How to Find Joy in a Stressful Work Week

How to Find Joy in a Stressful Work Week

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Isn’t it wild how a stressful work week can turn into a stressful year? When work is busy, the days can easily run into one another, turning into weeks, which eventually become months. Throughout the years, Brian and I have experienced this a number of times. It can be incredibly draining.

Non-stop days became a routine for us, with barely a reprieve during the weekend. Unfortunately, many of those weekend breaks were spent desperately trying to make up for lost sleep. We’ve spent so much of our time treading water through excessive workloads, changing projects, and impractical deadlines – especially during COVID.

We were nearing burnout. It was time to reprioritize.

Joy in the Day-to-Day

Joy isn’t exactly the first thing that comes to mind when you’re overworked and overwhelmed. Still, I think it’s important to look for the good in tough situations. In my case, it helps reframe my mind so I don’t focus on frustrations or disappointments.

It takes effort to notice and create joy, especially since the stress of the work week can lead to a kind of tunnel vision. Joy doesn’t simply present itself; you have to be cognizant of it and receptive to it.

It exists in quiet moments of gratitude, the stillness of early mornings, and ordinary occurrences throughout the day. Joy exists where we choose to see it.

Carve Out Personal Time

Personal time is crucial. It provides the space to ‘be’ and to ‘become’. It affords the opportunity to think, wonder, and dream about the things you wish to pursue and experience. Without personal time, I find it difficult to be a whole, well-rounded, and happy person. It’s not indulgent or selfish, but rather a true investment in physical and mental health.

The most convenient way I’ve found to incorporate personal time into each day is to wake up early. Others might find it easier to enjoy their time in the evening. Either way, this time is necessary for clarity and rest. Stepping away for some “me” time during the week can help one stay in balance when things start to go awry.

Even if you don’t have an extra hour or two, you likely have five minutes to yourself. Silence the noise and focus on yourself for those five minutes. Sometimes that’s all you need.

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Take Responsibility

A stressful work week doesn’t mean that you should play the victim. While it’s understandable to feel down or frustrated, try not to let it take you out. You might not be able to control every aspect of your job. Rather than fighting a losing battle, try focusing on the things within your control both inside and outside your workplace. Do the best you can.

You are responsible for your own thoughts and actions. Instead of dejectedly thinking “Why can’t I…?”, I like to ask “How can I…?”. This changes the mindset. Understanding how much control you have over yourself comes from accepting responsibility and owning both your failures and your successes. Taking responsibility is powerful. It means that you are in the driver’s seat.

Meal Plan

When you’re in the thick of things, trying to figure out your weekly meals is probably not at the top of your list. Unfortunately, unplanned meals can be costly in the end. It’s hard to feel particularly creative or excited about cooking after a long day. In fact, it’s way more convenient to just grab something quick and easy: your favorite takeout, fast food, or maybe a Publix sub. Or…if you’re like us, you’ve skipped meals because of your workload. This is also a costly habit as it’s taxing on the body and mind.

Meal-planning has saved us from added stress during the work week. Brian and I have leaned into simplified diets, 20-minute prep work, and bulk meals. We’ve found that this makes us happy. It is a no-fuss way for us to spend more time together. We like trying different recipes and new flavors, especially when we’re slow-cooking on a Sunday for meals that can last through most of the week. Simple!

Mid-Week Treat

When you absolutely need a little pick-me-up to keep you motivated through the week, consider gifting yourself a mid-week treat. It doesn’t have to be anything extravagant (unless you prefer it to be!).

Pop in somewhere to see a matinée showing. Watch your favorite TV show. Enjoy dessert. Try a new restaurant. A mid-week treat can help us disconnect from a stressful work day.

Connect with Your Cheerleaders

You know those people who love you and cheer you on? Reach out to them when you’re struggling. Whether it’s a quick update or a vent session, connecting with your support group will help you feel less pressured and less isolated. Work matters, but it’s not the most important part of life.

Begin & End Your Day with Gratitude

The most straightforward way to snap out of a bad attitude is to think positively. No one wants to be around a grouch. Hopefully, you’d prefer not to be a seething, miserable person, either! Choose to be grateful.

There are so many little things to be grateful for every single day. Waking up to a new beginning. The first sip of coffee. A hot shower. Jot down your list. Reflect on it in the mornings.

At the end of the day, think about your highs. Talk about them, write them down, and reflect on them. Despite crazy days or weeks, you will have little moments of gratitude and joy. You just have to choose to see them.

Personal Joy

Our busy work schedules have found us plugging away for 60 to 70 hours a week. Brian and I have pulled all-nighters fixing problems and meeting deadlines. It was draining for us. And yet, while in those moments, we looked at one another and told ourselves, “At least we are working, and for that, we are grateful.” I’m not sure, even today, if that was a genuine acknowledgement of thanks or a form of Stockholm syndrome.

Nonetheless, we’ve learned to craft our own joys through our schedules and experiences. Those crazy work hours helped us pay off our mortgage, negotiate our positions, and build our investments. Joy happens where you make it happen. And, when you no longer feel or see the joy in a situation, you are in the driver’s seat to make a change.

We find joy in:

  • Intentionally DIYing our way through our home
  • Discovering the effects of aging through nearly 15 years together
  • Trying new foods and recipes
  • My morning peppermint tea and his coffee
  • Listening to chillhop while working
  • Starting and/or ending our work day with a P90X work-out
  • Spending time reading next to one another

Our day-to-day joys aren’t particularly meaningful to others, but they are to us. These moments, among others, are how we choose to step away from a demanding day and appreciate the life we live outside of work.

What has brought you joy this past work week?

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