Friday, July 29, 2011

I'm Fine!

It's been a tough week.

There was a build up of stress that let loose.  Not in a huge sweeping rush but in a slow trickle that grew and grew until I knew I had to change something.

Back in mid-April, I posted about changes in my job.  My last paragraph is now haunting me.

So I'm going to be pretty busy over the next few weeks as my already full schedule fills up with more weekly meetings and conference calls. I'm worried about my existing responsibilities slipping. It's a whole new balancing act and I'm going to have to really put in some time to figure out the best way to manage all of these new expectations.

Well, I did a pretty good job of not falling apart in the midst of the chaos of that situation.  I was faced with a Huge And Immediate Problem that needed my constant attention.  There was a specific and measurable goal that needed to be achieved as quickly as possible.  I worked my tail off.  I basically quit training for my first ever half marathon as my lunch hour suddenly disappeared.  I was taking work home most evenings and almost every weekend.  I gave up a planned ahead fancy night out with my husband for a last minute work trip to Nebraska.

The numbers started to come down.  The pressure didn't let up.  Even as improvements are made, more and more was needed, more problems crept up, more fires needed to be put out.

In the midst of that, another area of responsibility started to crumble and get a lot of attention from Very Important People.  Now we're adding meetings, expectations, requirements for this other area but the Huge And Immediate Porblem area is still going strong.

And somewhere in there is the stuff I was doing and managing in the first place.

My job had become something I enjoyed doing, was proud of, did well... to something that was high pressure, high expectations, high demands.  I was stretched thin.

I thought I could handle it.  I thought I just had to get through it.  I thought there was a light at the end of the tunnel.  I thought it eventually had to get better, ease up, normalize. 

It never did.

Last week, I started to realize that it had been 4 months since it all started.  1/3 of a year.  And it had flown by so fast that I'd missed most of the summer fun opportunities.  Suddenly, the school year is about to start and life has slipped by.

Weds, Thurs, and Fri of last week, I had a headache.  3 solid days.  It radiated from tense shoulder and neck muscles.  I'd had a stomach ache for a couple of weeks.  Friday, the stress was cracking and I knew something wasn't right.

It all went away Saturday and Sunday.  And it came back full force Monday morning at work. 

For the past week, talking about work is stressful and I would often break into tears, get choked up, tense up. 

Tuesday, I started to desperately think of answers, solutions, ways out. 

I finally started to share bits and pieces of all the stress I'd been holding inside.  I plugged into my social network and share that I was overwhelmed, frustrated.  I got great support and words of encouragement.  One piece stayed with me more than I even realized:

@eternallizdom When I was in that situation, I found I couldn't change my job, only my reaction to it. I don't know if that applies for you.

At the time, I didn't think it applied for me because I was still feeling like I had no choices.

Weds, I began to shift.  It's like I knew I had found some lower level and had to make a decision.  I either had to start asking for serious help from my boss or other work resources or I had to figure out what to do differently.  Jeff ended up working late so I picked up the kids, brought them home, made dinner, and we hung out and watched TV and just had fun until bedtime.  It was the exact evening I needed.

Thursday was a new day.  My attitude was different.  I had a plan to get to work and take charge.  I wanted to evaluate what I had control over and what I needed to let go of. 

And I had a great day.

The very best part was that I was reminded how much I'm cared about by friends.  Friends texted me, wrote encouraging words on my Facebook wall, tweeted me, and even called to see how I was doing.  Friends at work did little things to take care of me. 

Through all of this, Jeff has been my rock.  I can't say enough.

So my job hasn't changed.  The workload is the same, the demands are the same, the expectations are just as high.  But my attitude and approach has changed.  As my wise friend pointed out on Twitter- I couldn't change my job, only my reaction to it.

I'm no longer waiting for the light at the end of the tunnel.  Instead, I'm accepting that I've moved up the mountain and now it's time to figure out how to get past my fear of heights and learn to enjoy the view.



Rachel @ The Lazy Christian said...

I'm so glad! Work can be such a stressful thing. It seems like as soon as you get awesome at your job, someone says, "Wow, she's really awesome at her job. I'll bet we can give her more responsibility!" Blessing and a curse, right? :) I'm so glad you're on the up-and-up!

Alison said...

Wow. That's quite a significant change in attitude! I'm sorry work has eaten away your summer, but I'm glad you seem to be rising to the challenge. I hope you get tons of recognition from your coworkers and boss(es) as you help the company move through whatever this change is.

And I hope you really enjoy this weekend!

Call Me Cate said...

I wasn't sure my words would apply but that's an idea I've been trying to remember for so many areas of my life. I can only control my own reaction and way of dealing with it. Whether it means putting on a smile, trying a new approach, asking for help, droping some commitments, there's only so much within our control.

I've watched my husband go through something similar to you with work. In his case, they had severe cutbacks in headcount and because he's such an over-achiever, they've just put more and more on him. He's handled it very well, which just means they put MORE on him. It's reached a breaking point and I've tried hard to keep him from giving up, encouraging all of this extra work by acknowledging the experience he can cite when applying for new jobs.

Hang in there - you have an amazing support system and great inner strength. Also, wisdom to determine when enough is enough and help is needed. I'm glad my words were somewhat helpful.

Garret said...

Wow, such simple advice and yet a wonderfully large impact!

I'm happy you're going with the flow and feeling better overall!

Cajoh said...

Those are wonderful words of advice to anybody who feels overwhelmed with anything.

So glad that you have strapped on your climbing gear and have a new perspective.

The best of skill in acclimating to the new altitude (and attitude).

C. Beth said...

SO glad to hear that the stress is letting up, thanks to your attitude shift. Still praying for a more permanent relief in the work load, but until then...a good attitude definitely makes a huge difference. :)

Nej said...

I'm sure it won't surprise you much when I say you and I could sit down and completely share war stories....and, interestingly enough, from the same situation! :-)