Experiencing loss is an unfortunate but inevitable part of people’s lives. Whether it’s from a death of a loved one, end of relationship, or other changes such as relocation, career transition, you may need help making sense of that loss and how to make meaning of it so you can move ahead rather than be burdened by it.
Work and Career Issues
Worries and anxieties involving work are common; with many people suffering from creative worries and concerns about job and income security. For many, work and career issues can become unsettling and even disruptive to daily life. Some find their identities in their careers, and any disruptions can cause uneasiness, anxiety, and even fear about the future.
Some of the most common work and career issues include:
- Potential job layoff
- Inability to get a job
- Concern for career direction in relation to life purpose
- Overwhelming stresses on the job
- Dissatisfaction with current job or career
- Unrealistic expectations from supervisors
- Feeling unfulfilled
- Social and ethical complications
- Dissatisfied, disconnected, underappreciated
Every job involves a certain amount of stress, and it’s normal for work demands and pressures to ebb and flow. When the tension rises above a normal level for a sustained period or becomes an ongoing reality, however, work-related stress can dramatically affect your personal life and mental, emotional, and physical health.
Trying to handle friction with a co-worker or supervisor, taking on an unwanted change in role or responsibilities, or being forced to navigate a toxic work environment, possibly including bullying or harassment from co-workers, can all result in stress setting up shop in your life and remaining there, even after the workday (or workweek) is done.
Today’s technology tools — wonderful as they can be — are another common contributor to ongoing work stress because they tend to encourage overwork and expectations of around-the-clock connectivity. Work emails don’t typically abide by a 9-to-5 schedule, and neither do smartphones, laptops and WiFi connections.
The term “work stress” can mean different things to each individual, and my response would be tailored to each individual’s distinct situation.
There are common themes that levels of dissatisfaction and stress can surge for individuals when they:
- Are in a job or role that they find unfulfilling or don’t enjoy
- Have issues with leadership (e.g., think that they have a bad boss, don’t feel respected or valued, have a personality or values conflict with a supervisor or company leadership)
- Believe they are not being compensated properly financially
- Are doing work that doesn’t meet their needs, such as personality style, passion or interests
Work stress can manifest in peoples’ lives in a variety of ways. Some people might complain about having trouble sleeping or experiencing physical aches and pains. Others might mention ruminating on work issues when they are off the clock, associating their self-worth with career achievements, feeling guilty when they take time off, fearing losing a job, or even feeling mentally or emotionally exhausted just thinking about their job responsibilities or work environment.
Work-related stress can interfere with our ability to experience joy and we can be so overwhelmed with our responsibilities that we experience a lack of joy in things we have previously found joy in. … It’s carrying an ever-present, low-grade, oppressive stress with you all the time. It can take over your life more than you’d like for it to. Simply put, work stress keeps us from being the person we want to be.
When work stress bubbles over, personal relationships commonly suffer the effects. That’s because work stress often robs us of our ability to engage with and be fully available to the people we love. Work stress can strain our relationships to the point of breakup and even divorce. Carrying around constant feelings of stress can make us become less patient, more irritable, and more likely to be snappy with or lash out at our significant other and other loved ones, generating relationship conflict as a result.
Discovering to what degree work stress is affecting a person’s mental health can be eye-opening for both counselor and client. It is important to begin by asking someone to reflect on where most of their energy is going. Explaining to a person that “We only have so much personal energy each day,” and “How much of it is going into your work domain, family domain and individual domain, and where are the deficits? Where have you seen this affect you? … Work can impact all of the domains of wellness, [including] sleep disturbances, spirituality, intimacy with a partner, energy levels. How much of your life is wrapped up in work?”
I can direct you to think of your day as a pie, with each slice indicating a domain where you invest your energy. I can then ask you to consider how this looks and feels.
Is work the biggest slice?
The entire pie?
Are you OK with the way your pie is divided up?
Is it causing you stress?
Counseling can help guide you in making a list of values and creating goals based on the top values you identify. For example, for individuals who value autonomy, an appropriate goal might be to uninstall work email apps from their smartphones so that they can’t be contacted — and aren’t tempted to engage with work — when they’re supposed to be off the clock. Individuals who value flexibility might consider requesting a change in their work schedule to do four 10-hour shifts per week so that one weekday is left free to go on field trips with their child’s school, grocery shop, or focus on self-care.
These counseling exercises are all done with an eye toward building self-evaluation and self-reflection skills in people. One of the most important things counseling can help someone do when their work stress spikes is to take a step back to assess what they want their life to look like versus what it looks like in reality, he says.
Any type of contemplative practice — such as journaling or mindfulness — can help people reflect, hone self-awareness, and be honest with themselves. These skills are also important to instill in people so that they can fall back on them outside of counseling sessions.
“[Creating] that space to listen to yourself and have self-evaluation is a hard habit to build but so powerful,” a therapist can inform the person in therapy. “Eventually, you will leave therapy and have to self-prescribe your own goals. You need to be able to assess your energy levels and where [in which domains of life] you are placing importance.”
When considering changes to a work situation or pursuing work-life balance, it is often the person who has the answers themselves. My role is to guide and support you as you take a step back, tap into the answers that you already have within, and make decisions.
When you are feeling overwhelmed by work stress, I can help you break up what seems like an insurmountable challenge into smaller pieces. I can help equip you with coping mechanisms, including psychoeducation on self-care, boundary setting and thought-stopping techniques, to navigate the here and now before tackling bigger decisions such as whether to leave a job or change career paths entirely.
Additionally, lessons on mindfulness and body scanning can provide you with helpful tools for managing your emotions at work when stress begins to overwhelm you. To help you identify what sets you off and how you can create healthy spaces for yourself. To help you create some healthy space between you and your work.
Failure to Launch Syndrome
Failure to Launch is a struggle of young people, 19 to 28, who lack the tools to make the transition from adolescence to adulthood. Individuals in this situation experience a painful daily struggle to secure meaning, purpose, relationships, and independence in their lives.
Emotionally and financially draining, failure to launch children seemingly have little intrinsic motivation to move through life. Lacking the skills to function independently, these students have failed to navigate college and find themselves back at home, out of sync with their peers, and in constant tension with their families. The consequences are often substance misuse, depression, low self-esteem, and social anxiety. What is it that differentiates these young people from their peers who have made more successful transitions? The causes are complex and often multiply determined.
For one, there can be underlying learning and/or attention problems that have been present for a long time but do not have a significant impact on a student’s functioning until they leave home. For bright students, often sitting in class alone allows them to adequately master material without putting in significant hours of study.
This generally does not hold true at the college level, where some level of independent study is essential to grasp larger volumes of material. In addition, while class participation, projects and extra credit can help students to compensate for low test grades in high school, this is rarely the case in college where the grades are determined by two exams and a final. As a result, subtle or not-so-subtle learning issues get in the way of academic success.
Another factor contributing to a failure to launch is the high stakes college admission game and the investment of time, energy, money and ego that goes in to this on both the student’s and parent’s part. We see many families who cannot allow their child to function independently and risk potential failure in high school for fear that this will impact their “college choices.”
Yes, allowing a child to feel the negative consequences of their lack of study or failure to seek additional teacher support is uncomfortable and may result in lower grades, it allows them to develop a real awareness of their own skills.
Furthermore, when students feel the natural consequences of their behaviors, they tend to develop resiliency and grit that is essential to a successful launch.
Parents who step in to rescue their children from a failing grade, an unfinished paper, or a disciplinary consequence are creating a pattern that perpetuates a need for ongoing rescue. Children don’t magically develop these coping skills and resiliency simply because they leave home or reach a certain age.
For many students, while being away from home seemed like an exciting opportunity when they were in high school and tired of their old friends, the prospect of creating a new social group and new social identity are daunting.
For students who have been in the same social circle since kindergarten, making new friends, redefining themselves, and cultivating deeper and more intimate relationships is overwhelming. Without their familiar social supports, many children struggle to find their place.
This can be exacerbated by the presence of significant mental illness, many of which have their age of initial onset during this time.
Given the multiplicity of factors interfering with a successful launch, treatment is equally multifaceted. Engaging the family in setting appropriate expectations and limits, setting short-term attainable goals, assessing learning and attention problems, and creating a long-term plan are essential for getting students back on track.
Therapy can be utilized to help the individual establish plans that would assist in accomplishing goals such as finding a part-time job and managing money. Individual therapy can be of great benefit to address doubts about the person’s own sense of effectiveness and ambivalence about entering adulthood.
Therapy can also help a person to increase awareness of emotions and the ability to communicate them effectively. Persistence, the development of resiliency, introspection and self-understanding, and appropriate family support are the key to moving an adolescent into true adulthood.