Mental & Physical Health Support During a Career Crisis

by | Nov 22, 2023 | I-O Psychology, Mental Health | 0 comments

Gratitude for the help I received in my time of need

I cannot count last week as one of the best of my life.

While I cannot say it provided the worst experience, it certainly didn’t offer much pleasantness or ease from stress. I won’t get into the details, but I experienced both eustress (good stress) and distress (bad stress) in overabundance. Among the decisions I needed to make which could have profound effects on my career and my family, I found myself torn between what I had prepared to do since I reentered graduate school — management consulting in organizational development and change management — and what I had done as a consultant and executive, MarCom (marketing communications). This presents a career and an identity crisis, unlike anything I experienced before.

With all of this recently happening — a lot of it at the same time — I hit a mental wall on Tuesday when I started to feel ill! On Wednesday, in addition to exhibiting severe COVID symptoms, I had a full-blown anxiety attack, leaving me weakened, shaken, and unable to cope on my own. I blew past a limit I hadn’t hit in a long time, and I found myself needing help.

Luckily, my wife — the love of my life — rescued me, took me to the ER after seeking advice, and helped me to get the help I needed, even though she too discovered in the process that she had COVID after fighting another bug and dealing with many of the other trials we were sharing together. Not the least of these included a health scare from a member of her family who, now, thankfully, is on the road to recovery with a positive prognosis.

I count myself lucky to have the support I received from my spouse, the hospital, my therapist, and the other resources I accessed last week. I realize many do not know about the help available or may not have immediate access. This article may help.

Risks for Career Change to Mental and Physical Health

Social media and the news headlines each day herald some new massive layoffs for larger companies, but organizations of all sizes appear to take part in paring their workforce down. Studies show relationships between involuntary job loss and negative health outcomes. During the pandemic, for instance — a time when many lost their jobs for extended periods — the loss of job-related income increased one’s chances of poor overall health (Singh et al, 2021) by as many as 2–4 times normal conditions. Another observational study demonstrated that involuntary job loss through firings or layoffs can negatively impact body mass index (BMI), the propensity for substance abuse, and physical activity (Nizalova & Norton, 2021). A social worker at the hospital I attended informed me of similar studies that indicate that a career transition — particularly one outside of our control and will — can literally make us more apt to acute or chronic illness.

Mental Health Support One Can Find for Free

During my mental health struggle, I took advantage of the following free resources:

  1. Loved ones — Our relationships can save us. Family and friends can offer support and guidance to get to the right path to recovery.
  2. Religion — Prayer offers a connection to a higher power. We might find it difficult to go to God, the Creator, the Universe, or whatever deity or spiritual guide in which we each believe. However, I learned from volunteering as a reader at church, from The Strangest Secret, and from various coaches and advisors in my life that tapping into that higher power can elicit powerful manifestations of action. Personally, prayer has provided answers for me historically in times of need. Spiritual leaders such as priests, rabbis, ministers, and other clergy can also offer support, counseling, and direction.
  3. Mental Health Hotline Illinois — I called 866–903–3787. Callers may receive up to 20 minutes per day of attentive care via phone with a caring and well-trained voice on the other end of the phone line.
  4. Mindfullness — A tip from Mel Robbins of which my wife reminded me: breathe. Breathe in through the nose, hold it, and then release the breath easily a few times can help to calm the torrent of sadness. Even better: press your hand to your heart and say, “I am okay. I am safe. I am loved,” a few times.

However, other resources exist, including:

  1. National Institute of Mental Health — One can find a thoughtful page full of resources at https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/find-help
  2. 911 — In an emergency where one has thoughts of self-harm or where other physical or mental dangers exist, a call to 911 can have a professional provide guidance to the most appropriate form on immediate care.
  3. CDC — The Center for Disease Control (CDC) offers a list of tips for coping with stress: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/managing-stress-anxiety.html
  4. Crisis Text Line — Get free 24/7 support at https://www.crisistextline.org/ or text HOME to 741741 to connect to a volunteer Crisis Counselor.
  5. Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) — This association offers YouTube videos with tips to understand and cope with stress, depression, and anxiety: https://www.youtube.com/c/GotAnxiety-ADAA/videos
  6. Exercise — Moving your body to gain strength, flexibility, and endurance through exercises can release emotion-regulating hormones, which can provide stress relief. However, do not overdue it. Listen to your body and adjust.

Never before in my life can I think of a time when people have access to high-quality assistance through mental health crises. I can attest to the benefits of some of the above.

Premium Support for Mental Health

In addition to the support resources above, through insurance programs, apps, and other means, people can find help with a little extra cash:

  1. Hospitals and physicians — With the help of insurance, primary care physicians, clinics, and hospitals can offer immediate care and referrals to other helpful resources, including therapy and medicine.
  2. Therapists — I count myself fortunate to have found the benefits of therapy with a local provider through the Magellan Health Network. Seeing someone regularly or even periodically can offer safe and stable support for mental health.
  3. Psychiatrists — Therapy may not provide enough for people to cope and find their way to mental health. Medically-trained professionals can prescribe medication and other therapeutic combinations.
  4. Mobile apps — I personally use the Mindfulness app, which has both paid and free versions. Other popular apps include HeadSpace and Calm, which require nominal fees.
  5. Group therapy — One needs to go it alone; group therapy options through various premium and publicly funded organizations can offer community support facilitated by trained professionals.

Not everyone can afford these options, particularly when they suffer unemployment. However, if one has the means, these can offer another level of protection against the ravages of the mind during distressful times stemming from the uncertainty and feelings of rejection often reported by job seekers.

My Gratitude

In the spirit of this week of Thanksgiving, when we’ll gather with families to feast on turkey and abundance, I wanted to list a few things for which I have gratitude:

  1. That God has brought my wife Lisa and me together to make the life we have created.
  2. That Lisa and I have successfully battled COVID beyond the quarantine period together, and she has been my joy, help, and inspiration during this crisis.
  3. That we have access to the free support listed above.
  4. That God has provided us with medical insurance to afford the healthcare required for emergent, urgent, and ongoing care.
  5. That our kids pitched in to help around the house during our infirmary and social distancing.
  6. That my wife’s family member has improved health daily.
  7. That I have a support network of family, friends, fellow volunteers, and business professionals.
  8. That God has provided me with career options on this, the next leg of my work journey.
  9. That I graduated with a 4.0 GPA at Purdue with an MS in I-O Psychology, and that I successfully completed my certification in Organizational Development (OD) and Change Leadership from The Drucker School at Claremont Graduate University.
  10. That IMC USA has recognized the work our committee has done together for the elevation of the consulting profession.

I feel that this Thanksgiving will give me a need to pause to count my blessings which outnumber this short list by a longshot. Happy Thanksgiving and Happy Holidays to you and yours! You are not alone.

References

National Council for Behavioral Health. (2022). How to Manage Trauma. https://www.thenationalcouncil.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/08/Trauma-infographic.pdf

Nizalova, O., & Norton, E. (2021). Long-term effects of job loss on male health: BMI and health behaviors.. Economics and human biology, 43, 101038 . https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ehb.2021.101038.

Singh, G., Lee, H., & Azuine, R. (2021). Increasing Trends in Physical and Mental Health Problems among US Workers in Different Job Sectors During the COVID-19 Pandemic. International Journal of Translational Medical Research and Public Health. https://doi.org/10.21106/IJTMRPH.351.

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