How to cope with career anxiety amid a pandemic

There’s a lot to be anxious about at the moment.

The coronavirus pandemic has had a knock-on effect on so many different areas of our lives – from our dating routines to our socialising habits.

Our work lives are also changing (or are about to) and this is causing a lot of concern.

Whether it’s the impending economic recession that’s likely to result in a number of job losses, or the fact that the pandemic could slow career progression (and pay rises) down.

Career anxiety is rife in the current Covid-19 climate.

But the good news is experts are here to offer some some simple ways to feel less anxious about work.

Try to take emotions out of it

Craig Jackson, a professor of occupational health psychology at Birmingham City University, says: ‘Career anxieties often come with emotions attached – shame, guilt, embarrassment, anger, or fear. 

‘Try and remove yourself from these feelings and look dispassionately at what has happened with your position. Have you been manoeuvred or positioned into where you are by other forces? Do you have the power and influence to move yourself back to a non-precarious position?

‘If you’re feeling emotional (tearful, sad or panicky) do not make any decisions as you will not be at your most logical and balanced.’

This is a great rule to follow in all aspects of life – big decisions should never be made when emotions are running high. 

Keep in mind that it will pass

Anxiety thrives on uncertainty and there’s a lot of that going around at the moment.

A good way to get out of a negative cycle is to acknowledge that anxious thoughts won’t last forever.

Professor Craig adds: ‘It seems terrible now, but in the future this may be a funny story, anecdote or even a learning experience.

‘It could even be the launch point for the best thing that could happen to you. We do not always know what is around the corner – and sometimes it is a good thing awaiting us. 

‘The current situation will not last and things will pass so keep optimistic about the future. Try to keep a level and rational head and only make decisions when feeling on an even keel.’

Self-efficacy is key

While there’s a lot of support out there for employees, you and you alone are the only person who can help you feel less anxious about your career.

Professor Craig says: ‘Rarely will someone tap you on your shoulder and fix your problems for you – most people are busy trying to take care of themselves, never mind you. 

‘”Paddle your own canoe” and rely on your own self-efficacy for improving your career security. Tough times can actually reveal themselves to be great job opportunities in disguise.’

Step back and pause

Slow things down – this will help to make things feel less overwhelming.

Professor Craig says: ‘Do not feel rushed to “do something” about it or move on to something else – stay where you are for now and take your time to think. 

‘Don’t rush to jump ship to something that might look more secure or safer. Try and take some time to pause and think – even if it is only one day, it will help. Wallow in the situation and appreciate it. 

‘You might be in a precarious position – but you’ve survived this far, right? You might decide to make changes, but do so after pausing and thinking about things first.’

Look to others who have bounced back

A redundancy, or a different work setback, can feel very isolating.

But it’s important to remember there are other people out there who have been in similar situations and they might be able to offer practical career advice.

Professor Craig says: ‘Find someone who has been through similar tough times. Their words and experience will provide comfort and assurance that things will move on and you will probably come out of it for the better in the long run.

‘The world is full of people who have had enormous career setbacks, scandals, or who even hit rock bottom, but they have bounced back into an even better position – and often used their original setback as a launch point.’

Notice catastrophic scenarios you might be creating

When everything around you is pretty stressful, it can be easy to spiral into  catastrophic thinking (imagining the very worst case scenarios).

Dr Elena Touroni, a consultant psychologist and co-founder of The Chelsea Psychology Clinic, advises: ‘When you notice that you’re having a catastrophic thought, tell yourself it’s just that – a thought. It’s just something your mind does when you feel a certain way. 

‘Take it one day at a time and don’t try to predict the future or consider the most negative outcome. Put the focus on what you can control.’

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