Since the start of the pandemic, I’ve been working on a project for my company to rehaul our database and client-relations management software. Anyone who has ever tackled these kinds of massive tech overhauls, especially when your area of expertise is not tech-oriented, it can be a source of significant stress and anxiety.

When you’re tackling this kind of project, you have to be able to know where you want your organization to be years down the road while simultaneously able to dive into your database with a microscope to dissect areas for improvement. You have to be prepared to navigate multiple vendors, most of whom are more focused on trying to sell you a product than provide the tech support you’re looking for, all while preparing and training colleagues to embrace a new system–that age-old struggle of getting everyone excited to embrace change.

In the midst of these stressors, my colleagues and I were venting our frustrations on a call with each other when one colleague chimed in, “We need to just take a step back,” she said, “We’re in the middle of a pandemic. I have a friend who just lost her job at a nonprofit, another friend who just found out she has a serious illness. Black and brown people are struggling to win basic human rights. We’re gonna be okay. This project, in the grand scheme of things, will be okay. We have our jobs and we’re not in a bad place.”

Perspective. A part of me wanted to roll my eyes and continue to be annoyed with these stressors on the job. A more important part of me desperately needed to hear what my colleague had to say. There will always be these on-the-job worries, whether big or small projects. And because we live in the bubbles we create around ourselves, we always take our own struggles and stressors a little more seriously than those that require our empathy.

But sometimes, we need to pause, to step back from the cause of our own agony, to gain much-needed perspective. That doesn’t mean, within our own bubble, there isn’t good reason for our stress, or that empathy should somehow make our own stresses illegitimate. It’s very simply to say that pause and perspective can help us re-evaluate the moment before us.

If you’re like me, you’re tired of the word “unprecedented” or hearing the phrase, “with all that’s going on right now” to describe the times we’re living through, and yet, there’s a reason we keep seeing those words repeated like never before. In these times, we should be gentle with ourselves–and with our colleagues, our friends, our families.

Even in the professional workspace, we owe it to ourselves and one another to take the step back and put our health and wholeness first. That may mean giving ourselves and those working for us the time and space needed to find much-needed relief.

Those projects and the worries that come with them will always be waiting for a time we can tackle them with the right mindset.

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