Having a job is good, but having a career you love is rare and great.
We all have dreams of excelling in our fields and finding our place ‘under the sun’. Thanks to various women empowerment movements, a lot of ladies today are in the big leagues. CEOs, managers, supervisors, business owners – you name it, there’s a woman behind it! Unfortunately, today’s generation is putting their careers first and their relationships second.
According to a report by USA Today, a surprising 37% of women believe having children will interrupt their careers. In previous years, the decision to have a family was already carefully planned out: you graduate from college, get a good job, and get married. More and more millennials are no longer following this blueprint. Women especially, choose to pursue their dreams first and delay motherhood or becoming a wife until they feel ‘ready’.
Although this has its advantages (i.e. you can fully enjoy your 20’s), it’s not without its drawbacks. If you’ve been addicted to work lately, missing family dinners, or you’re no longer dating your significant other, you could be endangering your relationships with people who mean the world to you.
There’s good stress (the kind that gives you all the juicy ideas) – and then there’s bad stress. The latter is responsible for emotional, physical, and even psychological strain on our bodies. If left untreated for a long period of time, work-related stress could manifest in a number of ways, which include: chronic aches, heart disease, depression, stomach upset, raised blood pressure, and strained relationships.
You could face all kinds of stress at work. You could be the unpaid intern who dreads going to work, or the goal-driven supervisor who just wants her team to meet the month’s quota. Either way, you’re going to end up burning yourself out – and your loved ones’ patience – if you don’t find the right balance between your career and your personal life today.
One of the most stressful careers women could have is in the healthcare industry. In a 2014 survey, 17% of medical personnel reported feeling highly stress, with 25% planning on switching careers in the near future. These are alarming numbers because the world will always require skilled and dedicated healthcare professionals. If workers in this field do not learn how to manage stress levels, we could end up facing a shortage of nurses, doctors, therapists, and surgeons.
How Stress Kills Your Connections
Think about it: if you’re tired from work, do you have enough energy to listen to your partner’s troubles? Or to cook a simple dinner for two? Probably not.
That’s because stress – especially work-related tension – can sap you of your strength. Without the right amount of energy, you would feel more irritable, less likely to communicate, and are more prone to other distractions. These could all hurt your relationship in the long run.
I had the misfortune of experiencing the negative effects of work stress last year as my career hit a climax. Working long hours (sometimes, even on weekends) left me too tired to do anything else but eat and sleep. My family hardly heard anything from me as I came home late and would simply go to bed. My partner and I on the other hand, would constantly fight over my refusal to be cooperative with plans as well as my ill temper.
After months of reflection, I finally learned how to balance work and my personal life. Although I can’t say that I now have a stress-free career, I am able to manage tension better. I have also found enough time for myself and my loved ones. As I’m no longer stressed, I am more open to how my relationships respond to me.
This adaptive behavior is important, particularly in romantic relations, because it allows you to be empathetic towards your mate. In a study done by Neff and Karney, they found that stressed individuals were unable to effectively process relationship issues well. If you’re constantly tired or irritable, you won’t be able to respond well to their needs; thus creating strain between you two.
Getting The Best Of Both Worlds
If you’ve been noticing prolonged or unusual tension between you and your loved ones lately, stand back and analyze if maybe work-related stress is the culprit. Be brutally honest! Have you been spending too much time at the office? When was the last time you went out with friends? Do you also work on weekends?
Even if you have your own business, you could still find time for yourself. Here are several practical suggestions on how to deal with work stress so it doesn’t kill your relationships:
- Don’t depend on overtime! Unless absolutely necessary, finish your tasks on time so you could go home as scheduled. Remember: you’re not being a productive and efficient worker if you still need to spend extra hours for your assignments.
- Learn how to compartmentalize. This means separating your work from your personal life. Once you leave the office, find an activity to help you unwind (like listening to music), so that you’ll feel more detached from office work the minute you get home.
- Limit gadget use – especially during private moments such as dinner or before bed. We’ve all become too tech-dependent lately. But assigning a time for checking emails and just talking to your partner is more conducive to your relationship.
- Try taking up a hobby you enjoy so you don’t think about work 24/7. While it’s awesome that you’re goal-driven, it can get boring to just talk about work and nothing else. Have you neglected writing, painting, or gardening? It’s time to get back to the things you love.
- Schedule “date nights” and stick with it! A common mistake couples make is they begin to ignore romantic gestures once they become exclusive. Keep the fire alive by planning a date night each week (or each month if you’re too busy). It could be anything, as long as you spend quality time together.
- Take mini breaks during work. Experts suggest getting up, walking around for a bit, or taking a 10-minute nap. This should relax your brain so you don’t feel burned out at the end of the day. Plus, short breaks will give you bursts of energy to get your creative juices flowing again.
Sometimes, certain jobs (like healthcare careers) don’t allow for work-life balance. They’re just too demanding and require long hours of work. So the only way to really have some real time for yourself is to either a) quit OR; b) find an alternative in the same field.
If quitting is not an option, you could always talk to your employer about other options. For instance: medical professionals who are too stressed usually choose locum tenens assignments instead of working full-time, because it gives them freedom and flexibility. This way, they don’t have to give up their careers but at the same time, they can also pursue their passion.
Many companies nowadays offer flexible time to their employees. If you’re not yet ready to work freelance, be confident enough to reach an agreement with your boss. Maybe you’d like to work from home or take on more responsibilities for longer vacation leaves – it’s up to you. Choose a good time to compromise with your manager and you could get a good flexible job that would reduce your stress levels.
Having a career is not only empowering, it’s a great way to sustain ourselves as modern women. However, let’s not get carried away with our responsibilities. Let’s remember to make time for our loved ones who supported us in all our endeavors.
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