Every job has its pressures. . . . stressors. Some are different from others, but inherent in the word “job” is stress. I pass no judgment on others’ stress levels at work, or the environment in which they work; in fact, I can’t even formulate opinions about others’ workplace stress. What I can talk about, however, are those which I face daily.
I’ve written about this before, but my profession . . . to me . . . presents a paradox. On the one hand, I chose a job within my profession that I love. I enjoy going to work every day. On the other hand, though, the pressures associated with my job tend to overwhelm me — at least for brief periods of time.
Here’s a typical day. I wake up, help get my kids off to school, get ready and leave for the office. The commute isn’t any longer than 25 minutes, but the moment I close the car door, I begin to think about the day’s work. I drive about one mile where I stop for a Super Big Gulp (i.e. my morning routine), but by that time I’ve already shuffled through at least two, maybe three pressing issues. The Super Big Gulp offers relief, but then its back to the car and finish the morning commute. For the next 25 minutes, I find myself working through problems. . .solving problems.
By the time I get to work, I feel as if I’m ready to start the day; however, the moment I enter the door, my best laid plans usually fall flat. My paralegals usually don’t give me enough time to even get to my office (i.e. I’m a mere 15 feet from the front door) before they bombard me with questions, checks to sign, discovery to review, difficult lawyers they’re dealing with. Most days I’m able to patiently answer their questions even before I turn my computer on, but those other days . . . well. . . . I’m sure on those days, they wish they had waited until I got situated.
I’ll then go to my office, turn on the computer and check voice messages. It’s a good morning when I don’t find a blinking red light on my phone. What that tells me is that I worked late enough the night before to answer all of the day’s phone calls. Either way, I usually take a few moments and chat with everyone before I dig into the pile of work.
The work day then starts and it doesn’t end until I walk out the door at the end of the day. I mean that literally. I start on one project . . .move to the next. . . to the next. . . to the next until it’s time to leave. I work through lunch every day, take no breaks and — most days — I forget to eat. It’s not that I’m without hunger, it’s just that the projects come at me so quickly that I just don’t think about eating. I’ve tried to keep food items at my desk, but I don’t even remember those most days. I pay the price for this and on the way home, the hunger hits me.
Most days, I’d say the pressure is high to moderately high. I can deal with that. Those days, however, when the pressure pegs the meter. . . those are the days I wish I could manage.
Just focusing on the last category, I can’t adequately explain the effects of the stress suffice to say that I feel it, it manifests physically. My chest tightens, my breathing changes, the tone of my voice escalates. I’m often rude to whoever I’m talking to, and there are times when I yell. There have been a few times that the chest tightness was intense enough that I wondered whether I should be rushing to the ER. No heart attacks yet.
What’s worse is that — on these bad days — the stress doesn’t stay at the office. Like a puppy, it follows me wherever I go, including to my son’s football practice, to my daughter’s tennis match, to the church meeting. I’m sure people struggle being around me when this occurs because I’m lost in thought. I pay little to no attention to what they’re saying and — to make matter worse, I don’t care.
On these bad days, it doesn’t matter what medicine I take, I still can’t sleep through the night. If I roll over and wake, I lose at least an hour falling back to sleep. It’s a good night when I only wake once during these times, but I often find myself awake more than I’m asleep. The next morning, I repeat the same ritual and hope that day’s stress lessens.
My usual stress relievers — running, Prozac — are effective, but not even those outlets counter the extreme stress days.
As I said at the beginning, this isn’t a complaint post because I love my job and wouldn’t do anything else. This fact doesn’t ameliorate the stress, though, but it at least gets me up the next morning to do it all over again.
Love Hate relationship.