The average person spends at least one third of their adult life working. In a perfect world, once we left our workplace for the day the remaining hours of our lives would be spent on restful sleep and personal matters that make life worth living. But this is not a perfect world - we deal with hellish commutes and depending on our work environments, we end up taking the stress of the workplace home. The results of this can be declining health, unhealthy diets and habits, lack of sleep due to restless nights and strained relationships with our loved ones
Oddly enough it would take me years to understand how large of an impact work environments had on my life. Eight times out of ten my work pattern would start the same. I would begin each new job bright eyed and bushy tailed. The new employment opportunity would be seen through rose-colored glasses courtesy of naive optimism and the need for money. Off I'd go into the rat race ignoring who I was at my core and what I would need to thrive in a place of employment. And in all fairness to my past employers – nine times out of ten they would see me as an eager and intelligent prospective employee with a variety of experience and an optimistic attitude. We would all be disappointed with the burnt out and depressed shadow of myself I would become around three months in.
No workplace is without it's challenges but some of us can be more sensitive to environments than others. As I reflect on my career I sadly remember the comfort eating I would do to deal with job related stress. I would pack on pounds, get a little too “happy” at happy hour, spend too much money when I should be saving in order to reward myself for staying employed in situations that were making me deeply unhappy because I could do the responsible adult thing of paying bills.
Maybe you are starting to see this unhealthy pattern in your life too. Are you grateful for your nicotine habit because it allows you to escape the office multiple times a day? Do you notice yourself snapping at your children or partner because you are often irritable? In the morning does the thought of going to your job make you physically ill? I have dealt with most of these issues during my career and more.
Not only would I fall asleep on the train going to and coming from work, I would spend my weekends which were really my only time to socialize and catch up with family and friends in bed. I'd veg out in front of the TV with no energy to get up and do anything that brought me joy. Doing little to nothing on the weekend would help me get a little extra energy for Monday, but that would usually fizzle out by Wednesday afternoon.
Each work night would be spent getting ready for the following workday and watching enough mind numbing television to make me forget the internal dread of next morning. On really bad days, it would take more and more sitcoms for me to relax enough to drift off into sleep. As time went on, I would get less and less sleep but my work day and commute did not get any shorter. Being tired all of the time would weaken my immune system and I would catch every cold that went around the office.
Every morning before work my stomach would churn and I would get anxiety attacks just before leaving home. At some point after developing bags under my eyes and my hair starting to fall out, if I still retained the job a deeper depression would start to set in, At a few jobs I started crying in the bathroom during work because everything felt so hopeless. In extreme cases, if I was miserable enough at work I would cry during my commute home feeling trapped, powerless and exhausted.
I have known many people who were dealing with work related stress and not content with their jobs. And I was often told to toughen up and grow thicker skin – that I was being too sensitive. The problem with this advice is while some people can be empathetic, some of us are simply empaths which makes a huge difference. Any person with a modicum of compassion can be empathetic to another person going through a difficult, time an empath however is always empathic and naturally sensitive to their surroundings and the people within them. There is no empathy off switch for an empath,
An empath has additional sensitivity that non-empathic people can have difficulty comprehending, for this reason an empathic person is often called a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP). For a HSP staying in an environment that is incompatible with their needs is much more toxic than it would be for a less sensitive person, however it is not all doom and gloom. On the positive side, a happy empathic employee benefits the workplace in ways that usually go without recognition (especially financially). HSP employees are likely to assist their co-workers with work tasks without being asked. Because of their concern for others, empathic employees want to see every member of their work team cross the finish line and will assist them in doing so.
A well placed empathic employee will also foster a work environment of inclusiveness, easily interacting with people of different backgrounds and serving as a bridge for various groups of co-workers who otherwise may not have connected. This is the employee who usually remembers everyone's birthday and orchestrates something special or comforts a co-worker who may be dealing with office bullying or the fallout of office politics. Empaths easily notice the moods of their co-workers and bosses and are often known for being great listeners who act as unofficial therapists for those around them. They can aid in creating an employment atmosphere that feels more like family and less like Hunger Games.
A family like workplace is ideal in a creative setting and beneficial to office morale in any employment setting. The higher up an empathic employee is in the organizational hierarchy, the stronger their influence will be in fostering a positive work environment. And though we all are born with different empathic sensitivities, we can learn to be more aware of our impact on others and the world around us through mindful practices like meditation, yoga and Reiki.
My experiences and those of countless others who rarely share the depths of their workplace stress were the catalyst for building a Reiki practice around workplace stress and targeting managers and employers to incorporate Reiki into their lifestyles and workplaces. The ability of Reiki to create a calmer and more positive working environment is a benefit to employees and employers alike
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