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If you’ve ever held an unfulfilling job, you know the emotional toll it can take. The Sunday Scaries seem to come around every night of the week, and getting up in the morning is a physical struggle, as if anxiety has you pinned to the bed in a headlock. Or, maybe the weekdays all blur together, making you feel like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day (but with better hair). This day-to-day agony is not uncommon.
A recent study conducted by Happiness Works found that all age groups experience a degree of dissatisfaction at work, but it was Xennials that reported the highest percentage of unhappiness overall. Among participants aged 35 to 54, 16 percent felt unhappy in their current roles, compared to 8 percent of participants aged 18 to 34 years old. The 35-and-up crowd also reported higher numbers for feeling unappreciated, lacking a work-life balance, and experiencing stress. Sigh.
If these findings sound all too familiar, know that there’s hope for a happy ending. These expert-recommended changes can help get you back to a healthy headspace at work.
Practice daily mindfulness
There’s a limit to how much control you have over the sources of career-related stress. Chances are you can’t just tell your boss that you would like to opt out of a big project or hit the snooze button on an impending deadline. Fortunately, this is where mindful habits come into play.
“The practice of mindfulness can rewire how we respond to stress,” says Jeanene Mack, a New York-based mindfulness coach and women’s lifestyle consultant. “Whether it is through meditation, yoga, or journaling, mindfulness has been proven to help us better understand others’ motivations, strengthen our emotional intelligence, and improve productivity.” This doesn’t have to mean dramatic changes. Start small by devoting 10 minutes a day to writing, meditating, or doing gentle stretches. Consistency is key. Think of it like you would a diet change or an exercise regimen—it takes regular practice to get noticeable results.
Flesh out a full life for yourself
It’s a clichéd and never-ending trope in movies: The woman who is so consumed by her career doesn’t have the time or mental real estate for anything else. While it’s a common stereotype in rom-coms, it’s not a romantic reality. In fact, it quickly leads to burnout and leaves you in a vulnerable position.
“Forget about work-life balance. Life must be balanced.” says Devin Martin, a New York-based Executive Life Coach. “If you invest yourself in work, family, health, spirituality, hobbies, etc. then you are resilient. Your happiness doesn't rely on any one success and therefore can't be destroyed by any one failure.” No matter how demanding your job is, it’s important to invest in every aspect of your life. The payoff is far greater than any optional hours of overtime you’re tempted to clock.
Raise the bar each time you rise to meet it
Often people spend so many years focused on a set handful of benchmarks, they don’t know what to do once they reach them. “One thing I see happening a lot around the age of 35 is that people reach their goals and it deflates them,” Martin says. “We spend much of our life chasing after a degree, a job title, a house, a little more money, but what happens if we check all of the boxes?”
Achieving all your goals may sound like a luxurious problem to have. But it can serve as a crippling letdown when you don’t know how to proceed from there. If your career goals have all been seen to fruition, it’s time to envision even bigger things for yourself.
Don’t be afraid to make a change
It’s not unusual to go through a few industry changes over the course of your career, according to Kelsey Murphy, a San Diego-based career strategist and certified coach who works with companies like Facebook and Twitter.
“Often we are just testing out different careers and growing into who we are in our 20s,” Murphy says. “However, many people feel like by the time they are 30 they have already dedicated almost a decade to one area. Therefore, they stay in a job they are unhappy in.”
Walking away from a stable gig to start over again can be a paralyzing prospect. But the safer choice is not always the best one —especially not when it means leaving passionate pursuits unexplored. After all, there’s nothing better than waking up for work feeling inspired and discovering that you’re finally free from anxiety’s chokehold.