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Stress at Work Should Not Be Your New Normal

Work should contribute to your happiness, not get in the way of it.

62470537 - exhausted entrepreneur working with a computer in his office
62470537 - exhausted entrepreneur working with a computer in his office

Ninety-four percent. That is how many people in one survey of U.S. and U.K. workers reported feeling some level of stress at work. Nearly a third said their stress level is high to "unsustainably high." That is depressing. Maybe you are one of the lucky ones who start and end the day worry-free. But statistically speaking, it is more likely you are affected by the pressures of your job.

If you are, I am guessing that you have a bit of dread at work. You probably are not sure when it happened, but your work took on a life of its own and usurped your happiness in the process.

The painful truth is that millions of people are stuck in that same loop — dreading every day and what goes on at the office. This can happen to anybody, no matter if you are a doctor, a librarian, a product manager, an engineer, you name it. According to a survey from the American Psychological Association, work is one of the top causes of severe stress. No doubt many feel exhausted, frustrated, and wishing it was possible to turn back time and return to their youthful exuberance.

Being stressed out may have become the norm for you, but it should not be a normal state of affairs. In fact, your stress is a warning sign that something is out of whack. Out-of-control stress can wreck your health and relationships if you allow it. You need a course correction right away. But I know that it can be hard to find.

It might be time to stop thinking about how to fit your job into your life. And start thinking about pursuing a career that will actually bring you to life.

While I am not immune to stress, I try to stay on an even keel. I strive for sustainable happiness — a way to work hard and enjoy my life in the process. Sometimes I fail, but at least I know what I am aiming for and am pleased when I get there. You too can do your best to design your life so that you are doing more of what makes you happy.

To get started, consider whether your work is bringing you:

Purpose
Even though you are working nonstop, you likely know instinctively that something important is missing from your life. For many, it is a sense of purpose. Everyone wants to feel they are working toward a goal, not just working for work’s sake. With a career that brings you purpose, you can start feeling a sense of connection and see how your work matters — and then you can soar.

Energy
Your current job is sapping you of strength and leaving you with nothing to offer anyone else. While hard work is important, it should not leave you completely exhausted. The right career will light a spark within you — it will fire up your creativity and help you start to thrive. Take steps now to maximize your potential.

Mojo
Do you dread another workweek because of the stress that you know will pile up? You need work that is just right — not so easy that you feel bored and underutilized, and not so hard that you have no time to pursue your other passions. The right job meets you where you are and takes advantage of everything you have to offer. It’s also forgiving when you need to take a quick breather.

Growth
We all have untapped potential. But you may feel thwarted at work, never getting past the same old tasks to try mastering anything new. You deserve a job that challenges you to go beyond where you are today — so you can look back and measure your progress.

Joy
You may not think that joy even belongs in the same sentence with work. But when work aligns with your skills, ambitions, and expectations — and the right leadership to help you bring your best — you can discover that joy. You are likely experiencing a lack of alignment in one or more of those areas. But it does not have to be that way.

If your job does not deliver those necessary things, then it is time to move on and find one that does. Forge a brand-new path for yourself.

It is possible to be happy at work, and have more time for the people you love and the things you want to do.

But it requires you to make the audacious first step and examine whether or not your career brings you to life. Start today — especially if you want to get past those sleepless nights and an endless loop of “Stressed Out.”

Originally published on the Aha! blog

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