The connection between career paths and mental health
As a society, we place a lot of stress on our chosen career paths and what we want to do with the rest of our lives. This can make the decision of choosing a career in and of itself incredibly stressful. Unfortunately, once you’ve landed a job, the stress doesn’t necessarily end there.
Humans spend about a third of their lifetime at work. As such, it makes sense that our work life can play a major role in our overall happiness and well-being. Two in five Australians overwork, exceeding the recommended eight-hour day.
However, being happy and healthy in your chosen career is not impossible. In this article, we’ll take a look at how your career can affect your mental health as well as offer tips for how to stay happy in the career you choose.
How your career can affect your mental health
Mental health has always been an important topic of conversation, but since the pandemic, people have been even more mindful about avoiding jobs that make them unhappy and don’t allow them to have a healthy work-life balance. As people start returning to their “normal” work environments, they are better at setting healthy boundaries at work.
Newer generations that are going to university and entering the professional workforce are also being more thoughtful about choosing a career path. Unlike previous generations that often ran themselves into the ground, aspiring professionals want to lead happier and healthier lives in a career that they love.
Still, even the job of your dreams can impact your mental health. Every job, no matter what field it’s in, comes with stressors. It is true, however, that some career paths are more stressful than others. Studies have shown that veterinary medicine, for example, is a particularly stressful job.
This is just one example of many. Jobs in the medical often coincide with poor mental health due to high-stress situations and dealing with death and disease on a daily basis. However, just about any career can impact your happiness if it’s not a good fit or if you don’t set healthy boundaries.
There are many factors that can impact your emotional well-being at work. This includes excessive workloads, poor pay, toxic colleagues, and negative work environments. Not to mention, specific types of work can be more stressful such as healthcare, teaching, sales, hospitality, law, and social work.
Your career choice doesn’t just affect your happiness and mental health — it can also impact your relationships and physical health. The longer you allow yourself to stay in a toxic job or a job that is simply not suited to your needs, the more it will start to impact your life outside of the workplace.
Tips for staying happy and healthy in your chosen career
As daunting as this all makes choosing a career sound, you can find happiness at work and maintain a healthy emotional state. It’s all about choosing the right career for you, maintaining a work-life balance, avoiding toxic co-workers and work environments, and setting healthy boundaries.
The tips below can help you — both as you start your search for the right career, and once you’ve already landed a job:
- Take your time during your career search. Though you might feel pressure to quickly find a job after graduating, you are more likely to find yourself in something that isn’t a good fit if you rush into things. Job searching on its own can be stressful, so go slow, make time for job hunting, socialising, relaxing, and meditation to lower your stress if needed — and don’t be afraid to ask for help.
- Look for companies that offer good benefits and allow for mental health accommodations. Sometimes, being happy in your career isn’t about what you do, but it’s about what your employer does for you. It is important for you to set boundaries and speak up for your needs, but it’s also important to choose a company that cares about its employees and puts effort into providing them with good benefits and health services. This includes offering flexible work schedules, ample time off, special programs or spaces to help employees destress, a pet-friendly office, and good pay and health coverage.
- Maintain a healthy work-life balance. Once you land your job, it’s important to set healthy boundaries from the start to maintain a healthy lifestyle despite being busy. It’s easy to start taking on too much work in an effort to prove yourself but if you become burnt out, it won’t do you or your employer any good. Being overworked can lead to chronic stress. Don’t force yourself to take on more than you can handle, don’t let your boss push you to stay late too often, and make sure you do things that make you feel good outside of work. This means getting enough rest, eating right, getting regular exercise, socializing, and keeping up with your hobbies and other interests.
- Get help if you need it. If you love your job but it still stresses you out and messes with your mental health, you might need to speak with a specialist who can help you work through your stressors. There is no shame in going to therapy, and working with a therapist can teach you how to keep your high-stress job and maintain your health and happiness. If you frequently deal with death as a healthcare worker, it can be beneficial to speak with a professional who has experience helping those who work in the medical field.
Whether you are deciding what field to study at university, or have already graduated and are looking for a job, it’s important that you take your time and consider the impact on your mental health. Decide if the career path you are choosing is right for you both professionally, physically and mentally before making any big decisions.
The more you pay attention to what your body and mind need, the more likely you are to make the right decisions that will lead to a happier and healthier future. If you are already in a stressful job, start looking at ways you can set boundaries and make healthier lifestyle choices now. And finally, it’s never too late to speak up for your needs or make those big (or small!) changes to improve your overall health. Your mental health and physical well-being should always be your number one priority.
Featured image courtesy of Pexels
Charlie Fletcher is a freelance writer from the lovely “city of trees”- Boise, Idaho. Her love of writing pairs with her passion for social activism and search for the truth. You can follow her work at charliefletcher.contently.com