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How do you ensure that your job does NOT kill you?
Old 09-04-2013, 11:36 PM   #1
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How do you ensure that your job does NOT kill you?

We've got a few threads floating around here about how our jobs kill us, how early retirement saves lives (the same idea in reverse), and worst parts of our jobs. As someone who is stuck for at least another year in a job he doesn't like, which I'm sure is sapping my life energy, I found these conversations to be both seductive (I love to complain) and depressing (it does me no good).

I thought that maybe a better conversation to have -- or at least a supplemental conversation -- would be to talk about things like:

- How we can cope with a work environment that is killing us?
- How can we survive a toxic work environment?
- How can we protect ourselves from the soul-sapping and life-damaging effects of our work?
- How can we ensure that our jobs do NOT kill us?

Of course, we need to take good care of ourselves physically -- eat well, get physical activity, get enough rest. But beyond that, what else do you do (or could you do) to cope with the stress of a worklife that you find draining?

We often talk here as if the life-sapping stress comes from the work environment itself. To a degree, it does. But stress is not just a matter of the environment; it's about our attitudes towards it, our thoughts, our responses.

So what is it that you do that helps you to survive an unhealthy work situation? How do you protect yourself from the health- or soul-damaging effects of your job? (Besides retiring, that is.)
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Old 09-04-2013, 11:52 PM   #2
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I'll start. Here are the ideas that came to mind:

1. I arrive late and leave early.

2. I try not to sweat the small stuff.

3. I take long lunch breaks where I leave the facility and go home.

4. I don't put pressure on myself to be highly productive.

5. I remind myself that I'm financially independent and could quit today if I wanted to.

6. I remind myself that in a year, I'll be dialing back to part-time, and the stress will be much less.

7. I work on acceptance. I say the Serenity Prayer sometimes. Other times I like to contemplate something written by an AA member* I work on trying to accept other people just the way they are. I work on self-acceptance. I try to stop struggling with reality and just accept it.

8. I try to focus on the little things about the job I do enjoy (a laugh here, a person there, a sense of engagement doing certain tasks).

9. I remind myself that I am doing something significant, something that genuinely changes people, usually for the better.

10. I try to keep a sense of humor and light-heartedness -- genuine light-heartedness, not fake. I think it helps when I don't take myself or others too seriously.

11. I don't try to always bring my "A" game. I learned a while ago that if I bring my "B" game, most of the time, it'll work out just fine.

12. I practice saying, "Good enough" and moving on. No perfectionism.

Good enough.


* "And acceptance is the answer to all my problems today. When I am disturbed, it is because I find some person, place, thing, or situation-some fact of my life -unacceptable to me, and I can find no serenity until I accept that person, place, thing, or situation as being exactly the way it is supposed to be at this moment. Nothing, absolutely nothing, happens in God's world by mistake."
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Old 09-05-2013, 01:09 AM   #3
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That's a very good list. I also remind myself that no matter how annoying it is to have to BE there every second, put up with irritating and irritated people, and feel underpaid after 4 years of pay freezes and being at the "pay cap," I'm lucky to have a job. Until I'm ready to retire, that job's pay and benefits are critical to me and my little family. Plenty of smart, talented people are lacking jobs just now.

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Old 09-05-2013, 08:44 AM   #4
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Not as easy as it sounds when in the fog of j*b. But when I was in that situation I had to remind myself that there is light at the end of the tunnel and to let let the j*b define my life.
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Old 09-05-2013, 09:06 AM   #5
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As Amethyst said, you already have a good list going.

The only thing I can think of to add is to make sure you take all of your vacation, holidays, comp time, etc. Long weekends, some stretching to five days, help me tremendously if I am able to completely unplug in the woods, mountains, beach, whatever.
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Old 09-05-2013, 09:18 AM   #6
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Heck, that is a great list....


But what I did when in a toxic environment was leave.... I have worked in two places that were OK when I got there, but turned toxic over time... left both of them....


For me now, I have the opposite problem... I have made the dept so productive there is not enough work for me to do... I sit around most of the day trolling the internet and posting here, waiting for the day to end... when my boss asked me about it knowing that I am bored, I said it was a paycheck....
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Old 09-05-2013, 09:24 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by ER Eddie View Post
-How we can cope with a work environment that is killing us?
- How can we survive a toxic work environment?
- How can we protect ourselves from the soul-sapping and life-damaging effects of our work?
- How can we ensure that our jobs do NOT kill us?
"Toxic environment," "soul-sapping," "life-damaging" solely due to a job/employer - seriously?

Maybe put things in perspective to start, just believing these over the top terms above must be amusing to anyone with a job that could actually kill them, like members of the military, police, fire, etc. Best of luck...
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Old 09-05-2013, 11:03 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by Midpack View Post
"Toxic environment," "soul-sapping," "life-damaging" solely due to a job/employer - seriously?

Maybe put things in perspective to start, just believing these over the top terms above must be amusing to anyone with a job that could actually kill them, like members of the military, police, fire, etc. Best of luck...
Stress does kill people and toxic environments are stressful.
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Old 09-05-2013, 12:32 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by Midpack View Post
"Toxic environment," "soul-sapping," "life-damaging" solely due to a job/employer - seriously?

Maybe put things in perspective to start, just believing these over the top terms above must be amusing to anyone with a job that could actually kill them, like members of the military, police, fire, etc. Best of luck...
Yeah, seriously. If you don't think some work environments are toxic, soul-sapping, or life-damaging, you need to read more widely, including in this forum.

You don't think stress actually kills? Just metaphorically? A strangely misinformed and minimizing response from you; I'm surprised.
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Old 09-05-2013, 12:33 PM   #10
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I'll start. Here are the ideas that came to mind:

4. I don't put pressure on myself to be highly productive.

8. I try to focus on the little things about the job I do enjoy (a laugh here, a person there, a sense of engagement doing certain tasks).

9. I remind myself that I am doing something significant, something that genuinely changes people, usually for the better.

10. I try to keep a sense of humor and light-heartedness -- genuine light-heartedness, not fake. I think it helps when I don't take myself or others too seriously.

11. I don't try to always bring my "A" game. I learned a while ago that if I bring my "B" game, most of the time, it'll work out just fine.
Of your list, these would be my focus. Works most of the time. Most of my desire to not work comes from outside the office. The office itself doesn't really suck all that bad, it is just that there are places I'd rather be.
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Old 09-05-2013, 01:02 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by Midpack View Post
"Toxic environment," "soul-sapping," "life-damaging" solely due to a job/employer - seriously?

Maybe put things in perspective to start, just believing these over the top terms above must be amusing to anyone with a job that could actually kill them, like members of the military, police, fire, etc. Best of luck...
No soup for you. Stress is a killer, even though you might have forgotten that since retiring or might have thought that stress is only for the management class.

As for the rest, I work an office job, but there are any number of people who would do me ill merely because of who I work for.
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Old 09-05-2013, 01:43 PM   #12
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"Toxic environment," "soul-sapping," "life-damaging" solely due to a job/employer - seriously?
Yes, seriously. Since I got laid off I have felt a LOT more healthy as the stress that was making me sick, taxing my body and frequently gave me abdominal problems have almost completely vanished. Sleepless nights have been fewer and farther between. My mood has been much better and I've been a lot more mellow, too. (Which helps my marriage, as my wife would note that I'm much more pleasant to be around.) Blood pressure is down as well, and I really am not in much better physical shape than I was a few months ago in any way other than the elimination of work stress. Yes, a bad work situation *does* damage your health, and it *can* kill you. And the more employers use the lousy job market as leverage to ratchet up the pressure even more, the worse it's getting.

All I can say to people who can't relate to work environments like that is: I'm very happy for you that you haven't had to experience it. I'm quite confident that my forced semi-retirement has added years to my life.
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How do you ensure that your jobb does NOT kill you?
Old 09-05-2013, 01:54 PM   #13
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How do you ensure that your jobb does NOT kill you?

Quote:
Originally Posted by ER Eddie View Post
We've got a few threads floating around here about how our jobs kill us, how early retirement saves lives (the same idea in reverse), and worst parts of our jobs. As someone who is stuck for at least another year in a job he doesn't like, which I'm sure is sapping my life energy, I found these conversations to be both seductive (I love to complain) and depressing (it does me no good).

- How we can cope with a work environment that is killing us?
- How can we survive a toxic work environment?
- How can we protect ourselves from the soul-sapping and life-damaging effects of our work?
- How can we ensure that our jobs do NOT kill us?

Of course, we need to take good care of ourselves physically -- eat well, get physical activity, get enough rest. But beyond that, what else do you do (or could you do) to cope with the stress of a worklife that you find draining?

We often talk here as if the life-sapping stress comes from the work environment itself. To a degree, it does. But stress is not just a matter of the environment; it's about our attitudes towards it, our thoughts, our responses.

So what is it that you do that helps you to survive an unhealthy work situation? How do you protect yourself from the health- or soul-damaging effects of your job? (Besides retiring, that is.)
For me, it's simple really:

1) Know that I'm out of here in 15 months, 25 days (not including weekends, holidays).
2) Use every single sick day that I accrue (1 monthly) as I accrue them.
3) Take lots of mental health days by taking a day here and there from the substantial vacation that I've accrued.
4) Eschew long vacations because I just *know* I won't come back if I do...
5) Act like I'm already semi-retired, and treat this job as a temp or contract job; hence, all the problems and B.S. that come up every second of every day belong to all the other poor souls who need this job, not me.
6) Constantly remind myself of how much I don't care (I don't).
7) Take long lunches.
8) It's already been said, but I too arrive late and leave early
9) Skip virtually all of those "mandatory" and "important" meetings. ("Sorry, I was caught up in another [non-existent] meeting.")
10) When all else fails, and I can't get out of one of those mind-numbing meetings, break out the IPAD and do further research on my upcoming ER during said meetings.
11) Never, ever, ever take work home or answer the cell or emails when not at work.
12) Don't care enough for the job to annoy me, let alone kill me...
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Old 09-05-2013, 01:57 PM   #14
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For me, it's simple really:

1) Know that I'm out of here in 15 months, 25 days (not including weekends, holidays).
2) Use every single sick day that I accrue (1 monthly) as I accrue them.
3) Take lots of mental health days by taking a day here and there from the substantial vacation that I've accrued.
4) Eschew long vacations because I just *know* I won't come back if I do...
5) Act like I'm already semi-retired, and treat this job as a temp or contract job; hence, all the problems and B.S. that come up every second of every day belong to all the other poor souls who need this job, not me.
6) Constantly remind myself of how much I don't care (I don't).
7) Take long lunches.
8) It's already been said, but I too arrive late and leave early
9) Skip virtually all of those "mandatory" and "important" meetings. ("Sorry, I was caught up in another [non-existent] meeting.")
10) When all else fails, and I can't get out of one of those mind-numbing meetings, break out the IPAD and do further research on my upcoming ER during said meetings.
11) Never, ever, ever take work home or answer the cell or emails when not at work.
12) Don't care enough for the job to annoy me, let alone kill me...
Of course, most of these work because you are, or presumably are very close to, achieving FI. Yes, that makes it a lot easier to not care or to not feel like you have to jump higher every time the boss tells them to. (It's also why my first feeling was *relief* when my director told me I was being downsized.) If you were many years away and needed the job for a long time, it's harder to pull off this "halfway off the hamster wheel already" mentality.

Still, it would be nice to hear from folks who are coping well with a rapidly filling "BS bucket" despite having many years, perhaps decades, before they expect to be able to retire. It's much easier to have an "eff-it" mentality when you don't feel like you really need the j*b much longer.
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Old 09-05-2013, 02:00 PM   #15
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Stress does kill people and toxic environments are stressful.
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Yeah, seriously. If you don't think some work environments are toxic, soul-sapping, or life-damaging, you need to read more widely, including in this forum.

You don't think stress actually kills? Just metaphorically? A strangely misinformed and minimizing response from you; I'm surprised.
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No soup for you. Stress is a killer, even though you might have forgotten that since retiring or might have thought that stress is only for the management class.
Finding myself at the bottom of a hole I should probably stop digging but...

Sure stress (from all sources, not just work) can shorten your life, maybe even kill you in an extreme case, but the latter is pretty rare for most USA workerbees.

I was not discounting the OP's sentiments, but "how do you ensure your that your job does not KILL you?" makes an extreme statement, which colors the discussion, also see below. Again, consider relative to members of the military, police, fire, etc. Or how would you like to be a citizen in Egypt, Syria or Afghanistan these days? How about the many Americans who have been unemployed/underemployed for several years now? I could go on endlessly with examples that make almost all work environments in the US pale in comparison, in the realm of common job maybe.

How we react to our environment plays a role as well, could be secondary, but it could be primary as well. I'd guess not everyone at a given employer views their job in the terms in post #1, why are some not so affected, even happy with the job/environment at that employer? But have at it...I won't dig further.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ER Eddie
As someone who is stuck for at least another year in a job he doesn't like, which I'm sure is sapping my life energy, I found these conversations to be both seductive (I love to complain) and depressing (it does me no good).
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Old 09-05-2013, 02:04 PM   #16
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I was not discounting the OP's sentiments, but "how do you ensure your that your job does not KILL you?" makes an extreme statement, which colors the discussion. Again, consider relative to members of the military, police, fire, etc.
Well, OK, but I don't think anyone was assuming a usual corporate BS job is *acutely* and *suddenly* killing them like a soldier or a cop or a firefighter or a lumberjack might face. Nevertheless, a toxic work environment can (and does) have the capability of killing slowly through stress and a lot of other BS, which can sometimes trigger acute stress-triggered events, but more often just taxes the body in a way that can reduce life span. I'm pretty my "before" and "after" snapshots just 6-12 months apart are strong anecdotal evidence for me.

Methinks you chose to interpret the word "kill" a little too literally, and in too much of an acute sense.
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Old 09-05-2013, 05:01 PM   #17
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Agree, thank you, ziggy. I certainly didn't mean that stress "kills" you immediately. I assumed that most people would understand it the way it is commonly used in these threads. For instance, when we say cigarettes "kill," we don't mean they end our life that day. We mean they shorten life and decrease its quality.

I think part of the misunderstanding might be language-related, too. I think I come from a different background than a lot of posters here, and I have a way of expressing myself in rather direct ways, maybe a little sharp or punchy. I think a lot of people on the forum have spent their lives immersed in business-speak or engineer-speak, which is a much more impersonal, unemotional, and indirect language, and so it makes sense that they would hear how I talk as over-blown or exaggerated. Me, I'm just trying to get the discussion started.

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I was not discounting the OP's sentiments, but "how do you ensure your that your job does not KILL you?" makes an extreme statement, which colors the discussion, also see below.
1) Yes you were. 2) It's not extreme if you don't misinterpret the statement, 3) What is wrong with a discussion with some color? And it's my thread, why can't I color it how I want? Controlling much? 4) You use my self-effacing statement against me in the same sentence where you have just finished reassuring me you are not discounting my sentiments -- nice, lol.

Your point about the importance of how we process or respond to stress is well taken. If you read the OP, you'll see that is what I'm getting at -- that is the whole point of this thread. I want to discuss the ways that people who are stuck in jobs which are (ahem, adjusting my language) "associated with negative physiological effects" can find to lessen the stress, to reduce those negative effects.
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Old 09-05-2013, 05:46 PM   #18
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No soup for you. Stress is a killer, even though you might have forgotten that since retiring or might have thought that stress is only for the management class.

As for the rest, I work an office job, but there are any number of people who would do me ill merely because of who I work for.
Agree 100% on both points. So far, I have been fortunate on both counts; but, I have known plenty of folks who have died at jobs which are not traditionally considered dangerous. And, I cannot begin to tell you how tired I am of evacuations, extra security, etc. because of the latest bomb threat. Like others here, I am looking very forward to putting all of that stress behind me.
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Old 09-05-2013, 06:01 PM   #19
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Here are some more ideas I had:

1. Exercise during the day. I often will leave exercise until the evening, but if I can manage to squeeze it in during the lunch hour, I always feel much more relaxed during the last half of the day.

2. Read something good, inspirational, uplifting, etc., in the morning. That helps to get things off to a good start. I have an unfortunate habit of starting the day by reading forums ... which is often not terribly inspirational, lol.

3. Play with my doggie! Something about connecting with an animal takes me completely out of my work mindset. I can't be around my doggie without smiling. I usually come home from lunch just to spend some time with her. It breaks up the day and gives me a short mental vacation from "work brain."

4. Look for flow. You guys know about Flow? If not, grab the book sometime. There are opportunities to immerse myself in mind-absorbing challenges every day, if I look for them. It's one reason I entered my field in the first place -- all the little intellectual and emotional challenges to work out. Even in dopey, repetitive work environments, I think there are ways to create flow.

5. Challenging my "shoulds" and "oughts." You know, my expecations for how things ought to go, how people should be, how I ought to be, etc. This is an extension of the "acceptance" theme, I suppose. Carrying around a lot of expectations and judgments about how people/things ought to be is very stressful.


I also like Option's ideas about taking your vacation days rather than saving them up, avoiding meetings whenever possible, and reminding yourself how little you care.

The last one made me laugh and reminded me of a book called "F*ck it," which is an irreverent take on Buddhist philosophy. I often find that saying "f*ck it" helps (or, in more elevated language, "letting go of my attachments").
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Old 09-05-2013, 06:05 PM   #20
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That reminds me. Back at StressCorp, for about a year and a half, I worked for a crazy but cool manager who invited all us worker bees down to the bar in the first floor of our office tower every Friday during lunch hour, where we were encouraged to get trashed on multiple pints of Sam Adams Boston Lager. After lunch we went right back to our computer programs, systems analysis, test plans, etc. Who knows maybe it made some people more creative, as well as possibly lowering stress.
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