Simple strategies for lowering your career anxiety
It can be easy to get trapped drowning in a whirlpool of negative career thoughts. Worries and anxieties circling around your head. Judgements and harsh realities in big, angry bold text running through your mind like Donald Trump’s Twitter feed. “You don’t have the guts to make this move. You don’t have what it takes.”
Wow! It’s time to counter this career anxiety spiral. But this is easier said than done right. When it comes to lowering your feelings of career anxiety you can’t just turn them off. You need a strategy and you need tools. Here are some of our favourite tools for quieting the career anxious mind.
Develop a mindfulness and meditation practice
We all have monkey minds. Wild and uncontrollable thoughts can easily take over when left unchecked. Patterns of thinking regularly build up and compound on one another and before you know it you’re thinking a certain way, a whole lot of the time. That’s why it’s so helpful to create a regular practice that soothes and quietens the mind. One of the best practices we’ve found is mindfulness practices and meditation.
You can start by simply noticing your thoughts without judging them. Taking a step back from your running brain to observe what you’re thinking. This practice can then develop into starting to lower and let go of some of your career anxieties. There are numerous ways of starting to develop a mindfulness practice and these are some of our favourite ways to get started:
- Download a mindfulness app like Headspace or Calm and put aside 5-10 minutes a day to clear your mind.
- Focus on your breathing throughout the day while you’re performing daily habits like brushing your teeth, sitting on the train or walking. Focus on and bringing your mind back to your breath (even as your mind darts everywhere). This will help to slow the quick pace of your thoughts and over time will give you the power to centre yourself even in times of stress.
Challenge your preconceived career beliefs
As soon as you enter into the world you’re being fed different beliefs about certain job and career paths. Which jobs suit which gender. Which careers are more valuable than others. Which careers will suit you. How hard you should work. Often career anxieties can be a product of the expectations and career beliefs that we’ve been brought up with. Have you ever sat down and thought about what those beliefs are? Have you ever questioned whether they are helping or hindering you?
Start by sitting down and writing a list of all of the things you expect from yourself from your career. What expectations have you set up around how much you need to earn, the type of job that is respectable, how hard you need to work or what is meaningful for you. If you haven’t really examined what beliefs are lurking below the surface they can start to cause some pretty serious career anxieties unless they are challenged.
So, write down a list of your own expectations of your career or job. Once you’ve done this spend time questioning how these beliefs are impacting on your thoughts and anxieties. It is great to do this type of inquiry with someone else so that they can present a different viewpoint or challenge some of your preconceived ideas.
That leads us nicely onto the next point!
Ask for help, voice your concerns and seek support
When career concerns are kept inside the pressure can start to balloon out of control. Without somewhere to ease the compounding worries and pressure it can be difficult to keep those anxieties in check. Sometimes simply voicing your concerns to someone you trust (who is a good listener) can take a big weight off your shoulders.
Seeking out help might be creating a non-judgemental space where you can voice your concerns or it could be asking someone for pretty specific advice on a job or industry. Whatever the situation is try to reach out and ask for help. This is a great way to put things into perspective and you might realise that things aren’t as bad or disastrous as they seem.
Move to action quickly
More waiting around. More time to think. Time to worry. Time to think about all of the things you could have done….
Spending too much time thinking can become paralysing. This is not to say you should never stop, but we recommend thinking about career decisions as more of an action sport than as a sit in solitude and contemplate exercise. If you’re feeling stuck we recommend experimenting and actively exploring new options. Can you create micro-career experiences or meet with a range of people who are doing jobs that you’re interested in? Can you voice your concerns and ask for help? It might even be starting a little side hustle or hobby that brings a bit of fun and creativity into your week.
Finding ways to feel like you’re moving forward can help to get you out of your head and into the joys of discovering and learning new things.
The most important thing!
These are just some simple strategies that you can use to lower your career anxiety. We do highly recommend that if you feel like you have a lot of anxiety related to decisions surrounding your career that you go and talk to your GP and potentially book in to see a counsellor or psychologist. Having a neutral and supportive person to speak to about your concerns can be life changing and have a tremendous positive impact on your general mental health and wellbeing.
If you’re looking to seek help the numbers to call in Australia are:
- Contact your local GP
- Kids Helpline is Australia’s only free 24/7 confidential and private counselling service specifically for children and young people aged 5 to 25. Call 1800 55 1800.
- Lifeline provides 24-hour crisis counselling, support groups and suicide prevention services. Call 13 11 14.·
- Beyondblue aims to increase awareness of depression and anxiety and reduce stigma. Call 1300 22 4636, 24 hours / 7 days a week.
- Butterfly Foundation’s National Helpline, ED HOPE, is a free, confidential service that provides information, counselling and treatment referral for people with eating disorders, and body image and related issues. Call 1800 33 4673, 8am – midnight AEST / 7 days a week.
- eheadspace provides mental health and wellbeing support, information and services to young people aged 12 to 25 years and their families. Call 1800 650 890.