Managing the Mental Highs and Lows of Your Career

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The current challenges faced by the 800,000 federal employees affected by the ongoing government shutdown is driving home a reality for all workers these days: Over the span of your career, there are bound to be many psychological ups and downs.

With the constantly evolving job market (which is currently looking bright, fortunately) and the trend toward workers switching jobs—and even careers—more frequently, the potential for those highs and lows have been compounded. To successfully navigate your career requires resilience, planning, and developing some key strategies to manage both unexpected and ongoing change.

Natasha Oates, a therapist and life coach for young professionals, has seen the toll that job stress can exact on people, particularly when they lose their job or have a major career setback.

Oates offered up her top three tips for effectively managing the mental and emotional stress that comes with just about any career.

Get Support from Family and Friends. 

Too often, job-related stress drives people to withdraw, or vow to weather the challenge alone, thinking they don’t want to burden family or friends. Yet Oates says reaching out for support and accepting help—financial assistance or motivational words—is essential to get through a career challenge. “Losing our village mentality is one of the factors in the rise of mental health challenges,” Oates says. Support can also include emergency programs offered around the country that assist with food purchases and paying overdue utility bills.

Get Centered.

When you’re dealing with career problems that are beyond your control, shift your focus to aspects of your life that you can control. “You can’t force the paycheck to come sooner, but you can create a plan to start an emergency savings fund for 2019 after this subsides,” Oates says. “You can pour your energy into learning ways to develop more than one stream of income. For many investing time in other things that they’re passionate about, such as community work, is also a great stress reliever.” Oates also suggests developing a self-care regimen that could include daily meditation, exercise, spending more time with loved ones, and/or listening to inspirational podcasts.

Get Professional Help.

There is no shame in seeking professional help to work your way through a career challenge. “Seeing a therapist can be one of the best things during this difficult time,” Oates says. “This is especially important if you aren’t able to function well and are having difficulty coping.” You may even be able to tap resources provided by your employer, or if you were recently laid off, by your former employer. Many employers offer Employee Assistance Programs that provide several free sessions of counseling. In addition, check to see if there are resources in your community, such as support groups for those dealing with unemployment or work-related stressors.

Your career is bound to have ups and downs, many of which aren’t under your complete control. Using the above tips to get through the challenging times will make your inevitable achievements and promotions all the more rewarding.

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