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High or Low – It’s off to work we go

by Eleanor Marker

The cross contamination of negative work experiences

It is one of those essential truths that when your work life is messy, your whole life starts feeling the impact. There is nothing like a draining and demoralising day at work to ensure your evening is spent in mindless distractions or anxious self-recriminations. And don’t even get me started on those 3am wakeful moments when you simultaneously decide you’re a big old failure and will go to Nepal and become a monk.

But it doesn’t have to be the only conclusion to reach when work is getting us down. Read on to find out how your work life impacts on your wider world and also how the wider world might be affecting your work life.

How work issues contaminate your wider world

I once had a job as a croissant bender (I kid you not). I got up every day at 5am and cycled four miles to get dressed into white overalls and a blue shower cap and stand in a freezing unit at a conveyer belt twisting croissants into shape. And it was soon made very clear to me that I was very bad at it. I was slowly moved further and further up the conveyer belt until I was the first ‘twister’ on the line. Was this a promotion? Alas not, it was so that there were many people further down to re-twist my croissants.

I lasted five days. But I learnt a very valuable lesson. The more miserable you are in your work, the more useless you feel at your job, the more demoralised you feel about your working life, the more you spend your remaining day sulking. I would get home at 2pm and sit there and mope. I would dissect where I was going wrong, I would attempt to shift the blame onto everyone and everything else, I would then spend the remaining day counting down the dreaded hours till I would have to go to bed and wake up and do it all again the next day.

It was no way to live.

An unsatisfying work life saps your:

  • Energy
  • Enthusiasm
  • Self confidence
  • Purpose
  • Ability to achieve goals
  • Sense of progress

And that is only the impact it has on you. None of us live in a bubble and so our mood, no matter how well we try to hide it, affects those around us. Our partners, our parents, our children. Misery is contagious and, to quote Taylor Swift, soon you’ll stop receiving invitations!

If you do not start to address the whys behind your work dissatisfaction you will never achieve overall happiness. Even the best compartmentaliser will struggle eventually, and then it all comes crumbling down. It is essential to identify what the actual problems are with your job / work / business. Then you need to analyse what are the psychological stumbling blocks preventing you from sorting these out already. After all, you’re a clever person and yet you’re still stuck, right? Chances are there is something underneath it all, and it is often helpful to work with someone (yes, I am talking about me here) to uncover these obstacles. Then the path is clear to take action with manageable steps that every day take you in the right direction. The one away from the 3am thought spirals that take you towards monkhood in Nepal and towards a work life that works.

How your wider world contaminates your work issues

But it does not just work one way. Our wider world can also deeply affect our work life. Have you ever found yourself doing a job whilst dealing with difficult personal issues? Maybe you have suffered from sleep deprivation and still had to drag yourself into work the next day? Perhaps you have been going through a break up but still signing into those daily zoom calls? It’s hard, right? You have to switch the ‘work brain’ on and push on through. But this is a monumental effort that is at best exhausting and at worst can bring on a breakdown. And it isn’t a surprise. You are dealing with personal trauma, lack of sleep, a diagnosis like ADHD for example, upheavals like moving house or having a child, and yet you are expecting to keep on performing at work like that Duracell bunny. Keep on dancing, keep on clapping until you conk out in the corner with a little squeak.

The kinds of things that might be impacting on your work performance or job satisfaction can range from:

  • Uncovering past traumas
  • A failing relationship
  • Moving home
  • A break up
  • Having children
  • A mental health diagnosis
  • A change in your physical health
  • Hormonal events like the menopause or thyroid issues
  • Children growing up / leaving home

And so many more. And yet we often isolate our work life off and think, ‘I am unhappy in my work. What is wrong? It must be my job. It must be me’ … when actually it might be something else entirely.

Working with a coach can help you to identify what other causes might be affecting your work life. We will be able to look at your life as a whole, see what elements are impacting on others and work with that 360 degree focus that is so essential to making changes that stick.

It is like a jigsaw. Every single piece fits into the next one and so on and so on. Eventually all these pieces fit together to make a whole. But remove one piece and not only does this affect all the pieces around it but it also impacts on the complete picture. You may have one or two pieces that do not fit, that are upside down, that affect the flow of the picture. Together we can find out what those pieces are and make them fit again.

In the meantime, what can you do to see what are the pieces that are contaminating the picture?

  1. Pay attention to your energy levels when you are with certain people, doing certain activities or during particular periods of your week. What is sapping you? What is energising you?
  2. Consider what you spend your time thinking about. Our brains are amazing at picking over mental scabs to get our attention on something that isn’t working. What is your brain telling you with its lurking thoughts?
  3. What are your core values? Any idea? It’s surprising how few of us know this. But stop and think for a moment … what are the unshakeable principles for how to live your life? What has guided you for years as a reason to do something (and not to do something). Then stop and think about the different elements of your life. Are these in line with your core values? (I have a great values workshop that I can share with you for free if you get in touch.)

Where does that leave us?

Well hopefully it doesn’t leave you with a one way ticket to Nepal. Because trust me, there is nothing to be gained by running. First steps are: identify the issues, uncover any underlying blockers, discover your actual passion and purpose, take steps to achieve your goal and keep on track with accountability. And remember, when things look tough, at least you’re not at the front of the conveyer belt watching your croissants slowly uncurl … so there is still hope!

Eleanor Marker is an experienced and highly qualified business coach who specialises in offering supportive, non judgemental sessions that enable you to make a difference to your life from day one. She offers a free one hour initial session to all new clients and provides comprehensive session feedback, accountability and goal setting, and full between session support via WhatsApp.

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