A few years ago I went on a 30 day juice cleanse (read: 27 days and 12 hours). It was one of the most challenging things I'd ever done. For those not familiar with a juice cleanse, for almost 1 whole month I ate no solid food and all I was allowed to drink were various home-pressed fruit and veggie juice cocktails (note this is not an article about whether juice cleansing is healthy, necessary, etc.). I'd just finished watching a documentary about the negative effects of the processed food we eat and how it affects our body, mood, health and overall emotional well being. The documentary focused on the lives of 2 men who were overweight with various chronic illnesses and showed how they were able to get healthy and lose weight by juicing. As they rattled off the list of unhealthy symptoms they were experiencing, I couldn't help but feel like they were describing my life.
Peeking into the lives of these men was a game changer for me and as the credits rolled at the end, I was already ordering my shiny new juicer from Amazon and had planned my first juice recipes for the week.
I mean, I had the time to kill. I had been recently laid off from my soul crushing job and had spent 3 months sitting on the couch feeling sorry for myself. I too, was overweight, angry, depressed and unhealthy and while I know my diet had a role to play in my situation, I couldn't help but think that being stuck in a bad job was just as much the culprit of my physical, mental and emotional state as that slice of pizza (and cake and gummy bears).
Yes, I'd done well at my job over the years - got raises, promotions and various opportunities, but I wasn't happy. Each day I went in to the office, was another day of me feeling unfulfilled and misaligned. It took me 6 long years before I was able to escape from that situation (read: I was laid off) and it killed me to know that it wasn't even something I had control of. They made the decision on my behalf.
Although I can look back now and tell you that it was the best thing that's ever happened to me professionally, I was completely devastated at the time. The one good thing though, was that I was able to take a step back and realize how much I'd let myself go over those years.
My biggest takeaway from being unemployed was the realization that having a job you hate affects every aspect of your life. Think about it, we spend so much time at work (about 1/3 of our lives), so it should be no surprise that being unhappy with an area that takes so much from us (physically, mentally, emotionally) would cause other areas to suffer as well.
Hating your job causes an extreme amount of stress. This stress manifests physically by making you feel defeated and like you have no energy. Maybe you have a cold or headache every other week, you overeat (or undereat), skip the gym and stop doing those things that used to make you feel good about yourself - like threading your eyebrows and getting a mani/ pedi.
The added stress also affects your relationships. You are more likely to snap at co-workers and family members and less likely to put yourself out there to meet new people. It's as if the more isolated you feel, the more you hide from the outside world - which makes you then feel even more isolated. It's a horrible cycle.
Another huge area of life that is affected by working at a job you hate is your wallet. The second biggest reason (hating your boss is the first) people are unhappy with work is because they feel they aren't being paid what they're worth. It's such a demoralizing feeling to put in the time and effort at a job and then look at your paycheck and see that after your bills are paid, you hardly have enough left over to go to happy hour with your girls.
So, how do you avoid falling into this trap of a miserable life? How do you avoid being fat, sick and broke? Well for me, it was a 27 day and 12 hour juice cleanse that helped snap me out of my funk. A funny thing happens when you lock yourself in your apartment and focus on how to make a kale and ginger juice taste like chicken. With all the extra time I had on my hands not working or eating, I was able to reflect and truly get to the bottom of who I was in life and what I wanted for my career.
By the time I started my next job I was happier, clearer on my goals, aware of what I would no longer tolerate and 70 lbs lighter (30 were from the juice cleanse and the rest came off through old fashioned diet and exercise)! The good news is that you can still come to the same realizations that I did without having to go to such extreme measures.
Take the time to ask yourself these questions and have the courage to answer honestly:
1. Are the only days you're happy each week Saturday and Sunday?
If the only time you come alive is on the weekends then you may need to reevaluate if you're at the right job. Of course, everyone has a bad day or week at work, but if your bad times outweigh the good ones, you should ask yourself if you're really happy there.
2. Do you turn into someone else at work?
One of the biggest signs that you aren't happy at work is that you can't be your true self there. If you find yourself talking, dressing and/ or acting differently at work, pay attention. What is it about the environment that forces you to hide who you are?
3. When's the last time you felt inspired by your job?
If it's been way too long ago for you to remember or if you never have, that should be a red flag for you! Everyone has an off day (or week) at work, but your off days should never outnumber the days you are on.
When it comes to work, your number one priority should be to find a situation where you can contribute to an organization that has a mission you can relate to, values what you bring to the table and allows you to be your true self. Life's too short and working hours are too long for you to be unfulfilled.