The anticipation of a major change in our lives engenders a natural level of stress. The point of this natural stress is to sharpen our focus so that we negotiate the change in optimal ways. Unfortunately, for many of us, our busy, worrying minds push the stress level beyond the natural response into an exaggerated anxiety that not only begins to impair the keen focus that we need, but also impacts negatively on our bodies.
Anticipating a career change, whether it is a voluntary decision or a position we have been forced into, does rank very high in the stress stakes. Not only does work relate very directly to our sense of survival, but it also often underpins our sense of identity. Changing jobs makes us feel uncomfortable, threatened and vulnerable.
Symptoms of excessive stress vary from individual to individual, but they commonly include:
- Disrupted sleep or insomnia, anxious night waking, fearful dreaming or oversleeping
- Disrupted eating regimes – loss of appetite, over eating or binge eating
- Depression, numbness, lethargy
- Excessive worry and rumination, increased anxiety, panic attacks
- Frequent headaches
- Increased irritability
- Loss of perspective
- Increased alcohol, tobacco or drug consumption
- Inability to make a decision
We do tend to accept that changing jobs is stressful process, but rather than being victim of this stress, it is important to remember that we are in control of our circumstances and how we feel. We can choose better reactions to stressful situations and implement strategies to help us cope better.
Here are 10 ideas to help manage fear and stress during a career change:
1. Practice mindfulness – be aware of when you are feeling fear and stress so that you can actively remedy the situation by paying attention to your breathing and restoring mental clarity and a sense of peacefulness.
2. Visualise your success – interrupt those fearful worst-case scenario thoughts such as ending up homeless by instead imagining yourself doing better than you have ever done before.
3. Exercise regularly – daily physical activity gives you valuable time when the mental chatter is silenced and you feel more positive after the release of endorphins.
4. Make a written list of your worst fears and worries, and then set aside no more than 20 minutes of “worry time” each day. Read your list silently or out loud during the allocated time, and then put the fears and worries aside for the rest of the day.
5. Develop, and stick to as much structure and routine in your life as possible, so that you stay focused and moving towards your goals.
6. Identify supporters in your life – family, friends and colleagues who you can trust to lend an ear and give encouragement. Talking through your fears and worries with an empathetic person diffuses the power they have over you.
7. Get help – don’t be afraid to get professional assistance. A life or career coach, a therapist or a spiritual guide can all help you to put your situation in perspective and to focus on what you want to happen in your life.
8. Do something you enjoy every day – make an effort to keep focused on the positive by ensuring that each day you have the opportunities to enjoy yourself and to feel grateful.
9. Keep positive – it may seem trite, but a positive outlook is what gets most people through challenging situations in the best possible way.
10. Try something new – take on a new interest or hobby. If you can’t think of anything you would like to try out consider a mindful exercise regime such as yoga or tai chi.
If any of these strategies seem indulgent to you during a challenging time, it is important to remember that an excess of stress will not help you get better results from your job search.
You are more likely to get what you want if you are keen, focused, confident and in control.