The real source of work stress

It has been five weeks since I left my editor’s red pen in the office and headed home.

It has been a revelation. For the first few weeks, I castigated for not doing the right thing at the right time and not doing anything well. When I was writing, I thought I ought to be working, and vice versa. My aim was for every minute of the day to be productive. I feared failure at every turn.

I was baffled. I had assumed that I would leave work stress in the office. Here I am in my own home, I thought. I feel judged, undervalued and criticized. But hang on a minute – I’m the only one here!

It was a huge lesson for me to discover that a significant source of stress is not in the office, but in the space between our ears.

I don’t mean to imply that work is not stressful in itself. In tough times, both private business and public sector organisations are under enormous pressure, and this gets transferred to employees. My own husband suffered nine months of severe anxiety and depression because of his previous role as deputy head of a school.

But I am fascinated to discover how much pressure comes from the negative voices inside our own heads.


Last week, I started volunteering in a community café. On my first morning, I got confused by a multiple order while a queue was forming, and the till emitted a high-pitched shriek to let everyone know that I had messed up. I was mortified, and apologised again and again. The owner was lovely and kept saying it didn’t matter. Hours later it dawned on me that I had never worked in a café before. I had had only a few short hours to learn the job. I am not superhuman. And that’s OK.

In many workplaces, there are external pressures and critical voices. The trick – and here’s the difficult part – is not to join in with them. Let the boss between your ears be a good boss: encouraging, accepting, challenging but kind.

Things have changed in my workplace now. I have been enjoying my writing as my first baby – sorry, novel! – has come home with encouraging and hugely useful notes from my writing mentor. I have spent lovely time with my parents and with friends, from the youngest (just under 2) to the oldest (just turned 80). I have volunteered at the Winter Shelter for the homeless and at the community café – both enormously inspiring. I have been for walks and runs in the woods.  I have worked, invoiced and even been paid. I have written a talk for church. I have been sprucing up the house and only today forced an admission from Jon that he is thrilled with the tidiness of the cupboards.

Moneysaving tip for today: buy big and eke it out

We have leftover casserole from Jon’s party, frozen in batches, which makes a gorgeous meal every couple of weeks or so. This was made from chuck steak, which is not expensive at all – ask your butcher. We are also still eating the leftovers from the enormous whole salmon (price about £10) that I stuffed with herbs and lemon and baked on Boxing Day ( The frozen leftovers are lovely with risotto – put the fish in at the last minute as you don’t want to cook it again, just heat it through.

Whole chickens and even turkeys might seem expensive, but if you buy big to allow for leftovers, it is much more economical than buying individual breasts, legs or slices, and you can also make stock and soup.

Finally – marinate your own olives


The ones sold in plastic pots are really expensive. Buy a big jar of olives in brine from Lidl or your best low-cost supermarket and keep it in the fridge. Put a bit of olive oil (again, Lidl and there’s no need to buy extra-virgin) in a smaller jar and add whatever flavouring you like: finely chopped garlic, lemon zest and fresh herbs are all lovely. Rinse a few olives at a time to get rid of the salty water and keep them in the oil until they’re needed. You can keep the same oil in the fridge for a month or so and replace the olives. The oil itself is lovely with bread or couscous.

Life can still be tasty when you’re mean!

Please share your own money-saving tips, or your work stress wisdom – I’d love to hear from you.



9 thoughts on “The real source of work stress

  1. I needed to replace the filters to my HVAC system (supposed to monthly, but…) and went to our local big box hardware store, where I bought two pricey filters. I just was really unhappy with paying that much,
    so I looked online and found the same filters, in a package of six, for what I’d just paid for one. And free shipping! I immediately ordered them and took back the two I had OVERPAID for to get a refund. I am thrilled at my frugality!


  2. Fantastic! And I’m told by other frugal people that you can do the same with all kinds of things like hoover parts and printer cartridges: you can find the actual ones that work – not cheap alternatives – for much less online. We have to share this stuff and we’ll all stop being ripped off!


  3. Hello, I just came across your blog via Life After Money. I’ve just had a browse through your posts and wish you well with your new life. I was retired/made redundant from a council job in 2010. I finished in the June and hoped to have a long warm (?) summer to play in my garden. If my memory serves me well – and often it doesn’t – we had the most miserable summer ever that year and I wondered what I was going to do with myself from then on. It took me about two months to come to terms with having no ‘structure’ to my day but once I got used to that, happy days! I love being at home and find my time whizzes by and now wonder how I had time to work out of the home!! I hope you get your book published and continue to enjoy life in the snail lane. I look forward to reading about your journey in your blog. ps I used to have a blog – I guess I still do – I just don’t write anything in it for now. But I know people often go and have a look when a new comment comes along so feel free to jump over but don’t expect a new post any time soon. I’m too busy lol.


  4. Thanks! People have told me that there is a period of adjustment in which you get used to having your own decisions to make about what to do with your time. To start with, I felt as though I’d been on automatic pilot for years! Glad to hear you got used to your new life and that you now enjoy it. I love the fact that you’re known as ‘marksgran’!


  5. Until I started my own blog I was known as “Steve’s mum”. This comment just brought back that memory. I too found you from “Life after money” and we are also at the slowing stage of life but work from home too so know some of what you are going through. Keep up the good work and I look forward to following your progress. Also you are quite right, we are most of us inclined to be too hard on ourselves. It takes time to be confident that you are actually doing okay or even perhaps rather well.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re right – and we have to redefine ‘doing well’ when it doesn’t mean a fancy job title or a salary… but things like having time to listen to friends and not always bringing out the same word, ‘busy’ when someone asks how you are!


  6. I’m not sure I have any new handy tips, as I’m sure most of the frugal bloggers have already written about them. I’ve lived with very little money over the years, but have also done my fair share of spending too – as long as you have savings and no debts, life’s too short to deprive yourself completely.

    You have come up with some good ideas and also been honest about the emotions involved when you suddenly change your lifestyle – that will help people who have done the same thing but feel a bit of a failure when initially they don’t feel deliriously happy – it comes; but there is a time of adjustment

    Relating to buying things cheaply – not food – I remember when boot fairs first started properly in the UK. By that time jumble sales were few and far between; so it was all very exciting.

    Like many people I bought far too many bits and pieces – which ultimately got given away or sold very cheaply at local auction houses (boxes of things would be lucky to make £10)

    I used to enjoy charity shops, but now I give to them and don’t buy from them. I think they can be just a tempting as shops – although cheaper. If you have something specific to look for that is a good time to visit but people tend to come out with bags of stuff. In the end it becomes clutter – believe me, I know, I’ve been there!


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