Your Career in a 401(k) World
Building Career Resilience: Networks vs. "Circles of Connection"

Sanctuary and Healing Our Relationships with Work

Sanctuaries

 

Many of the people I talk to and many I work with are in pain about work. They have been treated poorly by toxic bosses, stressed out colleagues and uncaring organizations that regard them as  disposable.   Job requirements are constantly shifting and they live with daily uncertainty about the stability of their jobs. And as I've discussed before, the quality of many jobs from an employee perspective is trending downward, with expectations at all-time highs and wages and working conditions at some all-time lows. 

I work with a lot of people who are unemployed and their lay-offs have been handled poorly, leaving them bitter and angry about work. The job search process itself is a daily exercise in rejection and humiliation and the longer people are out of work, the worse things become. 

I know I'm not helping things either, talking about how technology is eating your job, how we live in a 401(k) world and encouraging you to have a lay-off plan.  I'm trying to communicate with you about the realities of modern work, to encourage you to make changes now, but these realities are bitter pills to swallow for many of us and only add to the fear. 

So I've been thinking a lot lately about the concept of sanctuary and how we need some sort of safe space to develop our career resilience and heal our relationships with work. Many of us are caught up in anxiety and stress  (sometimes without even realizing it because the pace is so ridiculously demanding) and we need a break from this cycle. It's difficult to replace unhealthy career habits with healthier ones if we don't give ourselves the space to breathe. 

As I've thought about the work issues so many people face, the ways in which work has become a source of ongoing anxiety, pressure and toxic relationships, the concept of sanctuary has continually popped into my head. It has seemed, in many ways, the necessary container for the transformations we need to go through to adjust to our changing work circumstances and develop the habits that will allow us to thrive. 

A sanctuary is safe space, a refuge from outside dangers and pressures. It is a source of help and comfort, giving relief in times of difficulty and protection from the outer world. 

You are not meant to live permanently in a sanctuary. It's a way station for a particular time of your life. It gives you the sustenance and support you need to carry on when you're ready to resume your journey. 

There are few sanctuaries available to us in modern life that will allow us to heal and grow strong. We also have a peculiar distaste for the idea of retreat into sanctuary. It might mean we can't hack it at work or we feel we don't have the time for such luxuries. 

But as I see it, sanctuary--safe space--is increasingly critical to our ability to thrive in this strange new world. We cannot live indefinitely in fight or flight mode. We need a break to re-group and restore before moving on to the challenges and opportunities that await us. And we need connection to people who understand and support our need for safety and who can provide us with the resources to continue to the next phase. 

Resilient people recognize when toxic emotions and experiences have eroded their ability to respond well and take steps to heal those places that have been injured. Seeking sanctuary when you need it is not a sign of disease. It's a healthy response to difficult circumstances. 

I think we need more sanctuaries and more opportunities to recognize, acknowledge and work with the changing dynamics of our jobs. We need safe space to mourn what has been lost and to look for the opportunities in our new circumstances. And we need support and resources that will help us continue on our journey. 

Where do you find sanctuary in your life? How do you use it to heal and restore? 

 

Comments

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Michelle...I love this post because it echoes what I have come to realize over the past year, but I hadn't named that realization until I read this. Sanctuary is now its name. I have a demanding career that I have a love/not-so-love relationship with on any given day or hour. I love it when I am "on" ...when I am challenged and energized by the challenge. I don't love it when I am tired or emotionally spent. When I get to that point I know it's time to escape and recharge. I find my Sanctuary in things I like to do even though I don't do them to perfection. I have been painting furniture just because I can turn something ordinary into something beautiful...at least to me. I am now learning to make my own beautiful paper. I find Sanctuary in turning my goal-oriented, performance-based left brain OFF, and turning my dreamy, whimsical right brain on. Thanks for giving my realization a name. Sanctuary.

So good to hear from you Vicky! And really glad to hear that this post resonated with you. Your use of creative/artistic strategies for re-energizing and re-charging is what I do too. Turning off that left brain is really important and I find that art and creative pursuits can be a welcome respite from all the anxiety my left brain is so good at manufacturing.

I've also been reading a great on resilience that talks about needing to create refuge (another nice word for the concept) through people, places and things. I'm planning to write a follow-up post at some point as I want to really explore this sanctuary concept further.

Thanks for sharing your experience!

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