work than you would think. Wwhether you actually do or not isn’t the question here, it’s about knowing you have the choice to. Knowing that you could get by no matter what is a great confidence booster, and takes away a lot of the fear that makes work so confidence-sapping (not to mention that it undermines a lot of the power games that are based on it too).
More Coping Strategies
Besides listing and building up your options to support yourself, here are a few other ideas to help you cope with a stressful situation at work. No doubt there are more I haven’t thought of – feel free to chime in with a comment please.
- Schedule some regular stress relief into your off-time.
- Volunteer to teach or use a skill you’re good at – getting appreciated always helps
- Create a support network of people you can call when things get absolutely too tough
- Keep a journal. Besides being good for venting your feelings, it could come in handy as a record if work ever over-steps the line
- Exercise – it lets all those ‘fight or flight’ stress hormones work their way out of your system. It can serve a double function too. If you’ve got someone at work who’s a real problem, take up boxing – even just knowing you have the skills to deck the guy that’s leaning on you can help you to deal with him and his demands. If you need to be able to stay calm when you’re under the gun, go for yoga or tai chi – you can do those breathing exercises at your desk any time you need them.
- Empower yourself at work. This topic definitely needs more depth, so I’ve chosen to use that as the topic for tomorrow’s episode and explore how to accomplish this in detail. Meanwhile, you could start thinking of the ways in which you do have authority and power already. Do people come to you for help with a certain topic? Are you able to control your own workload? Is there a system at work for making complaints if you need it? All of these give you a form of power. See if you can find 3 more.
See you tomorrow for Part 3: Avoiding Overcommitment