For the lucky few, work is a safe space — a happy place where opinions are valued, relationships are supportive, and you are paid your worth in both monetary gain and time. Work gives you purpose, a sense of pride, external validation, and internal gratification. For the rest, work can be a source of tension, anxiety, and stress. Coworkers are passive-aggressive, bosses are mean, and your inbox is never, ever, ever empty. This is intended for the latter.
Eight in 10 Americans are stressed out by at least one thing about their jobs, with millennials experiencing higher stress than any other age group. In response, some companies are investing in their employees' well-being by offering in-office wellness programs, and stress-prone employees are trading networking for sweat-working and postwork cocktails for midday matcha breaks. Yet, studies have shown that these efforts are relatively futile against America's over-worked culture as anxiety and depression are on the rise.
It wasn't until I was given the privilege (and it is a privilege) to swap my traditional 9-to-5 for my 24/7 "Mom" title that I finally felt free. Gone were the Sunday night blues, weekend countdowns, and agony that accompanies in-office politics. With the snap of a finger, all of my prebaby career stress had dissipated, and I had realized how much time and energy were wasted on something that no longer mattered once I chose to walk away. This freedom brought with it the clarity that I can earn my way, without the other bullsh*t, and that is priceless.
Since quitting your job and living your best eat-pray-love life (probably) isn't realistic, here are some tips on how you can earn a living without it costing you your happiness.
1. Have no shame.
Seriously, no shame. Seek a job that makes you feel good, not what makes you sound good. Titles and promotions, chasing Benjamins, and keeping up with the Joneses will keep your wallet full but your soul dissatisfied. Take a pay cut and embrace a "demotion" if it means giving you more of what makes you happy. When you are passionate about what you do, big problems feel small and happiness feels multiplied.
2. Perks. Perks. Perks.
If you're going to spend most of your waking hours at work to begin with, make it worth your happiness. I have not paid for workouts or workout clothes in seven years. Why? Because I have sought jobs that have paid me in something I value more than money: my well-being. Write a list of all the luxuries you spend your hard-earned money on and seek a career that offers you what you love, for free! Trust me, nothing cures stress better than saving money on what you love.
3. Beware of culture shock.
Listen to your body. Your body will send you subtle messages if your company's culture is aligned or, more importantly, disaligned with your core values. Hate happy hours? Then beware of the frat boys throwing Nerf balls across cubicles. All for breaking that glass ceiling? Observe how many "nasty women" are running the show. Use your senses. Listen, watch, and feel. Trust your gut because it never lies (even when we'd like it to).
4. Create boundaries — keep your personal space sacred.
A few suggestions: Don't respond to emails after 6. Don't give clients your personal cell phone number. Use ALL of your vacation days. Discover what you value in life. Time off? Dinner with the family? Your 6 p.m. workout class? Honor your priorities and place the commitment to yourself above all else. When you chase your authenticity, the right job will not only respect you for it but also encourage it.
5. Walk away.
Like any relationship, if it doesn't make you feel good, it isn't f*cking worth it. The universe wants you to be happy. If your job creates more stress in your life than it promotes peace, I promise you that walking away from what is holding you back will open you up to the life you're destined to lead. You weren't born to work: you were born to live.