In Defense of the Devil You Know

If you don't see any immediate opportunities, make a case to your manager for creating your own, Levit suggested. But, she cautioned, "Do not approach your boss from the perspective of being miserable, and do not sound like you are complaining because this will prompt the response, 'You're lucky to have a job.'"

"Instead," Levit said, "say that you're looking for more ways to contribute to the organization during what you know are tough times."

Then propose two or three ideas for broadening your responsibilities. And be sure to make the case for how each will benefit the company.

Other ways to reduce your office angst: take up a new hobby, hit the gym (might I suggest a rigorous kickboxing class?) or spend extra time with friends and family.

Take a Little 'Me' Time

"The more fulfilling your life is outside of work, the less the way you feel about your day job will matter," Levit said.

Robin, an information technology worker in New Jersey who asked that her real name not be used, concurs. To improve her quality of life, she negotiated a flexible work schedule that allows her to avoid the rush-hour commute.

"I get in very early and leave early," said Robin, who's biding her time until the market improves and she's able to find something else. "I usually work through lunch. I was also able to wrangle one day of telecommuting a week, which does help immensely."

In other words, less time at the office, fewer headaches.

Researching your next career move can also help ease your workplace pain. Break the necessary sleuth work into bite-sized pieces -- 15 minutes here, 30 minutes there -- so you're able to keep the momentum going throughout the workweek.

"Before you go to bed at night," Levit said, "do a self-assessment of your values, how you like to work and what you'd be compelled to do even if you never got paid. On your lunch hour, research careers and industries that map to your skills and interests."

Start with the Internet and work your way up to picking people's brains, taking relevant classes and scheduling informational interviews. By the time the job market improves, you'll be that much more prepared to nab a new position or start fresh in a new field.

Give Back

Focusing on someone else's needs or problems can be a wonderful way to stop dwelling on your own. To that end, Levit recommends mentoring a younger colleague at your company or in your industry. See if your employer or favorite professional association has a mentorship program in place. If not, invite that wet-behind-the-ears assistant who has been peppering you with questions to join you on your coffee break and let him or her pick your brain a few minutes a week.

If you'd rather not spend one more second talking shop, see if your organization has a corporate volunteer program that can place you with a charitable or social service organization in need. If not, find a volunteer gig of your own. Web sites such as Idealist and VolunteerMatch are a great place to start.

Volunteering Improves Outlook

"Volunteering can improve your feeling about yourself and your purpose in the world," said licensed psychotherapist Toni Galardi, author of "The LifeQuake Phenomenon: How to Thrive (Not Just Survive) in Times of Personal and Global Upheaval."

"Your purpose does not have to come from your job."

Even one volunteer shift can help boost your attitude at the office the next day, Galardi said. As the psychotherapist put it, "I can't tell you how many times I've seen people who, after volunteering, wanted to slap themselves for complaining about their job."

Michelle Goodman is a freelance writer and former cubicle dweller. She is author of "My So-Called Freelance Life: How to Survive and Thrive as a Creative Professional for Hire" and "The Anti 9-to-5 Guide: Practical Career Advice for Women Who Think Outside the Cube." Click here for more information.

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