When I first entered the work force, I was highly concerned with making a good impression, being efficient, being accurate, and being in control. If I touched it, I wanted it to be perfect and I wanted to do it perfectly. As time went on, this high personal standard became more and more stressful as I moved around with my Army spouse and advanced and accepted more responsibility. My health began to suffer.
I’ve wanted to “be in control” since I was a child. I began by wearing my heart on my sleeve, but realized this could be used to manipulate me and made it easier for people to figure out how to hurt me. So I developed coping strategies which included a lot of observation and analysis. For a while, I wanted to be Mr. Spock (Star Trek) and admired the Vulcan discipline of “kohlinar.” I’ve always been a night person with more energy in the evenings, especially after 10 pm, but I developed insomnia.
After several lesser immune related diagnoses, I was diagnosed with “probable” fibromyalgia. At that time, my insomnia was acute. I woke up every 20-30 minutes all night long. Mornings were a fog and I was commuting between Fort Huachuca (Sierra Vista, AZ) and Tucson for my job. I started developing coping strategies based on having a “Type A” personality: taking medication and going to bed early enough to get 8 hours of sleep every night, acknowledging that I didn’t have to be productive and/or multitask all the time, spending time in nature (feeding the birds and hummingbirds and watching them from a porch swing each day), delegating responsibilities to my spouse, and accepting that I couldn’t control everyone and everything. In essence, I can only control my own actions and how I react to everything else.
All of this brought my health issues largely under control, but they are chronic and I am still a night person. I’ve gradually fallen back into bad habits there since my dating period (which involved a lot of late night events). I’m trying to be better about that, but one of the biggest changes is my attitude toward work.
Working with computers and information technology, I am wired for problem solving, explanation and logic. However, there is much that I cannot control about how my coworkers and our customers use and relate to that technology. And there is very little I can control about the policies and security requirements of our work environment. Over the past ten or so years, I’ve transitioned from trying to explain those policies, requirements, and related actions to working with them where I can and working around them when necessary.
In general, I have a lot of opinions that are diametrically opposed to what is actually implemented in my workplace. Specifically, I do NOT believe that most of what my colleagues consider a crisis actually is. I really don’t believe that the day-to-day operations and administrative requirements are “do or die” and the world will end if there not accomplished perfectly. Among my colleagues, those of a similar age and time in the workplace tend to feel the same. Getting older seems to ease the need to be defined mainly by our accomplishments, especially as related to job performance; the belief that we can control our world; and the willingness to run on the perpetual hamster wheel of worry and stress. The only downside that I see is a lower tolerance for bullshit and those traits and habits in others. (Wait, is that a downside?)