This weekend was busy and ended painfully. My best guy and I went to Disneyland on Friday night, then the next day to the local fair. It was the best experience I’ve ever had at the fair because I was sober and got out of it having spent the least amount of money I’ve ever spent at the fair. Amazing how much cheaper it is when you don’t have to buy any beer at twelve dollars a pop! We got to check out all the agricultural exhibits like the livestock (I petted a cow and a sheep- b-aa-aa-aahhh!) and the array of vegetable gardens. It ended up being very educational indeed, but unfortunately one of the lessons I learned is that if I forget sunscreen on a sunny day out, it is imperative that i buy some because I will burn, and I did. It’s very painful, and now I will have terrible tan lines that will preclude my ability to wear any pretty sundresses for the remainder of the summer.
Today I had a family get-together dinner to attend and started developing a bit of anxiety before I had to go. I talked about it with my guy, which is something I probably wouldn’t have easily done before I realized how detrimental it is to keep everything bottled up inside. Then I realized my anxiety was misdirected at the family event, and I was really stressing out about my upcoming return to work on Wednesday. Luckily one of my relatives at the dinner could relate because he also struggled with job-related anxiety and major depression; he prayed with me, and in turn I discovered yet another source of support in my life through him.
I’ve been thinking about ways I can cope with my return to work and have come up with some boundaries for myself – a sort of personal constitution of my behavior on the job. I thought sharing them here would be a good way for me to reflect on what’s really worrying me about going back to work, and I can also reference the list daily if I need to remind myself. Here’s my personal work constitution:
- I will combat work anxiety with self-talk scripts: For example, when feeling worried in the couple days leading up to going back, I can tell myself, “It’s just a job- one you already know how to do. It may take a while to get back into the swing of things, but probably less time than you think,” or, “You are a highly competent employee, and the fact that you took some time off to work on yourself doesn’t diminish that; it can only make you a better, more stable person at work.”
- I can answer questions about my absence graciously: I don’t have to become defensive or bother to worry people will talk behind my back or create rumors. It is my right not to have to reveal the exact reason why I was absent. Instead, if someone asks me why I was out so long, I can say something like, “I had some personal health issues I had to take care of, but they’re resolving now, and I feel a lot better and ready to get back to work.” If they push, I can say, “It’s kind of hard for me to talk about. How nice of you to be concerned. I’m doing a lot better now.” I can tell my co-workers in my department pretty soon after I return, “I know I’ve been out for a long time; I hope things were not too crazy without me here. I’m ready to get back to work and help out however I can.”
- I will take the time to be the best version of myself: This means waking up early enough to do my hair and make-up, laying out my clothes the night before, and eating breakfast at home in the morning because I know those are things that help me to feel more confident and healthy, and therefore more in control of my life.
- I will not work on my lunch or breaks, and will have a lunchtime routine: When the clock strikes 9 for break, 11 for lunch, and 3 for break, I will drop whatever I’m doing and not continue to work through my breaks. I will develop a lunchtime routine by packing a lunch at home and making sure to go outside or to my car to eat. After that I can take a nap or practice mindfulness meditation. This way I will never be able to excuse working through my lunch by saying, “I have nothing better to do.” I deserve to take care of myself and take full advantage of my breaks.
- I am not a work robot, so I don’t have to act like one: It’s okay – even encouraged – to socialize with my co-workers. If someone asks how I’m doing or how my evening was, I can really tell them and don’t have to give a dismissive answer. I don’t have to have my nose to the grindstone at all times. I can laugh when something’s funny, be concerned about a co-worker’s personal life if they want to tell me about it, and take mental breaks every now and then to enjoy myself at work.
- When work gets demanding, I can still be gentle on myself; If someone asks me if I’m busy or wants to hand me something to do, I can say, “I’m in the middle of something urgent right now, but I can put it on my list of things to do.” I can take care of my personal duties first (if they are time-sensitive), before helping out with communal duties unless my boss says otherwise. It’s okay for me to focus on one task at a time because that is the more efficient way to do things. If I find myself on a stressful phone call, I don’t have to relieve my anxiety by harming myself with the stapler or chewing on a pen cap; I can say to the caller, “I need to put you on hold for just a moment,” and then take a few deep breaths before picking up the line and either helping them if I can, or telling them I will have a supervisor call them back if I cannot.
- I will plan enjoyable things to do during the week: I don’t need substances to numb myself after a long day or to take my mind off work. I can look forward to doing pleasurable things when I’m off the clock, like practicing billiards with my roommate (!), watching a movie on Netflix, window-shopping at the mall, or reading a book while drinking my favorite drink at the Coffee Bean (Helloooo, decaf ice-blended dark chocolate!)
- My job is just what I o to make money for now; it does not define who I am: I do not have to be stuck in this job and have already figured out something I want to do; I just have to take baby steps to get there. My job does not define me, does not make me boring or uninteresting, and in fact will prove to be valuable experience when pursuing the career of which I now dream (dental assistant). My job does not have the power to overpower my true personality or the person I want to become.