It’s easier said than done: your work is not your worth. While my head knows that’s true, my heart struggles to internalize it. Here are a few techniques I use to cope with the stress and make those facts a little more true for me.
Focus on hobbies
I love hiking and rock climbing. Hiking gives me a good workout and great views. The sheer terror that comes from rock climbing helps me focus entirely on the problem at hand — pun intended.
One study from BMC Public Health has shown that people who engaged in hobbies reported better mental health. A hobby can be anything that helps you get your mind off of your job in a healthy way. It helps you decompress and focus on something completely unrelated to your work. It doesn’t have to be the total opposite of what you do for work — I know of artists who come home to draw some more — but it should help you get your mind on something else. You don’t have to be good at it. You just need to enjoy it.
Focus on the small wins
Setting goals is a tricky thing. Accomplishing a goal feels amazing. But when you’re far away from achievement and it feels like you’re stuck? Devastating.
Here’s what helps. First, I make sure my goal has achievable elements to it, which can help me work toward a grander goal. Big goals are great, but I break it down so I get somewhere.
Second, I focus on the small wins. A big win is getting a raise, promotion, or setting a personal record. A small win is cheering myself for sending out a scary email or having a tough conversation. Small wins help me realize I’m doing all right.
Be with people I love
You know what really raises my spirits? Talking to someone. It can be on the phone or over Skype, but the best has been through face-to-face interactions. I get out of my own head and start thinking about what’s going on with my friend and the outside world instead.
According to Harvard Medical School, making connections can improve your mental health dramatically. This is especially true in my life, and I make it a priority to regularly be with people who I care about.
Take time off
When I leave work for the day, I go home and stop worrying about it. I also have a side job, and when I’m not working on that, it’s easy to think that I need to be doing more to grow it. However, when I focus on accomplishing my goal for the day, I give myself permission to think only about that element. Then once I’m done, I can do whatever I want. My time off is strictly for me and not for anything else.
It’s a tale as old as time: plans don’t work out. You don’t get that position you applied for. You don’t get accepted to graduate school. You got a pitch rejected. You failed a class.
Plan B can help soften the blow of Plan A not working out. Sometimes the backup plans turn out to be even better than your original plans. Try looking at these failed plans as a new opportunity to do something exciting and challenging. You can redirect and redesign your life to be however you want it to be, and that’s fun.
Keep on keepin’ on
Above all, I keep going. Even when I don’t want to and I’m procrastinating important tasks. Even when I’m convinced I’m a total imposter. It’s a big world out there and work isn’t the only part of my life. I’ve got a (hopefully) long life ahead of me. There are a lot of topics to explore, hobbies to cultivate, and people to meet.