In the history of the human race, work is how we have made our way in the world. We worked to survive. Work provided meaning and a sense of purpose in life. Work allowed us to serve, to support, to create, to lead, to nurture, to build, to teach, to orchestrate, to entertain, to operate, to protect, to reduce harm, to guide, and to mentor.
But, what happens when work causes stress? People leave jobs for many reasons… Sometimes a job is too dangerous, has a bullying boss, tolerates sexual harassment and discrimination or demands many hours without compensation. Sometimes businesses downsize or close, and sometimes people get fired. Sometimes people leave work because of illness. So sometimes an otherwise good job ceases to provide any fulfillment. Been there?
When the workforce or work environment makes it impossible to maintain mental health, paid stress leave may be available. When people leave work on stress leave, often more is going on in their lives than just work stress: family problems, legal problems, alcoholism, etc.
When people take stress leave, it is often some months before they stop looking back at the work stress and come to terms with the other stresses in their lives. Before they know it, a year or two has gone by. Now they are afraid that they can’t do their former jobs, so the thought of returning to work becomes an additional stress. Anyone who has been off work for any length of time for health reasons faces return-to-work stress. This is especially so when they feel under pressure from an insurer.
The important thing to realize is that being off work, whether through job loss, health problems, or even for early retirement, provides a perfect opportunity for reflecting on your life. It is a good time to ask yourself if the work you did is the work you should be doing. It is a perfect time to explore other avenues for fulfillment. And of course, it’s a great time to focus on mending any other life problems you had neglected while you were working. Being off work is the worst possible time to escalate your drinking, because drinking and reflection on life cannot coexist.
In the end, you maximize your chances of restoring balance and good mental health by doing whatever it takes to rejoin the workforce, whether in your old industry or in some new form of employment or business. As you reflect on your life purpose, on what you get passionate about, and on what makes you feel fulfilled, you may discover you are in the midst of a career upgrade or change. Get whatever help you need to navigate the shift and never look back.