Mental Health and Wellbeing Matters: your job is just supposed to be your job

Coffee image for Film Stories' regular mental health column
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In our regular spot where we chat about mental health and wellbeing, some thoughts on the jobs that seem to follow us home.

Hello and welcome to the spot on the site where we chat about mental health, wellbeing, and things that may be affecting us. This is a weekly column, that’s been running for a few years now. Across that time, hopefully there’s an article or two that are of use to you, although there’ll be many that won’t be of any relevance. But hopefully we write something that is of use from time to time.

This time round: jobs. More to the point, jobs that overlap into our personal lives.

Some people are lucky to do a job that’s something they really want to do. So much so that they’re happy to work all hours, because it’s something they actually love. Some people end up in a job they hate, that they can’t wait to clock off from every day.

But it’s worth reiterating, and it’s often forgotten, that a job at heart is just that: a job. That there comes a point where – easier said than done, of course – a line has to be drawn.

Yet that’s not always that simple. Our culture has got to the point where we’re oftentimes defined by the job that we do. Go to a stand-up comedy gig, and the second question the comedian tends to ask someone in the crowd, after their name, is what they do for a living. Sure, it’s in part because going much further than that starts to get too personal, but even so: who are you, what do you do.

There’s a cliché that, at the end of life, few people look back and say they wish they’d spent more time at work, rather than at home. Furthermore, there’s a power dynamic. I worked in a company once where the expectation was that you worked late, and the people who left on time were looked down on a little (nobody ever checked who came in early, but moving on). Yet nobody was being paid for working late. Sure, an extra half hour here and there used to make sense after work. But also, it can’t be a bad thing to want to go home.

If you go further up the pole meanwhile, then there’s a different dynamic at work, whereby you feel you have to put the extra hours in to justify the position.

Yet the other part of this that I want to address is headspace. Work, inevitably, follows us everywhere. How many of us have work email accounts that go straight to our personal smartphone? How many of us resist looking at it if it comes in after hours? It’s virtually impossible to entirely switch off, and I’m as bad as anybody at that.

The one tip though I’d pass on is make some boundaries. Make some space – even if it’s a couple of hours every day – where work is not allowed to pass. Put the phone down, resist answering the emails, and do something that’s for you.

We’ll come back to this topic again, I suspect, especially to look at when work is bleeding into our heads because, well, it’s not very nice. But for the here and now, even when it is, it has a habit of taking over our lives. Perhaps it shouldn’t.

The very best to you all. This column will return next week.

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