Mental Health During a Career Change
Change can be a positive influence on your mental wellbeing. It can help you to obtain a new outlook on your life and even break out of behaviors no longer serving you well. This can particularly be the case when embarking on a new career path. You have the chance to get out of a rut. You also gain empowering perspectives on your talents and skills.
To get the most out of the experience, though, it is important to acknowledge that change can also be difficult. From a mental health perspective, you may find the process to be anxiety-inducing. It’s also not unusual to experience a significant amount of stress in the workplace. Indeed, one study found around half of Millennials left jobs for mental health reasons. This has the potential to be exacerbated by a new environment, people, and pressures.
So let’s take a look at some of the ways you can safeguard your mental wellness as you transition into a potentially enriching new career.
Understand the Challenges
Your first consideration should be directed at gaining a better understanding of the potential for difficulties. As with so much else, knowledge can be your key to success. There is generally greater awareness of mental health challenges, particularly among Millennials. However, you will often have the best insight into how your unique set of symptoms and sensibilities may be affected by a career change.
It can be a good idea to begin with your triggers in new circumstances. This may be especially relevant if you experience clinical anxiety or depression. While these are two very different conditions, there can be crossover symptoms — one can also cause aspects of the other. Considering what symptoms of each you tend to experience and what circumstances and surroundings influence them can be key to managing these. Think about how the process of change, the early interactions with colleagues, and even just a new space might impact your mental wellness.
This isn’t an activity that should induce or exacerbate symptoms. Rather, it’s about gaining an understanding to empower you to respond effectively. There will always be unexpected elements with a new job. But gaining a clear view of those you may be able to predict can serve to lighten your overall load. This knowledge gives you a certain amount of control over unusual circumstances. This in itself may reduce the potential for you to experience symptoms of anxiety or depression.
Have Realistic Expectations
Often, the enemy of maintaining mental wellness during a career transition is pushing your own lofty expectations for yourself. It’s only natural you want to impress your new colleagues and employer. You may even be experiencing a certain amount of imposter syndrome and try to prove yourself. But going too far in these can be a recipe for stress. As with safeguarding your mental wellbeing through any monumental challenge, you need to maintain a realistic perspective.
Carefully — and kindly — consider what your capabilities are. We all have limits and they are nothing to be ashamed of. They help prevent you from burning out. Your career transition can get a boost by understanding where your strengths lie and knowing where you can push your comfort zone. But this also requires moderation. You have to be realistic about where your strengths have the most impact and where pushing boundaries becomes toxic. Indeed, it is inadvisable to go to extremes when you first join an organization as this can both impact your wellbeing and be contrary to the key cultural values of the company. Take a step back.
It’s also important to manage your symptoms using legitimate medical information and diagnosis. The onboarding process of your new job is the perfect time to talk to your manager about their expectations. Discuss the targets of your first days and weeks as well as your overall impact. You’ll often find their expectations are far lower than you would place on yourself. This approach gives you the knowledge to adjust your activities to excel in a safe and mentally healthy way.
Prepare Your Mechanisms
Your insights into your condition are not just helpful to predict potential areas of challenge. You are also likely to have ideas about what actions and resources can best help you to cope. Making the transition to a new career is likely to be filled with activities, leaving you little space to respond when you face difficulties. As such, it’s worth preparing the components you need for your mechanisms to be effective in advance.
This might involve simply talking to your close family and friends about your potential needs. They may already know a career transition could be difficult for you. But it is for your wellbeing as much as their information that you should talk to them about it. Discuss what they can do to help you, even if this is just providing you with a quiet environment to come home to if your day has been overwhelming. If you’re moving to a new city as part of your job, it may include arranging with a friend or counselor to be available for a phone call when you arrive.
Remember, too, that your employer may have responsibilities in this regard. Mental health conditions are considered under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and there may be some accommodations you can request. If nothing else, your employer may be able to provide support for the mechanisms that empower you to excel in your professional activities.
Changing your career can be both enriching and challenging. To safeguard your mental wellness, it’s important to take stock of what areas may represent hurdles for you. Remember to set realistic expectations for your start in the position and make space to prepare any resources you think you may need during your transition. It’s not always going to be easy. But with some focus, you can put yourself into a good position to truly thrive.
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