Don’t Beat Yourself Up for Working A 9 to 5 Job - Here's how to Cope

Rachel Yerks

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9 to 5 jobs are challenging. You end up giving up most of your day to an employer, only to have a few hours of free time for yourself at the end of the day. It’s not a balanced life.

Even if you like your job, it is tough for anyone to have their private life limited to the evening, [or day if you work the night shift].

As someone who has recently made the jump to a 9–5 from the somewhat carefree college life, here’s what I’ve learned helps when you’re feeling down or stuck.

Remind Yourself Why You Have A Job

Why do you work? Is this job a stepping stone for the job you really want? Do you work to support your family? To have nice things in an apartment you love? To survive?

Your job pays for what you need and want. It is a necessary ‘evil’ until it can be replaced, if ever. It’s okay if you don’t want to replace it.

I happen to be one of the people who does want to replace it, and this is why:

Even if you like your job, there’s something you’d rather be doing. Unless that thing you’d rather be doing pays the same, it’s not happening anytime soon. You need to accept this fact.

Unless…

You Work On Side Hustles

You get to work, writing an article a day on Medium until you have enough passive income to qualify as a job. Your carpentry business refurbishing old dressers goes viral, and you get an invitation to sell your handmade soaps in the local pharmacy.

Whatever ‘works’ for you. Try to do something other than your 9 to 5 every day to contribute to your bank account.

You’ll be stuck at the 9 to 5 forever unless you manage to save enough to retire, which will be decades away. Unless you start planning, early, and create other income streams.

Not to mention a side hustle makes you feel good. This is something you’re doing for yourself to earn money, not earning money from working for someone else.

It’s different — a good different. You’ll feel more capable and confident. You can earn money without a boss, and your side hustle is proof of that fact.

Create A Strong Work/Life Boundary

Shower, sit outside and clear your head.

Shower time is one time that is inexplicably yours — unless you shower with someone else. But I’d imagine you shower alone sometimes, too.

I take showers immediately after work each day, before eating dinner. It’s a boundary between work and my personal life. It lets me de-stress, and all my cares float away down the drain.

Create your own boundary to signal the workday is over and you do, in fact, have a personal life. The phone is silenced at 5 PM sharp and cooking begins, you listen to a romantic book on your commute home, whatever works for you.

It’s going to be more difficult to set up these boundaries if you have a boss who constantly works longer hours than you do and needs your assistance. My only suggestion is to do what works for you to lower the amount of time talking to your boss outside of work hours, and try to limit it to email. Emails feel less invasive than phone calls and texting at all hours of the night, at least to me.

As someone who works 100% remotely, I find it essential to have some semblance of a boundary. I make sure to pack up all my work equipment at the end of each and every day. I put my laptop away for a few hours to distance myself, and only take it out at night to write.

Pro tip: try to get out of the house for a bit after work if you work remotely. Fresh air will help you feel less cloudy and provide you with some much-needed distance from your assignments.

Make The Most of Your Free Time

Side hustles and boundaries are necessary for this. You’ll save yourself from work stress bleeding into your personal life through a strong, self-created boundary or ritual.

Side hustles are usually completed in some aspect of your free time. I personally recommend no more than an hour per day being used as side hustle time — relaxation is important. I can only tolerate about 45 minutes of side hustling before getting antsy.

I like to spend time cuddling and cooking with my partner, tidying up the house, and playing videogames.

Try not to get sucked into the black holes that are YouTube and Netflix. It’s hard to enjoy your free time when it feels over in an instant.

“Free time was the most precious time, when you should be doing what you loved, or at least slowing down enough to remember what made your life worthwhile and happy.” ― Amy Tan in The Bonesetter’s Daughter

Think of what truly makes you feel fulfilled and happy. It’s probably not Netflix. It’s spending time with friends, having a quiet bath with candles, or reading a great book.

Have fun in your free time, or relax. Don’t waste your free time doing something you’ll regret later. The only asset you ever run out of is time.

These tips are for everyone, people who love their jobs, and people who don’t. Jobs are stressful. Jobs make you dependent on others, and those others often aren’t ideal.

It’s better to unwind than explode. Ask anyone and they’ll tell you the same.

Remind yourself why having a job is necessary. What benefits does it give you? Work on more pleasant side hustles to get those same benefits. You may be able to work more for yourself than anyone else someday.

Create a strong boundary between your work and your leisure. Leave as much stress at the ‘door’ as possible. Once the door is closed, make the most of what time is left in the day.

Find activities (and people) you truly enjoy and spend your time on them.

Time is the most valuable asset in the world. Time is money, happiness, and many, many other things. It is how you live your life, and running out of time is why you regret not doing activities earlier in your life.

Decide what you want out of what limited time we all have. Better late than never. Get started today if you have the means and mental capacity to do so.

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Owings Mills, MD
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