Lessons from the First Week Back to Work Bookmark and Share

Lessons from the First Week Back to Work

It’s been 12 years since I have started a new job. I had forgotten how physically and emotionally draining the first few days, weeks and maybe even months can be.

After a whirlwind first day, spent meeting new coworkers and going through a massive project list followed by rushing home to wolf down food and get my daughter to gymnastics, I crawled into bed exhausted. Yet sleep eluded me.

My brain was stuck on repeat: “must process, must process.” I tossed and turned and had weird dreams. When the alarm finally went off, my inner introvert pulled her head back under the covers, sobbing, “Please don’t make me go! I can’t do it. I’m not ready!”

But duty called, so I yanked her out of bed, got her dressed and shoved her out the door. Day two was more of the same, and though I expected to feel mounting anxiousness, instead, I felt numb.

After a year and a half of trying to get myself to a healthy state of mind and body, my inner self felt bitch slapped. My brain was standing there with its mouth hung open as if it had just received the most shocking news—which in some ways it had.

The constant flow of information and conversations with strangers had knocked me for a real loop. Twelve years ago, I would have walked into my new office gung-ho and ready to tackle anything.

Now, I’m just happy I was still standing at the end of the week. Each night I fell into bed exhausted. Each morning, the thought of getting in my car to drive through traffic and work for eight hours brought me nearly to tears. I used to do this, but I simply don’t remember how I managed.

I turned to a friend for advice. She’s made every job transition imaginable and I needed an expert to help me cope. Her advice was spot-on.

  • Realize the transition phase is only temporary and as with everything it will feel like the norm pretty soon.
  • Even though you will feel like you don’t have the time, make the time to exercise!
  • Throw yourself into your job! You will get energy when you get excited about being good at your job. Use that energy to power you through! 

Having been through a few major life changes during the past few years, her advice is also perfect for any transition. Transitions, by definition, are temporary. Not by definition but also true is that transitions feel endless and they suck. They are the vast and often lengthy bridge that connects who you once were with who you’ve become. Do not look down, keep moving and believe that you will soon be on the other side.

Self-care, including exercise, is critical to surviving a transition—and it’s also really easy to forget. However, transitions require clear thinking and you can’t do that if you are sleep deprived, full of junk food, and trying out for lead spud in a couch potato production. Despite my mental exhaustion, each time I exercised last week, I felt a boost in energy.

Half-assed transitions don’t work. You have to be all in. Case in point, my move to Colorado was brutal. It took nearly three years before I finally felt settled. Why? Because part of me was still pining for my home state. My move back to said state was much different. Once I got past my initial gigantic hysterical temper tantrum about moving back, I pushed full speed ahead without looking hesitation. The result is that within a few months, things felt like home.

The fastest way to get through a transition is to commit. By Wednesday of last week, I was throwing myself into my job and guess what? Things started coming together. Sure I was still busy and tired, but I also had a strong sense of why I had wanted this job so much, and that made things feel more manageable.

I also have added one more bit of advice to this list from my friend: lean on your support network. Lean hard if you have to. I realized this on the last day of my first week. As I rushed out the door, my husband called out, “stop trying to be super working mom.” I responded quickly with, “I’m not, but I was lying to both of us.

Over the weekend, during our week one debriefing, my husband emphasized that now that I was working fulltime, I couldn’t keep doing everything around the house and with our daughter that I had been doing. I needed to back off and let him help. He doesn’t want me to return to the role of sleep-deprived, stressed-out lunatic any more than I do.

We are now revisiting the child care schedule I was so adamant about to see if his proposal may work better—or as he says, “play to our strengths.” Much as I hate to admit it, the man has been a keen observer of my strengths and weaknesses for 18 years now, whereas I am relatively new to any kind of self awareness. Sometimes he sees solutions that I don’t.

Week two starts tomorrow, and I’m keeping these lessons in mind. I’m also reinforcing the most important lesson: Even though life has changed, I am in control of how I react to those changes. That simple recognition has made me more mindful of how life’s transitions are affecting me in the moment, and that’s made me more apt to take care of myself.

I was lucky enough to have President’s Day off today—and I had a lot of plans for doing a whole lot of nothing. Instead of enjoying the day of solitude, however, I spent today and all of yesterday tending to my daughter and her raging fever. C’est la vie. At least I got to wear pajamas all day. 

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  1. Rebecca

    Rebecca on 02/16/2015 6:14 p.m. #

    Congrats on the new job, Heidi! And thanks for the words of wisdom about transition. I needed that! Inward and onward! ;)

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