So you’ve decided a career in IT is just the ticket for you. You love technology and hope to one day run an IT staff and save a company millions of dollars with your network, security, and software prowess. And your university has taught you well, the ways of the IT Jedi.
What it may not have enlightened you about was how challenging this career would be on your sanity. Anyone who has been in IT long enough will tell you that the field eventually takes its toll on your mental well-being. But, never fear, as there are ways to keep that sanity intact. In fact, I have 10 routes to mental and emotional nirvana that can help you remain on your chosen path for the long haul.
1. Learn to say no. It takes time to come to grips with this one. When you first start out, you will understandably say yes to nearly everything. Why wouldn’t you? Last hired, first fired…right? Because of that, it’s in your best interest to make sure everyone knows you’ll do anything to please. Eventually that attitude will wear you down and you’ll find that saying yes too much will exhaust you and fill you with a sense of bitterness and anxiety. Learn early on to say no. This doesn’t mean you refuse everything. Instead, pick your battles and agree to those things that can actually benefit you without wearing you down.
2. Take breaks. It’s very easy to take your lunch at your desk or while you’re driving to the next appointment. Don’t even be tempted to start down that dark path. It is crucial that you step away from the grind for a period during each day — just to reset your mental meter. Lunch is the perfect time for that. Leave the office and do not return until your break is over. It might be a hard routine to start, but eventually, that break might be the thing that gets you through the day. Beyond your midday break, make sure to give yourself small moments throughout the day to recharge your batteries.
3. Leave work at work. I used to have a ritual that saved me from imploding on a number of occasions. I always wore a watch. When I had the watch on, it was work time; when the watch was off, I was off the clock. Each day when I left the office to go home, I would take the watch off, symbolizing the breaking of the tie between me and work. That silly gesture was actually quite effective at helping me to not bring my work, and its associated stress and tension, home.
4. Get a massage. If you know anyone who regularly visits a massage therapist, there’s a reason why they do it. Not only is it amazing therapy for your muscles, it’s an effective means of ridding your body of tension. Find an outstanding massage therapist and employ their services regularly. If you have the time, make sure to get that massage before you go home. You’ll arrive at the house completely relaxed and free of the tension brought about by a nerve-wracking day.
5. Listen to music. If at all possible, play music throughout the day. I’ve managed to be very fortunate in that I was always able to play music while working. Had it not been for my ability to have music surrounding me, there would have been days you’d find my mental capacity utterly shattered. Just make sure to be mindful of those around you. If you must, use headphones. What you will find is that music will always put you in a good place — even when you’re working in a not-so-good place.
6. Sleep. Sometimes it’s tempting to avoid getting the right amount of sleep. The truth is, no matter how epic your all-nighters may be, they will take their toll on your mental and emotional health. This is especially true if you’re working under very stressful conditions. If that is case, it is crucial that you’re getting seven to eight hours of rest per night. As tempting as that all night LAN party may be, do yourself a favor and turn in.
7. Laugh . It may be cliché, but laughter really is the best medicine. There will be situations that are completely maddening. The only way to get through them is to laugh them off. Sure, it may seem like the absolute wrong reaction to such a situation, but sometimes the only way to face a stressful time is to laugh.
8. Don’t fight fire with fire. If someone comes to you with accusations or demands, don’t turn it around on them or toss a bucket of gasoline on the flames. When a situation like this presents itself, take it all in and think before you react. If knees jerk too much, everyone in the department will be yelling at one another, and rising blood pressure levels will eventually lead to a trip to the ER.
9. Breathe. Every so often you just need to stop and breathe. Oh sure, we all breathe without conscious thought, but sometimes we need to take it to the next level to rid our bodies of stress and tension. So the next time you feel the heat rising, take a moment and inhale a deep, long breath and slowly release it. As you release that breath, imagine all of your tension escaping until you’ve blown it all away. It sounds hypnotherapy-cheesy, but you’ll be shocked at how much good it actually does.
10. Walk away. Sometimes you simply cannot win. When that happens, it’s best you just walk away from the issue. Does that mean you’re running from the problem? No. This simply means you step away so you can come back with a clean perspective and a fresh mindset. That alone will help you avoid a landslide of stress. There’s no reason for you to allow your chosen career to crush your soul and spirit. Before that happens, give one or more of these techniques a try and see if they don’t help you get through the day without pulling out your hair. Do you have a go-to stress relief technique? Or do you just hold everything in and wait until you’re alone in the desert to explode? Which is the most effective method for you and why?
10 ways to keep your sanity in IT