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Are you feeling ill or overwhelmed in your job? The 7 lessons you can learn [from my own experience]

I used to love my job. I would have done anything for it and for the people I worked with. I travelled to London from Bristol at least 3 days a week, worked long hours and enjoyed what I did, working in the legal department of a large FTSE 100 company.

I started to become more stressed once I became professionally qualified. My responsibilities changed and, if I am honest now, I don't think I was quite ready for them. I hadn't realised it, but my self-esteem and self-belief were dropping and I wasn't so sure about myself. This meant that I was working longer hours, working harder than ever but didn't seem to be achieving the success I had in the past. Sadly, my enjoyment of the job was dwindling - I hadn't realised this until I went on a management course and realised that all the things I was putting down for my future didn't have a lot to do with the business I was in! Instead of facing this head on and looking to see what the deeper meanings may have been in this, I carried on regardless and became more and more entwined in the stress and overwhelm of a busy office.

It became so bad for me eventually that I became seriously ill with M.E. and, sadly, I didn't work a full day again after February 16 2004 until I qualified as a coach in 2013. So what did I learn about this whole process?

  • I learned that being honest with myself, my family and my employers was essential - I needed to speak up and say how I felt. The emotion of loss is far greater than the emotion of gain and I know now that in the process of fear of losing my job, my support network and also myself in the process of being honest I was losing myself along the way;
  • I learned that my health needed to come first. When I started to get ill the year before M.E., I needed to speak to health professionals and get some checks done. Again this comes down to honesty and perhaps a fear of what they would tell me. I had become so entwined in working hour after hour, I felt I didn't have time to go to a doctor (even though I was needing more time of work with illness);
  • I learned that it is quality over quantity. The number of hours I was working did not correspond with the output I was creating. I was pumping so many hours into the day, missing meals, being unable to eat when I got home because I felt sick with worry, that I wasn't giving the best part of myself.  
  • I learned that life is not all about work. Yes, it is important and fulfilling, but when it starts to get off balance and starts to take over other parts of your life from a negative place, something needs to change.
  • I needed to take a step back and see the reality of what was actually happening.  I was in the middle of the "busy-ness" and the need to appear "perfect" that I didn't see the truth.  I was a human doing not a human being and I had become so used to being the former, the latter was probably too frightening for me at the time;
  • I learned that I needed to listen to my family and friends. They had noticed the year before I became ill that a something wasn't right, but I felt I knew better. I wasn't in the most responsive place to listen and thought I was indestructible! I wasn't;;
  • I leaned that illness and conditions often come along as our greatest teachers. In the first year of my condition, in the midst of depression and agonising pain, I didn't understand this, however, M.E. was an essential part of my journey. It allowed me to rest, it allowed me time and space and, most of all, it allowed me to become "me" - the person I was meant to be. I can honestly say, without question, that I am at my most balanced in life now, not off balance at all and that is because I am doing what I love and doing it from a place of health, wellbeing and complete and utter truth.  I may have lost 8 years of my life with the condition, but I gained the truth about the life I was meant to live!

Sarah Hughes

Solutions Coach

07775 826769