For Mental Health Awareness Week, we’ll be sharing stories from our own team. In this personal reflection, Senior Consultant, Stephanie Crane opens up about her struggles with stress at different points in her career and what its taught her.
When I think about my own experience with stress in the workplace there are 3 key instances that sprint to mind. All were a form of stress but my reaction and response to the situation was different each time. I also learnt something different about myself from each experience and I wanted to share these ‘lessons’ with you.
The first major encounter I had with stress was in my late 20’s. That is not to say that I hadn’t experienced stress previously, but this is the first time it really left a mark. I worked for a business where everyone was a highflyer and the word ‘talent’ against your name was a ‘stamp’ proving that you were going somewhere professionally and worth senior management having a conversation with. Stretch opportunities were a common form of development, meaning that I spent nearly 5 years of my life like a swan – FRANTICALLY PADDLING whilst trying to maintain the veil of grace on the outside.
Till one day I just stopped! And not through choice. For 3 months I slept. And slept…. And slept. I was completely burnt out and what had started as stress has morphed into a period of depression.
The company I worked for were extremely supportive and there was no pressure to rush back, but something inside changed as I recovered. My desire to drive myself so hard had disappeared. When I returned to work I no longer felt like I belonged within that world, and at the end of that year I decided to leave the organisation. I learnt that there was a limit to how much of ME I was willing to sacrifice for a career.
The next encounter with stress I experienced was as I moved into a new job. Not long after starting, it become apparent that this really wasn’t the job for me and no matter how hard I tried I wasn’t going to find passion for what I was doing. But this time the stress response was very different. I was angry. Angry that I had got it wrong and that it wouldn’t work out. Angry, as I felt I’d been mis-sold the role. I become disengaged and before the end of my probation period I handed my notice in. I knew that I would not be able to find purpose in what I was doing and because of that it was never going to work.
The final experience I wanted to share was when I was working as an independent consultant. I was loving working on some interesting projects with great people and could see myself doing this for the long term. Then sadly the work dried up and the nest egg I had built quickly diminished. I couldn’t enjoy the time off I had because all I could think about was finding a job and being able to earn some income again. I became obsessed about money and how much I had in the bank – the more I ran my savings down the more insecure and anxious I felt. Luckily I found a new role but it really brought home the importance of having a back-up to give me options in case the worst was to happen again.
Reflecting back on my experience with stress when writing this blog, these are the lessons I have learnt along the way:
- Most importantly – Ignoring stress will not make it less of an issue, and it won’t make it disappear. In fact, it could make it worse.
- Knowing your personal limits is important. It allows you to identify situations that might cause stress so you can take actions to mitigate your response.
- It’s OK if something is not for you. Being self-aware and acknowledging that you need to do something different will help you find purpose.
- For me a safety net is important, so I have taken action to ensure that I have one in place.
What are your experiences with stress or anxiety and what has it taught you? I would love to hear your story.
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