By Ryan Light, Running/Anxiety Coach
If you find yourself getting dangerously close to burnout in your job, you’re not alone. Being unhappy in your career can cause wide-reaching mental health issues that spill over into other parts of your life. We might joke about grabbing a drink (or seven) every day as soon as the clock hits five, but have you ever stopped to think … is this normal? And even if it is normal, is it healthy?
When your job is stressing you out, it’s not always easy to walk away. What can make a hard job easier to handle is having healthy ways to cope with that stress.
Running can be a great alternative to other common ways to deal with stress. The best part about exercise is that it leaves you healthier each time you finish a workout. That alone can be enough to put a smile on your face.
The Grind Mentality
While in certain fields, like social work or nursing, the importance of self-care in avoiding burnout is recognized and promoted, in other careers, you may be finding yourself overwhelmed by a serious lack of work-life balance.
From attorneys and doctors, to fast food workers and sales reps, the grind mentality is a widely embraced work philosophy. We celebrate the art of the hustle. Lately, it seems if you’re not working really, really hard, you’re not really working at all. The “never-give-up” technique has been touted as the best way to ensure career success in a highly competitive job market.
There are a few problems with this, especially if you’re someone who suffers from depression, anxiety, or other mental health issues.
The first is that it’s not always true. You might work yourself to the bone, only to be burned when it doesn’t pay off for reasons outside of your control. The second problem is that, when this happens, you beat yourself up for failing even though you tried your hardest. If you’re already depressed, this blow can be even harder to take.
This isn’t to say that you should just give up on hard work entirely. Just keep in mind that you might not be doing yourself any favors by working yourself to death. A good balance between your life at the job and your life at home is a much more sustainable approach.
Especially for people who struggle with their mental health, coping mechanisms are an important and normal part of dealing with stressful situations. Don’t self-criticize for needing ways to deal with your work stress. However, it can be easy to fall into unhealthy patterns when you have too much work-related stress. Be aware of this, and seek out better alternatives.
Running for Your Work-Life Balance
Next time you come home from a long day at work, try going for a jog instead of grabbing a beer. Running has long been shown to have a positive impact on mental health. There are a variety of different reasons why lacing up your trainers can give you a mood boost.
The runner’s high that so many regular runners enjoy comes from a chemical release in your brain, a mix of endorphins that reduce pain and bring you positive feelings. When this happens, you’ll probably experience major stress relief.
Making exercise a regular part of your routine will likely result in a healthier body, which in turn can promote a healthier mind. Less stress about your fitness, higher levels of self-esteem, and a reduction in sick days are all mental perks to your body being more physically fit.
Another positive aspect of running in terms of your mental health is that running can help you think creatively. According to a study by psychologists at the University of Aberdeen, the forward motion of your body as you run triggers your mind to begin thinking forward as well. You might find it’s easier to work through some of the tough issues on your mind during your run.
But one of the most important ways that running can positively impact your mental health comes from your decision to do it. When you make a commitment to yourself to go for regular runs, it’s a self-affirmation that you are important, you value yourself, and that you have decided to reclaim an hour out of your day to do something just for you. Now that’s powerful!
Even if you can’t fit a run in every day, don’t let that scare you away. It’s still worth it to run when you can. If you find that running is becoming just another stressful thing to worry about, shift your focus and stop thinking about it as something you have to do.
Instead, think about it as something you are choosing to do for yourself. It’s time out of your day that you’ve dedicated to self-improvement and being present. If you can get yourself into a routine, other people may start to notice the extra pep in your step, and bringing a positive attitude into work can make even the toughest jobs more manageable.
Looking for an anxiety coach? Please reach out to me as I’ve helped dozens of people beat their anxiety and get back to living life.