By Jaime Jo Wright, Crosswalk.com
Maybe it’s because summer is almost upon us; you see the sun outside, the fresh air drifts through open windows, and birds sing their enticing tunes to “come out and play.” Or maybe it has nothing to do with the need to be outdoors and enjoy the sun, but instead, it’s the thundercloud brewing in your workplace that has pretty much assured you that today and the days to come are going to be downers.
A challenging workplace can certainly bring with it an element of despair. But so can a tolerable workplace! Sometimes work is just - well - work. When you consider we spend an estimated one-third of our lives at work—or 90,000 hours, whichever you prefer to measure it by—work can become depressing.
Unfortunately, work is also a necessity. Whether you’re third-shifting at the factory in high humidity this summer or putting in your seventieth hour of work this week at the office, most of us feel underpaid, underappreciated, and underwhelmed at the magnitude of responsibility we have in order to “bring home the bacon.” I have never witnessed an adult flinging their arms wide in exhilarated abandonment and joy as they declare, “praise the Lord, I get to go to work today!” I just had the image of a 1950s musical go through my mind and the mental picture of the Music Man drumming his way down the office hall as if the workplace was the great cathedral of wonderfulness. It’s not.
So how do we stay encouraged at work when we get that text message from our friends or family lounging lakeside with a book and an ice-cold sun tea? Or how do we just gather the encouragement to equate to enough gumption to walk in the door at a workplace we really wouldn’t be sad if we never saw again?
Here are a few ideas to help cheer you up. (Yes, they’re not groundbreaking, but then let’s be honest, much of it comes down to our attitudes):
1. Consider a physical pick-me-up.
I’m the first to admit I’d rather keep my behind in a chair. In fact, if there were the Olympics for the most talented couch potato, I would win the gold medal. Many of us—not all of us, obviously—have jobs that keep us more stationary than physically active. Believe it or not, this can lend itself toward depression and dissatisfaction.
So while I’m never going to be a cheerleader for running a marathon—or even a mile—the fact remains that exertion helps oxygen flow through your body, increases your blood flow, and ups the—are they endorphins? —that make you feel more positive. This is why some individuals have an intense physical workout when they’re upset or angry. It helps shed the excess angst and makes emotions more bearable. Not that I’ve ever tried this, mind you—couch potato queen that I am—but I’ve heard it works wonders!
2. Try drinking (water).
Ha! You thought I was literally going down the alcohol aisle. Well, I’m not. I mean, trying drinking water! Again, it seems ridiculously simple and almost silly, but water intake can help lift the spirit and also help your body function through suppressed emotion and physical stress. As your body dehydrates, so does your mind. We need water to survive, yes, but also to function at our peak capabilities.
If you’ve been chugging down energy drinks or even coffee all day, your body eventually goes into a crash or a slump. Sugar and caffeine can give you a happy pick-me-up, and for sure, they feel like an encouragement, but it’s a temporary fix. So, reach for something more permanent and guzzle that flavorless liquid we call water, and watch your spirits lift.
3. Listen to music.
Not just any music. This is the time when you set aside the classic hits, forget you were raised in the nineties and listened to Avril Lavigne on replay, and turn off the country music hits that recommend whiskey, women, or wanton behavior to liven up your life. It’s time to apply the Scripture as it says to “set your mind on things above.” It’s time to focus on what can give us pure, unadulterated hope.
There is a plethora of Christian music available too, and to get your worship on doesn’t mean you have to zone out to your grandma’s playlist. Instead, find your preferred genre, but find it with lyrics that espouse encouragement as given from a focused attention on Christ.
There isn’t much that will raise me out of the dumps like a good worship playlist. For those of you who can listen with earbuds at work, you’re golden! Jam out to the worship and don’t just feel but experience your spirit lift. If you are in an office environment and need to play it softly, do so. Even if you can’t make out all the words, sometimes that one phrase or two seeps through at just the right time and can bring a smile to your face. It refocuses your attention where it will find the most uplift and encouragement.
4. Take a moment for silence.
This is almost a lost art these days. Stepping back. Sitting down. Resting. Closing your eyes. Taking a moment to meditate. It feels inefficient, or at best, that you’re slacking off at your job. But sometimes, the best method of encouragement to a work-worn soul is to take that moment of silence. Recenter yourself on the Lord, on His promises, on the fact that work is temporary, but the eternal things are worth pursuing with exuberance and joy. Breathe in the presence of God, let His joy saturate your heart, and give you a fresh vigor for the rest of the day.
Sure, there’s no switch we can flick that will make us suddenly love our job or find fulfillment in our day. Much of it is a choice of attitude. Determining that we will take steps to be encouraged, focus on what is lasting and pure, fix our eyes on the Author of our faith, and nurture a spirit and perspective of contentment. Even Paul the Apostle said he had learned to be content in all things—and the guy was languishing in prison and on his way to a final beheading.
Kept in perspective, we can even encourage ourselves. Bing Crosby crooned that we should “count our blessings instead of sheep” in order to find rest. But the concept isn’t that far off. Sometimes, our best encouragement is refocusing on what we do have versus what we don’t have. It’s choosing to view the positives as worth musing on instead of idling in the loss and the negativity of what isn’t going right.
The fact remains that work is just work. It’s a necessary blech in the scheme of life. We can’t escape it but can look for ways to be encouraged while tolerating it. Maybe, if we’re so blessed, we’ll actually uncover ways we like it, ways that work makes us smile, and the relationships it may give us.
Be encouraged. All is not hopeless.
Jaime Jo Wright is an ECPA and Publisher’s Weekly bestselling author. Her novel “The House on Foster Hill” won the prestigious Christy Award and she continues to publish Gothic thrillers for the inspirational market. Jaime Jo resides in the woods of Wisconsin, lives in dreamland, exists in reality, and invites you to join her adventures at jaimewrightbooks.com and at her podcast madlitmusings.com where she discusses the deeper issues of story and faith with fellow authors.