If you're a Millennial working long hours at a billion different jobs trying to make ends meet and you've been wondering whether all that hustling might be having an effect on your health? Guess what: The answer is probably yes. A new study has found that job dissatisfaction can affect your health, both immediately and long-term. Which, like... if you've ever been dissatisfied with your job, you didn't need scientists to tell you that. But it's still kind of nice to know that we have quantifiably information we can now point to when we feel ourselves needing to prove to someone exactly why we need a break (or at least a better job).
Speaking from personal experience, being unhappy in your career can lead to some serious, all-consuming anxiety. I myself have worked a string of high-stress positions that, frankly, made me miserable pretty much all the time. But this recent study, conducted by researchers from The Ohio State University, has found that unhappiness with your job in your 20s and 30s has a pretty dramatic effect on your mental well-being in your middle age.
Working from a larger study conducted by the state of Ohio in 1979, lead research Jonathan Dirlam and his team focused specifically on job satisfaction trends and health correlations, according to CBS News. The study followed participants from the ages of 25 to 39, and divided them into four groups: Those with consistently low job satisfaction, those who began satisfied but trended downwards as time went on, those who remained "very satisfied" with their jobs through their 20s and 30s, and those who began unsatisfied but grew increasingly content. People who rated as consistently dissatisfied, as well as those who experience increased unhappiness, reported significantly higher mental health issues in their 40s than their peers, including depression, sleep problems, and excessive worrying.
Dirlam and his team concluded that job stress is cumulative. In other words, that whole, "Be miserable now, be happy once you're older with a better gig" thinking is not. Good. For. You. But for many of us, it's pretty much the only option. We have to pay rent and bills; we have to make student loan payments; we have to buy groceries. That requires, uh, money.
If you're struggling to make it through the day, thought, there are ways you can make things a little more bearable for yourself. Because no one wants to be sad now and also in their 40s. Here are a few to get you started.
1. Make a Habit of Arriving Early
Reaching the office before other people gives you a chance to settle in and take some deep breaths before setting off for the races. Nobody likes feeling frantic and rushed and behind as soon as they arrive at work.
2. If You Work from Home, Treat It Like a "Real" Job
I don't mean that working from home isn't a "real" job; on the contrary. But not having an office or an actual workplace you're required to go to can take a toll on you, even if it sounds like the best thing in the world to be able to get paid without ever getting out of your pajamas.
As a freelance writer, I work from home two to three days a week, and when I first made this transition, I struggled pretty immediately with the blues. When you don't have an outside place to work, and you work 9-to-5 hours, there's a definite possibility of just never leaving your house. That sucks. Don't do that to yourself. Get up, get dressed, get out of the house. Work at a coffee shop or a bookstore or a library or, at the very least, designate a part of your living situation as an office.
3. Give Yourself Breaks
Sitting for hours on end, staring at a computer, is not good; the opposite, never ceasing moving, is not ideal either. Obviously, it depends on the job requirements, but give yourself permission to take breaks. Even little ones can make a big difference in how you feel at the end of the day; it'll also help improve your productivity, according to research. So you'll be happier, and better at your job. Everybody wins.
4. Invest Time in Creating Lunches
This sounds silly, I know, but treating your body with care and feeding it good stuff is important. Additionally, finding even teeny rituals throughout the day helps me feel in control (and magical and sacred, which we all are), regardless of the toxic environment in which I may or may not be working. Oh, and don't eat at your desk. Even if you don't want to socialize, separating your personal moments from your work moments, both physically and mentally, is essential.
5. Develop a Mantra
One that makes you feel strong and in control and worthy and deserving. Let it help you rise to the occasion, enter battle, whatever you gotta do to make it through the day.
6. Develop Mindfulness Techniques
Daydreaming is fun. Imagination is important. Disassociating, or retreating deep into your anxieties — bad. Really detrimental to your mental health. Won't improve the situation at all. Here's a simple mindfulness technique that I've found helpful: Pick an object that's in your line of vision. Describe it in completely objective terms, as though you're talking to someone who can't see it. Get specific. It will bring you back to the present and calm you down, I promise.
Endless benefits. You already know you should. If you're sitting at a desk, include cardio. If you're in the service industry, work in some yoga and alignment exercises.
8. Remember: You Are Not Your Job
You are the same person, regardless of what job you work. How you pay your rent doesn't define you. You are so much greater and multi-layered and interesting than that.