Do you dread going in to work? Have you called in sick because of it? Have people started to notice you’re acting differently? Do you feel anxious for no reason at work, and have started to avoid talking to others?

Perhaps you’re isolating yourself, and thinking about chucking it all in.

If any of these feelings resonate with you, you may be heading towards a career breakdown.

How can you take care of yourself so that you don’t damage your future career prospects?

There are many reasons why you may feel this way, and if the situation gets worse then you must seek professional support. However if it’s a ‘wobble’ of confidence due to current circumstances, there are steps you can take to improve things.

It’s important to identify the root cause of this crisis of confidence, however, whatever the cause or causes may be, what you’re feeling right now is real. And often it can be attributed to stress in one form or another.

There are signs and symptoms you must be aware of, to confirm that action needs to be taken now. If any of the following resonate with you, then you must practice self-care and reach out for help:

  • Mental or behavioural symptoms of stress may include feeling isolated, moody, angry, lonely, anxious, unable to concentrate and detached.
  • Physical symptoms of stress may include insomnia, sleeping too much, exhaustion, frequent illnesses, and a racing heart.

NOTE: Visit your GP for professional advice if the symptoms you’ve identified are severe or have been ongoing, as there may be underlying physical or mental factors causing or aggravating the symptoms.

The cause of these symptoms can be varied, and often it’s due to a combination of stressors over time.

These stressors can be major or minor, and usually we are able to handle the challenges of life and work quite well. However, if these stressors accumulate to a level where you think you’re having a career breakdown, you must identify what those specific stressors are, in order to take the right course of action.

Circumstances that cause stress and anxiety could include:

  • excessive workload
  • a change in employment status or impending redundancy
  • organisational change
  • financial worries
  • being a victim of bullying
  • death of a family member or friend
  • a recent separation or breakdown of a relationship
  • serious illness or disability

Top tips to get your confidence back

How can we build up our self-confidence during periods of change, so we can avoid a career burnout and command the careers we want? As a career coach, I guide my clients through the changes in they experience along their work journey, which may knock their self-confidence. To manage stress, here are my top tips:

1. Talk

Find someone you trust and respect, and talk to them about your concerns. Letting it out frequently relieves stress and the old saying, “a problem shared is a problem halved” always rings true.

One of my clients, when speaking about a challenging time in his career said: “In hindsight I should have sought the counsel of someone far wiser than I was. I think we’re often too reluctant – males in particular – to admit that we’re not coping well. I should have found a wise owl to coach me through it. The outcome may have been the same but the angst, far less.”

2. Think positive

Your thoughts have a huge impact on how you feel, so focus on creating ones which keep you calm and centred, rather than thoughts that ramp up your anxiety.

Stop irrational thinking and vague, general self-talk and assumptions such as, “I’ll never get over this”, “No one cares about me”, or “I’ll never get another job”. Self-pity keeps you stuck in that negative situation.

Instead, choose positive self-talk and listen to the voice in your head. What is it telling you when you are feeling stressed? Is it judging you? Is it criticising you? Positive self-talk needs to drown out the negative voices in your head and knock the nasty self-limiting belief off your shoulder.

Use your new positive thoughts as positive affirmations:

  • “I will get over this.”
  • “Someone does care about me.”
  • “I’ll get another job, I’ll make it happen.”
  • “I’m a valued professional.”

3. Sweat

According to the Australian Psychological Society, regular exercise will help to reduce anxiety by providing an outlet to let off stress that has built up in your body. Exercise also strengthens the body and enables you to better withstand stress.

One of my clients, the Financial Controller of a global IT organisation, describes how exercise helped him manage his stress when he went through demanding times: “Exercise worked best for me. Even a 5km run changed my mood to a positive one. Also having something to look forward to, like an organised 12km bay run or a weekend motorcycle trip, helped a lot.”

4. Organise

One of the things that stresses a lot of us is feeling like we can’t manage everything on our plate. Taking a few small actions can help you feel far more organised, and far less stressed.

A useful tip is to write things down. When you feel stressed it’s so easy to lose track of things such as appointments, shopping items, birthdays and special occasions. Get a planner system, use your Outlook Calendar or iCal, in order to organise your days and gain some control back.

5. Act

Taking action gets you moving forward. You just have to do it. So how can you get yourself moving? The first thing you need to do is to stop striving for perfection.

If you have unrealistic expectations for yourself you will put yourself under enormous pressure, which leads to more stress and makes it unlikely that you’ll act. Focus more on the enjoyment of what you are doing in any given moment, rather than striving to achieve a perfect result every time.

Next, analyse situations and people which cause you stress.

How can you avoid those situations and minimise contact with those people who are confrontational or negative? How can you minimise their impact on you if you can’t avoid specific stressful situations or people?

If you know there will potentially be stressful situations during the day, create a personal action plan for yourself. Know what you will do to remain calm and decide what works best for you for various situations.

In conclusion, as a starting point, follow these steps to manage your stress levels and your confidence should start to come back. And remember, reach out for help if you need it. You don’t have to go through this alone.

Jane Jackson is a Career Management Coach and can be contacted here. For on-going career management support, join Jane at The Careers Academy Online.

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