Self-Care Sunday: When Your Job Literally Makes You Sick



My day started at 5 am with driving 40 minutes to the train station. Then I had to wait another 15-20 minutes for the train. Then the train ride itself was 20 minutes. From the train I walked 10 minutes to the office building where I taught English as a Second Language (ESL). I planned from 7 am to 8:30 am and taught from 8:30 am to 2 pm. Then I walked back to the train station, took the train back to my car, then drove from the train station to the suburbs, another 40-60 minute drive. When I arrived at my second job I would take a brief nap before working from 5 pm to 9 pm. I did this for six months. I was exhausted, but happy because my job wasn't literally making me sick any longer. I had opted for the crazed scheduled of two jobs, over the "normal" schedule of one job that I hated. 
Flash back to the previous year. About 10 minutes into starting my shift I felt ill. I ran to the bathroom and hacked out my lunch. I initially felt like it was something I ate, but I only felt worse afterward. I took a sick day and went outside. Long story short my boyfriend ended up having to drive me to the nearest hospital. If you have read my previous posts, this wasn't the first time I had gone to the hospital for this "issue." And of course I was released with no clue as to what my mysterious illness was.

Then it happened again, about a month later, this time on my way home from work. That was the final straw for me. Something had to give. The job I had once loved had morphed into the job from hell after layoffs, departmental restructures, a complete change in my job duties. Once upon a time I had been grateful to get out of the call center roll, but all of the company changes put me right back where I started. On top of that, they added mandatory shift changes whereas before I was allowed to choose my shift. I was miserable and stressed out with how awful everything was. The only thing my job had allowed me to do at that point was to get an apartment without a roommate, and that had already been accomplished. I decided to give my two weeks notice at the beginning of September 2014. The company was nothing like it once was, and neither was I.

I did not, by any means, quit cold turkey. I had already been teaching ESL part-time during the day, and working my main gig 3 pm to 12 am. I definitely had something to fall back on. Plus, I had applied for part-time evening gig, which I hadn't received a confirmation on. I had half a job, but it was better than no job at all. For the first couple of months I didn't see much of a change in the pace of my bank account. But around December and January, the teaching hours were cut, and the evening gig that I landed, was also cut back during the holidays. It was rough, but around February things really started to pick up with teaching again. I knew, even during the difficult times, that I had made the right decision. My health was far more valuable than a steady paycheck.

I know that everyone isn't afforded the luxury of immediately quitting their job for something less because you have obligations to you children, family, spouse, household etc. However, if you plan an exit route, and start valuing your sanity and wellness more than you value you your current paycheck, then it is possible if you work on it. Please note this is also NOT the first time I ever quit a job. Quitting your job is a process, not a one time thing. In fact, the first job I quit, I actually LOVED, however it added nothing toward my aspirations. I wanted to do something that made an impact on people, not something that just made a company money and gave me a paycheck. Here are five things that I tried each time I began the process.

1. Prepare yourself mentally.
Start to visualize yourself in a job that you would love or running a business/organization that you're passionate about. I also prepared myself for the income shift, calculating the minimum amount that I needed to pay my necessities. Start preparing yourself to how you will respond to people's reactions. Sometimes we may think we are our own worst critic, but naysayers and those who are jealous of you because you have to guts to quit, may try to dissuade you.

2. Go to school or change careers.
Maybe you want to make a change, but you don't have the necessary skills or qualifications for the next field. Don't be afraid to switch to going to school full-time, or even part-time until you acquire the qualifications necessary to quit your current job. If school isn't appealing, you can still use your skill set to switch careers. For example, I used to do corporate training, but then I switched over to teaching ESL. I had the basic skill set despite having the learn the caveats of teaching English. And please don't forget that starting a business/organization is definitely an option too!

3. Change your hours.
Before I decided to leave my job completely, I was able to change my schedule to a later shift that would enable me to pick up a part-time gig to save financially, but also to build my skill set so that I had more to offer in my next job. Switching my hours also allowed me to go on interviews, run errands, and work on soap making. If your job isn't necessary in shifts, talk to your manager about changing your schedule by an hour or two, or even if it's just one time a week. You will be surprised at how much you can accomplish during those hours.

4. Consider getting two jobs.
This is what I did until I found a full-time gig. It was strenuous and I would never wish it on anyone, however I do encourage it as an alternative/temporary fix. Sometimes a job in our field of choice, like a non-profit, may not give us the hours and/or pay that we need to survive. If you made all of the financial cuts, and one gig just isn't cutting it, then seriously consider two.

5. Change your attitude.
If all else fails, then change your attitude while you continue to look for another position and/or build your business. Always look for the positive aspects, even if it's just your co-workers. I never looked forward to my previous job, but I did look forward to spending time with my co-workers and hearing their stories. There will always be those chronic complainers who try to bring down the whole office's disposition, but you have to block them out. Continue to visualize yourself somewhere else, doing what you love. Continue to put forth your best work.

Reasons not to quit
What I have realized over the years is that many people talk about how much they hate their job, but never are willing to take the necessary steps to move into another direction. Even those whose job was literally killing their bodies and sanity, were just lip service at the end of the day.

Some people don't want to change for fear of the unknown. They would rather be content in their misery, than be amazed about what is beyond their current situation.

Some people are afraid of failure, but the every act in leaving your job means that you have already succeeded. I love James Cameron's quote: "If you set your goals ridiculously high and it's a failure, you will fail above everyone else's success." Remember that failure doesn't mean that you didn't try, and it certainly doesn't mean that you won't succeed. Your success should be defined by your health and those things that can never be purchased via a paycheck.

The Body Buffet creates handmade artisan soap, shampoo, conditioners, spa bars, beard care, body wash and more for Baltimore, the DMV, and beyond. We have been creating conditioning skin-loving, hair-loving, since 2009. Visit our shop at Marquita Johl is the soaper-in-chief and a self-care advocate. She has been crafting soap for eleven years.

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