It’s not all joy and rainbows. Here’s what to do when gloom happens.
I spend my professional life (and my personal life, actually), talking about joy. Like, a lot. I believe in joy. And I especially believe in cultivating joy in unexpected contexts, like work. Everyone wants to feel fulfilled at work (as well as appreciated, rewarded and many other things) but very few of us expect joy. Enter: Beth.
But here’s the thing. Just because joy is my zone, doesn’t mean it’s my life. Or your life, come to think of it. Tough stuff happens, doesn’t it? Sometimes it happens once in a while; sometimes it happens a lot. Sometimes the tough stuff is right in your lap; sometimes it’s out in the world (and on the TV, the newspapers, your social media…oof!), and sometimes it’s everywhere all at once and for a long old time. While this is part of the deal of being, well, human, there are things we can all do to help alleviate the gloom and maybe even create space for a bit of joy to slide back in. First thing’s first: I do not believe in toxic positivity. Not at all. Slapping on a smile, muttering an affirmation and telling your colleagues that you’re ‘great, thanks,’ doesn’t help us address the sh*t that’s raining down. It’s just a shiny sheen, and even we can see through it. No matter what’s on your mind – from reorganisations to redundancies, wildfires to wars – or the scale of it, it’s happening and it matters. Being a successful human isn’t about papering over it, but feeling under it, then doing something about it. I’ve got three ideas for you:
1. DON’T FEEL ON YOUR OWN
There’s a reason why therapy happens through talking; why having a convo and a cup of tea feels so good, hell – why diplomacy is essentially the art of talking. We process things by speaking about them. And even if we can’t fix them, talking just makes the problem feel smaller somehow. Do make sure you choose the right person and the right time, though.
2. WATCH YOUR LANGUAGE
Anyone who knows me knows that I’m BIG on Brene Brown. I learned from her most recent book, Atlas of the Heart, that what I’ve been calling jealousy, is actually envy. For real:
“Envy occurs when we want something another person has. Jealousy is when we fear losing a relationship or a valued part of a relationship we already have.”
There she goes, blowing my mind AGAIN. The point is, I was shaming myself for feeling jealousy (which we’re taught is icky), rather than allowing myself to experience the expansion and alignment that can happen when you envy the way someone else is thriving. Point is: what you call something can very much change how you feel about it. So look again at how you’re feeling and find exactly the right words.
3. REMEMBER THIS TOO SHALL PASS
Sure, it’s become a leeetle bit of a cliche (thanks, Instagram), but it’s an easy thing to forget. When we are IN something, it feels like we’ll be in it forever. But there’s no such thing as a permanent emotion. They are in motion, after all. Like waves, emotions come in, then they recede. Even the big ones, like grief, change shape over time, even if they don’t go away.
There’s also a lot to be said for keeping a pot of joy always bubbling on a backburner, kinda like a big saucepan of mulled wine at a Christmas party. So, when you’re feeling empty, you can dip into it. We each have our own individual recipes for this (as many of you know, mine is centred around my woofer, Mabel, music and brand new stationery). It makes unexpected gloom easier to deal with.
The three Es of GloomBusting
At the end of each blog post, I’m going to share three simple actions, just like in my book, WorkJoy: A Toolkit for a Better Working Life.
Dust off that CV. Make that donation. Do something, anything that counts as a positive step and I’ll bet you feel less powerless and more hopeful tomorrow.
All recipes need testing. Does boxset bingeing really bring you as much joy as your internal voice says it does, or would a walk or swim actually feel better?
Bleurgh? Meh? Pffff? Throw on some music and dance. It won’t solve existential crises but it will make you feel better right now.
My GloomBusters audio series is launching in January and I’m so excited about it. It’s a five-minute listen, every day for 21 days, with no portals and passwords required (it pings straight into your WhatsApp). I’m giving a few people a sneak peek right now. If you’d like to be one of them, email me on firstname.lastname@example.org. Equally, if WorkGloom is really taking you down and it’s the right time to start coaching, email me. I can help.