Is Anxiety Getting in the Way of your Career Decisions?

By Dr Fiona Day

At The Career Psychologist we know that nearly all of our clients have feelings of anxiety around their careers, and also that fear of change can keep many of us trapped in unfulfilling jobs.  It is classic career paralysis.

Here’s an evidence-based 5 step plan to help manage your career anxiety with the aim of helping you to start getting unstuck:

  1. Recognise what is happening. Start by paying attention to your thoughts, feelings and bodily sensations. They might be a big soup of difficult experiences, but little by little we can learn to separate them out from each other.  Start to put labels to your experience, such as noticing that there is a feeling of anxiety present at this moment. Naming it also helps to see it for what it is, and to put some distance between you and the thought, feeling or sensation, such as ‘I am aware that there is a feeling of anxiety present at this moment’. This helps us to step back from the difficult emotions and create some space around the intense feelings so that we don’t get so caught up in them.
  2. Pay attention to how often the anxious thoughts, feelings and sensations are present. All emotions serve a purpose and can give us valuable insights into our situation. If the difficult emotions are there a lot of the time and interfering with our ability to sleep, work or live our normal lives, it can be a sign that you need to seek professional help from a Cognitive Behaviour Therapist, community mental health service (search the internet for ‘IAPT’ plus your town if you are in the UK), or a General Practitioner. If your symptoms are not too severe then there is a lot of self-help that you can do to help to manage your symptoms outlined below.
  3. Visualise your thoughts as leaves on a stream. We’ve created a short mindfulness practice for you to listen to in a quiet moment where you can learn to mentally place your thoughts on leaves and watch them flow downstream. This is a skill that can bring some space to the intense feelings and help you to refocus on taking wise action.
  4. Call to mind all the resources which can help you. What resources do you have inside yourself, in other people, and in the world that can help you at this time? Our mindfulness practice includes a visualisation exercise on the resources you have to support you during your career change.
  5. Take wise action. What can you do right now that would be helpful and kind to yourself? When you are feeling a lot of anxiety symptoms, it’s important to slow things down and to focus on doing one thing at a time with your full attention. Paying attention to a conversation with another person, relaxing and really enjoying a bath or a shower, doing gentle stretching such as yoga, listening to a piece of music, looking at a nature scene or being outdoors can all help.

If you notice your mind slipping into thoughts about the past or future then kindly but firmly bring your attention to what you want to focus on, and do this repeatedly. When your mind is feeling less scattered, ask yourself what small step can you take today towards improving your working life? Do it, and get a sense of agency as you little by little move forwards in your career.

If you want to know more about The Career Psychologist and how we help people to get unstuck, contact us today. We’d love to hear from you.

Career Change, Developing Coaches - ACT Training, Getting Unstuck coaching

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