No matter how good you are at what you do, no matter how great your boss and colleagues are – you’re going to hit a rough patch at work at one point or another. All the wheels seem to come off at the same time and often it seems like the timing could not be worse.
So, are there any sure signs that you are nearing a downhill slope, you ask? My answer is yes. Some of the most common causes leading up to that bump in the road are extended holidays, marriage and divorce, prolonged levels of high stress, one too many wins and equally, one too many losses.
Holidays - how could these possibly have a negative impact on my work life, you ask? We have all heard the saying ‘post-holiday blues,’ and that pretty much sums it up. You are coming off the back of a carefree, daiquiris-at-eleven-in-the-morning, adventure-filled, spontaneous few weeks and now you must return to the somewhat mundane, stress-filled routine. Go-figure.
Marriage and divorce, although on opposite sides of the spectrum, drive our emotions to the extreme. Extremes of any kind are not sustainable and the backlash to finding a sense of normality leaves us feeling empty and underwhelmed. Relationships are everything to us so naturally, any major upheavals will have a massive impact on your work.
Trying to sustain a good track record in a high-stress environment is never going to end well – something has to give. At first, it will likely be the areas outside of work that will suffer but I can guarantee you that work will bear the brunt soon enough.
Too many wins, you say? Yes, too many wins. This is a common cause for the ego to inflate and complacency to set in. You quickly forget the basics and take your foot off the gas. The longer you leave things in cruise control, the steeper the downhill turn. Equally, too many losses naturally lead to a breakdown in confidence and motivation.
Most of the above examples are both unavoidable and inevitable. It’s how we navigate the bad patches that determine their long-term effect.
Here are my five suggestions on how to get yourself through the rough patches, relatively unscathed:
1. Book meetings in your diary
There is no better way to return from a holiday than to share the highs and lows of your trip with your clients. You will feed off one another’s energy, you get to get a handle on what you have missed out on and you leave feeling part of something again. This doesn’t just apply to holidays - any time you feel that pang in your stomach, get out of the office. Socialise. Energise.
2. Talk to your team
Communication is the number one thing that we can all improve on. So, without divulging your entire life story – let those you trust and report to know where you are at and what is going on. People will give you that extra bit of space and support if they know where you are coming from. Every one of us has ‘stuff.’ It is OK to share the load if it is in a professional and proactive kind of way. Don’t seek sympathy or make excuses, just ask for support.
3. Look after your health
I appreciate that when the going gets tough the last thing you feel like doing is hitting the gym, posing in downward dog or hanging out with friends. Nothing revitalises you more than the fast flow of blood through the veins or a good belly laugh. Again, let those close to you support you and allow your body the opportunity to shed some of the stress. There is absolutely no downside to this, none whatsoever.
4. Keep your ego in check
Keeping your ego in check refers to both the wins and the losses. Train yourself to become a humble warrior. When you’re doing well, make sure you keep doing the basics and make room for gratitude. When you are struggling, the ego very quickly tells you you’re a failure; not good enough! Make sure you keep track of what is going well and again, go back to doing the basics and doing them to the best of your ability.
A bad patch can also be the first sign of a bigger issue – perhaps you are burnt out or you have lost your passion for what you are doing. It’s possible that you are in the wrong role or the wrong business which brings me to my final suggestion:
5. Know yourself
This point could be an article on its own but it is so crucial that you get to know yourself, soon and better than anyone else you have ever known. Know your boundaries, what makes you tick, what motivates you and what brings you down. You will be so pleasantly surprised at how much power and leverage these gems of wisdom will give you. You will know when it’s more than ‘just a bad patch,’ and if it is, address it immediately. You owe it to yourself. And if it is just a bad patch, always remember that this too, shall pass.