The Career Change Recovery Recipe

by Ross McIntosh

Rob’s post about the importance of energy management in career transition resonated with me because since I started my career change process over four years ago I’ve come to recognise the importance of recovery in my own life.

So in this post I wanted to look at what the research says about psychological recovery, particularly through demanding career transitions.

Professor Sabine Sonnentag has led much of the research into recovery processes and found that recovery is particularly important if our existing work or career change process is draining our energy and positive mood.  Without recovery, transition slows.  Indeed, without adequate recovery, the initial load of the stresses and strains of career change (such as fatigue and low mood) can develop into chronic health conditions.

So what makes a good recovery activity?

Sonnentag’s research presents four important ingredients of recovery experiences, which are set out below.  The most important recovery activities for me have been cycling and cartooning, though not at the same time.

Both activities meet all 4 criteria and I feel like they really deliver for me in terms of fun, creativity and fitness.  They’ve added huge amounts of energy, perspective and creativity to my career change.

The Four Key Ingredients to Psychological Recovery

  1. Control.  The first ingredient is a sense of control over leisure time. Therefore, scheduling leisure activities in your calendar not only makes the activity more likely to happen but it also provides a greater sense of purpose and control over your life generally.
  2. Mastery.  Mastery activities are those which allow us to learn, progress and develop, and these are strongly associated with psychological recovery. Whether you decide to learn a musical instrument, get on your bike or learn to dance the Charleston, anything that allows you to develop mastery over time will aid recovery. I’ve been able to track my cycling progress using the Strava App and it’s been rewarding to watch my performance and fitness improve.
  3. Relaxation. Transitions are psychologically demanding – so recognising the need for relaxation and self-compassion is key.  Sonnentag’s research unsurprisingly indicates that physical pursuits can be one of the most effective leisure time activities, but taking a walk in the countryside (Hartig et al, 2003), meditation (Grossman et al, 2004), listening to music (Pelletier, 2004) or even a long hot bath (Bourne, 2000) also have a positive impact.
  4. Psychological detachment. The temptation is to fill every spare available minute outside of work working on your career change.  However this leaves people exhausted and short of inspiration.  Sonnentag’s research emphasises the importance of psychological detachment, and in particular refraining from using the same functional systems as those required at work. So, if you spend much of the day sitting in front of a computer, you’ll need to shut your laptop and put your phone on silent every now and again to allow your mind to recharge

How are you doing on these 4 elements?

We’d love to hear below the line…


Career Change, Developing Coaches - ACT Training

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Subscribe to the blog

Subscribe to the Headstuck Blog and be amongst the first to find out when new Getting Unstuck content is posted.

Latest Tweets