Nothing like a job change to bring on stress, anxiety and grief.  Whether it was your choice or a decision by management to “go in a different direction,” a flood of thoughts and emotions go through your head.  If it was you who quit, you may feel the rushed responsibility to complete work so that the ball doesn’t get dropped and people who rely on you get what they need.  The stuff you were delaying so to put out the most recent fire has accumulated to a point where you don’t know how you are going to get it done on time.  The amygdala perceives this as a threat since your brain tells you that if you don’t complete the workload your reputation as a hardworking, caring, responsible employee is toast. Your colleagues will think you are a lame slacker which is the opposite of the truth.

There is the worry about the future.  Where do I look for a new job?  Do I even want to stay in the work field I’m in?  How am I going to pay the bills?  Or if you willingly left your job, you may be wondering if it was the right choice?  Will I like the new job more?  How much extra time will I need to put in to learn and perform my job duties?  Will I like my new boss?  Coworkers? The stress accumulates and you start feeling the symptoms of anxiety -on edge, have difficulty focusing, stomach issues, irritability, difficulty sleeping, fatigue, dizziness, headaches, difficulty making decisions, negative thoughts, doubts about yourself.

Then comes the grief.  Whether by choice or not, wanted or not, you will experience some sort of loss leaving this job.  Relationships with coworkers, the actions you do at work, possibly part of your identity, all shift and leave you feeling sad, mad, or regretful.  Existential questions about purpose and meaning arise. What are you searching for in employment? Guilt about leaving is big.  Guilt that you are even sad is often experienced.  Why should I be sad?  I’m the one who quit!

How do you handle all three- stress, anxiety, guilt-  at the same time and still function?

You address each, attending to each, a little at a time.

  1. For stress:

First let’s admit that you are experiencing more stress than usual and it is impacting your thoughts and behavior.  Psychotherapist and author Joshua Fletcher explains it as having a jug that is filled little by little daily with life stressors. Leaving a job is a stressor that goes into the jug. So does traffic, arguments with loved ones, street closures, war, finances, closed restaurants, delays in amazon shipments, health issues, caretaking responsibilities, flat tires, and printer jams. If you don’t empty the stress jug out actively, it accumulates to a point where the jug overflows and makes a mess out of your life. Your body and mind are at maximum and start sending signals like headaches and stomach aches, panic attacks to get you to empty the jug, change something.

This is when you have to look at your everyday lifestyle and start doing stuff to help you calm, release and relax. These things don’t have to be big and time consuming. What are you doing to take care of yourself today?  Showering? Brushing your teeth? Eating? Sleeping?  Moving? Interacting with others?

Body movement in the form of dance, stretch, sport, walking helps empty the jug.  So does getting enough sleep and eating nutrient rich food, getting out in nature, taking time to just be. Meditate or pray, read a book or watch a good show, talk to supportive family and friends, pet your dog, do something fun.  Whatever works for you.

Stress jug emptying doesn’t happen overnight.  A week of yoga and prayer won’t do it. Keep doing things several times a day for a while and you’ll start noticing a difference.  You may find yourself more patient with your kid’s requests, less irritable with the grocery store clerk, have more energy to do projects, cook dinner.  Notice that and give yourself credit for it.  When things are good, acknowledge it ,appreciate it, embody it.  That was a really good cup of coffee.  There is a beautiful and fragrant rose.

  1. For Anxiety:

This is when worry, negative and repetitive thoughts, doubts come in and try and make you avoid doing things.  A suggestion here is to remember your thoughts are not always truthful.  Just because you believe everyone will hate you and think you are scum if you leave unfinished work doesn’t mean this will happen.  At least not to the extent you think it will.  Those are just anxious thoughts. Label them as such. You are not all knowing nor a fortune teller.   Focus on the present, what is going on right now, what is happening today.  You can start by focusing on your breath, or where your body parts are, and remind yourself that at this very moment you are safe, you are ok.  If a worry starts to come up, you can choose to postpone it to a different time, and then limit the focus on it to 10 minutes.  Or problem solve some actions you can do that will help you, and then make a plan on carrying out those actions. Give it to a God or a higher power.

  1. For Grief:

Begin by acknowledging the loss.  Feel and express your feelings associated with it.  You can do this be talking about it, writing it, moving it, creating something.  Let it out, then keep letting it out. Loss builds on loss, so don’t be surprised if past losses come up and bring feelings of disappointment, sadness, anger, yearning.  Some people find it helpful to do some kind of goodbye ritual, like sharing a meal or doing an activity, writing a card to a coworker, or a status on where you are on the job duties, or a letter of appreciation to the team.  Give yourself compassion, grace, time.

These kind of life transitions are a challenge.  Be gentle and kind with yourself and others.  Reach out for additional support, accept loving demonstrations of care from people, animals, the environment.

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