If you are feeling anxious at this time, you are not alone. Many of us are in a place of insecurity right now. We are concerned about our health and the health of our families and friends during this pandemic, and for many of us, this stress is further exacerbated by job and financial instability. Unemployment numbers are higher than ever and many of our community members are currently out of work or soon will be. We’ve already learned some things we can do when we’re out of work. Now, it’s time to dive into ways we can combat career anxiety when it inevitably comes our way.
Determine the Source of the Stress.
Are you worried about paying the bills, or are you scared that you will always feel purposeless and bored at work? Are you nervous you won’t be able to provide for your loved ones or are you anxious about all the quiet time that comes with unemployment? It’s important to ask this question because you can only respond to your fears if you can get to the heart of them, so ask yourself now: what is at the very center of your career anxiety?
Talk to a Professional.
In her brilliant book Maybe You Should Talk to Someone, psychotherapist and author Lori Gottlieb says that therapy is all about helping people to change their narrative. If you have a pervasive and unhelpful narrative around your career that is leading to panic and anxiety, therapists can often help you to rewrite that narrative in a way that will serve you. Additionally, many therapists have at least taken a class in career counseling to where they can offer guidance for those struggling with career anxiety. Many therapists are currently offering virtual and phone appointments for new clients.
Stay Connected With Trusted Supervisors, Mentors, and Family/Friends.
Set aside time each day to check in with the people who have helped you on your career journey so far, you can also get guidance and support from them as you’re facing career anxiety. Our support networks are especially important now so set up weekly digital check ins with your crew. Maybe you can even have a discussion about ways you can offer support to each other during this time.
Look for Inspiration to Keep Up Motivation.
When it comes to #careergoals, who do you think has it all figured out? It can be helpful to have a role model to look up to. This person can help you to keep up motivation even when you are feeling hopeless. If you can get connected with this person, and ask for advice, now is the time to do so! If your person happens to be someone like Oprah (who is maybe not so easily accessible), then consume videos, articles, and content by that person to keep up motivation and hope. These people started right where you are so view them as blueprints for your success!
Distract Yourself and Focus on Something Else….At Least for a Bit!
Let me let you in on a little secret: Sometimes it’s okay to be avoidant (my therapist said so!). If you are having overwhelming emotions, sometimes the best thing you can do for yourself is distract yourself. Forget about your career stress for a bit. Walk your dog, binge watch a few episodes of your favorite Netflix show, or call a friend. You can focus on the serious stuff later, but a time out can often give you the perspective you need to return to the drawing board with new strategies and motivation.
When we are anxious, it is easy to jump into the future or harbor on the mistakes of our past. Mindfulness reminds us to be present and focus on where we are in the here and now. When you find yourself getting carried away by stress — When will I get a new job? How will I support my family? When will this all be over? — take a deep breath for four counts, hold for four counts, and let it out. Ground yourself in the present and focus on things you’re grateful for. This will calm you down and help you to make decisions from a clear and peaceful place.
Do, Don’t Dwell.
This is a motto I came up with myself a few years ago when I noticed how much time I spent overthinking and how little time I spent actually confronting my issues.
The next time you are feeling stressed and find yourself dwelling on all the scary stuff, DO something. Ask yourself: What is the next best step?… And then take that step! If you are feeling nervous about job security, ask your supervisor outright what job security looks like or create a job searching plan for yourself just in case you get laid off.
“Do, Don’t Dwell” is not a perfect science, but it can be especially helpful for those external processors who like to keep busy when they are dealing with stress. Each little step we take counts in the grand scheme of things.
How are you dealing with anxiety in the time of Covid-19? What are some steps you (or your workplace) have taken to cope with job and financial instability?