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The Role of Mental Health in Your Career

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Published by Sreya Madanan on 7 December 2023

This article discusses who is an introvert, the characteristics and skills an introvert possesses, and 15 of the most ideal careers for an introvert, followed by tips on how to choose the job.

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In a Nutshell

Mental health has some of the greatest impacts on your career; whether you’re just starting out or in a career transition phase. Approaching each phase of your career mindfully will help your mental health to flourish. A stronghold on your mental health will improve job satisfaction, decision-making abilities, productivity, and overall career success.

Introduction

Have you ever wondered if tending to your mental health really makes a difference in your career advancement?

In today's highly demanding world, we actively chase career success through passion, skills-building, and relentless hard work. However, in this relentless pursuit, nurturing our emotional and mental well-being often takes a backseat.

The truth is that prioritizing self-care and mental health is not just about feeling good but can profoundly impact how you perform and thrive in your career over the long run.

Whether you're just starting out fresh or are an experienced Working Professionals — anxiety, stress, and burnout can gradually creep in and affect your decision-making abilities, productivity, career satisfaction, and advancement.

Despite the stigma surrounding mental health, the mind-body connection is real. Proactively caring for your holistic wellness by managing stress, building resilience, finding work-life balance, and seeking help when required will determine how you show up each day.

As you traverse your professional journey, this detailed article offers science-backed, practical strategies to champion mental health while unlocking your greatest potential at your work and career.

By nurturing our minds as much as we nurture our careers, we can all fully realize our aspirations.

The Connection Between Career and Mental Health

As we build our careers, mental health acts not just as the foundation of overall well-being but profoundly impacts trajectory and advancement on multiple levels.

Biologically, chronic stress from career demands can alter brain structure; shrinking regions vital for cognition, memory, learning, and executive functions. Consequently, professionals may struggle with decision-making, analytical thinking, and skill acquisition — key capabilities for career progression.

Per WHO, over 75% of those dealing with mental health issues have difficulty keeping up with training and self-development, leading to slower career advancement.

Additionally, severe mental health conditions like depression, anxiety, emotional exhaustion, and burnout often emerge while adjusting to new roles or high-pressure careers.

On the social front, the inability to handle workplace stress ruptures communication channels and interpersonal bonds vital for support, mentoring, inspiration and progress. This isolation further exacerbates mental health issues.

However, just as mental illness can profoundly obstruct career advancement, nurturing emotional well-being accelerates growth.

Resilience, healthy stress management, emotional balance, and communication abilities gained by prioritizing mental health strengthen professional competencies. Workplace policies fostering open dialogue about mental health are crucial.

Ultimately, the mind-body link cannot be ignored while in pursuit of a successful career. Integrating self-care while advancing careers allows for sustaining peak performance. Our brains are our most valuable asset in realizing professional aspirations.

The care you give to your mental health is an investment in reaching your goals and not just a pointless effort.

Crucial Stages of Career and the Role of Mental Health

While every phase and the decision behind it has an impact on your mental health, and vice versa.

However, there are two of the most crucial stages in your career which require your utmost attention — when you’re just starting out in your career, and when you’re amidst career transition or returning to work after a career break.

Let’s take a look at both these stages and why it is important to preserve your mental health.

  • The Beginning Phase of Your Career
  • For freshers, entirely new work environments trigger anxiety even before day one, stemming from uncertainty around new people, work cultures, skill sets, expectations, and pressures.

    The initial few weeks or even months of intense learning curves stretch mental bandwidth, affecting more than half of the new hires, as per observations. Common thoughts like “Can I fit in?” and “What if I fail?” are common, but they shouldn't be ignored.

    However, small daily self-care tools like…

    • Journaling,
    • Exercise,
    • Nurturing hobbies, or
    • Candid peer discussions

    …can help build resilience during such seminal career stages. As work responsibilities become second nature, confidence and workplace relationships organically develop over 6-12 months, mitigating anxiety.

  • Career Transition or Returning to Work After a Break
  • Mid-career shifts or unexpected job loss can also rupture one’s identity and purpose. Common psychological responses include self-doubt, isolation, feelings of failure, uncertainty, and poor self-care — all detrimental to future progress.

    Here, proactively seeking professional counselling, leaning on personal relationships, exploring new interests, and planning practical next steps help cope.

    Reframing the situation as a transition rather than failure, being patient with yourself, and expanding identity beyond work roles aid recovery.

SMC Expert Tip:

Reframing unpleasant thoughts is not always easy. Follow the 5R strategy to break the negative thinking chain.

  • Recognize: Acknowledge the thought to control negative thinking chains. Guided meditation and journaling can help in recognizing such.
  • Refuse: Practice the “thought-stopping” technique to interrupt and remove negative thought patterns. Say “Stop!” out loud or in your head to discard it.
  • Relax: Take a backseat, and let the thought fly out of your mind with controlled breathing. Counting backwards can help.
  • Reframe: Reframe your perspective by switching negative thoughts to rational, positive thoughts. Self-affirmations like “I am capable” help the most.
  • Resume: Look at the bigger picture and analyze your strengths over weaknesses. Develop self-awareness through introspection.

While the early days of tumultuous changes can temporarily shake us, having the right mental health toolkit helps us power through the flux. Nurturing emotional wellness provides stability and resilience to smoothly sail through career stages while staying fulfilled.

6 Strategies for Keeping Your Mental Health in Check

As we steer through the ups and downs of our career paths, we need targeted and practical strategies to nurture our mental health — our most valuable asset for unlocking potential and possibilities.

When managed effectively, our brain's health directly impacts productivity, workplace relationships, skill-building, decision-making and virtually every aspect of professional advancement over the long run. Here are 6 strategies for nurturing mental health in your career pursuits.

  1. Think of Setbacks as Stepping Stones
  2. When facing disappointments like a missed promotion or an unsuccessful pitch, view them as learning curves rather than failures. This growth mindset equips us with the resilience to bounce back smarter. Learn, course-correct and proceed.

  3. Tune Into Your Needs to Avoid Burnout
  4. Feeling anxious about an upcoming presentation? Perhaps fatigue is hiding an underlying need for more preparation time or collaborator support. Tune into signals like exhaustion, nervousness or lack of engagement and address the real need so you can show up effectively.

  5. Engage in Peer Conversations
  6. Find informal work allies or even a mentor whose career path motivates you. Exchange ideas, discuss challenges candidly and leverage each other's strengths. Camaraderie breeds inspiration while advice from credible voices who've been there, and done that.

  7. Disconnect to Reconnect
  8. Honor that much-needed night out or a friends’ reunion by going completely offline. Come back energized with fresh perspectives. Creativity thrives when the mind detaches fully from daily pressure to just relax and reboot. Protecting downtime will make you far more productive.

  9. Fuel Passions to Power Through
  10. Heavy workload stretches you thin? Revisit what excites you outside office walls, even if through a short cooking class or home improvement project. Enjoyment de-stresses and adds balance so you can power through intensive phases at work with renewed vigor.

  11. Cultivate Self-Compassion
  12. Be your own cheerleader! Speak to yourself as a trusted friend would — with kindness and care. Silence the inner critic and treat yourself the way you would a loved one struggling with self-doubt. This helps you build resilience to pursue your dreams.

The Role and Importance of a Career Map

Career mapping is a powerful tool that visually sequences the various growth trajectories possible within a career path.

Comprehensive career maps showcase targeted job roles, the competencies and experiences required to transition into them, and the learning initiatives needed to unlock your highest potential.

A well-defined career path fosters clarity around how personal development and goals can align. For professionals planning for a career transition, with their organization; it can facilitate open communication between aspirations and opportunities. By illuminating possibilities rather than dead-ends, a career map breeds hope.

Creating a career map is usually not a one-person job, as it requires input from an experienced career counsellor. With SetMyCareer’s career experts, you can co-create the career roadmap and get the job of your dreams!

Why Should You Prioritize Your Mental Health?

Without nourishing our minds, we operate in a continuous state of depletion, struggling to stay afloat. And an exhausted, anxiety-ridden version of ourselves cannot dream big or unlock our potential. We have nothing left to give - to our work, families or communities.

Prioritizing self-care is not just about feeling good momentarily. Mental health directly strengthens our decision-making skills, resilience, productivity, creativity, learning agility, communication and every other attribute that drives excellence.

When positive and rested, we are far more motivated and energetic.

Seeking help for stress or life challenges is also not a sign of weakness but self-awareness — a prerequisite for leadership. The myth of hustling without breaks only breeds burnout.

So let's start normalizing small daily self-care practices. Because our dream careers are nearly impossible to achieve without the mental bandwidth to back them.

End Notes

Our careers entail tireless striving; often towards the next milestone, promotion or project at the expense of everything else. But the truth remains that none of those wins are possible if we ignore the very foundation that powers our ambitions — our mental health.

By integrating the above-mentioned tips and strategies to nurture mental health, we can navigate our careers with greater confidence, and balance, and ultimately achieve long-term success.

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