If you are in a job that is pure drudgery or distasteful or stressful, you can reduce its negative impact on your mental health by reframing it. For example, tell yourself it is something you choose to do temporarily, until you get a better job elsewhere. Or imagine you are just filling the position for a while to learn another skill, or that it is a part-time job until you save enough money for a house or whatever. The important thing is to convince yourself that it is something that you choose to do.
That puts you in control. Stress is dissipated when you have control over the situation. You can be on the lookout for better work, but in the meantime, you are learning a skill, gaining experience, making new friends, building relationships, earning money, and getting something to add to your resume. Imagine getting paid to go back to school! Studies show that control is the key to stress relief and can have a major impact on your health. That’s why time management is so important. It puts you in control of your workload, working time, interruptions, and so on. And an organized environment helps with control as well and removes stress from your working environment. How you work, not just what you do, determines whether the job is dull and stressful or more palatable and stress free.
If you look at this “temporary” job as a training program for whatever you are planning to do next, you will want to learn as much as possible, and get some meaningful experiences to add to your resume. Use it as an opportunity to improve your social skills and emotional intelligence. Soft skills are becoming more and more valuable in any position in any company. What a great opportunity to practice empathy, trust, kindness, teamwork and so on. If you can model a positive attitude and enthusiasm in a job you dislike, you will exceed at any job. Who knows, you may even begin to enjoy what you are doing now. In school, I used to excel in the subjects I loved. And in business, those who excel usually get promoted to better jobs.
I will never forget what my boss told me one time when I was complaining about a boring dinner meeting where the speaker droned on and on, saying nothing of consequence. He told me, “Harold, when you are a part of a captive audience in any situation, take it as a personal challenge to get something valuable from it regardless. Regardless of the incompetence of the speaker, the irrelevance of the information, or the discomfort of the environment.” He went on to tell me to listen intently and get involved mentally, and that something the speaker says will remind me of something that I could apply to my own job, or it might spark a completely different idea I could use.
He was right. Actively listen and you will learn. I have never attended another dinner meeting without leaving with at least one idea or a few meaningful contacts. And when I became a professional speaker myself, I used to tell my audiences, “Listen intently folks, sometimes I inadvertently say something that makes sense.” In the same way, resolve to get something out of each job you have, regardless of how uninteresting the job. You may be surprised at how the information or experience will come in useful in the future.
Introducing humor into the workplace also helps. Laughter is a natural mood elevator, according to a Cornell University study, and reduces stress. It also makes others want to work with you, creates team spirit, and makes the job more enjoyable. He who laughs, lasts. Even unpleasant jobs can be stress-free if you inject humor into the workplace.
I have found that one of the best ways to reduce the stress of being in a boring, dead-end job is to do it well. Be the best at whatever you are doing. You get stress-relieving satisfaction from doing a job well. And you may get some compliments from the boss and open some opportunities for more interesting work, or at least a great reference for your next job. You can’t lose.
If you are temporarily locked into a job that you do not like, make the most of it. It is not a life sentence. At the worst it is simply a steppingstone on your road to success. Make it a personal challenge to get something valuable out of the experience while you are there. You may be surprised at the results.