Pressure, Stress And Mental Health

By any chance, have you noticed people around you seem to be dealing with increased pressure? Perhaps too that not only are they experiencing more pressure, it’s coming from multiple sources and rather than being resolved quickly, these pressure linger?

Pressure and the stress that comes with it, seems to be more wide-spread these days. You know, there was a time when a person kept their troubles and stressors to themselves. After all, they didn’t want to appear incapable and put their work in jeopardy. When the worked piled on and piled up, the thinking was you’d roll up your sleeves, bear down and ramp up the speed. You’d come in a little early, work through a shortened lunch, stay a little later, then at some point, that mountain of work would become manageable again. Your stressors would dissipate and everything would fall back into balance.

What I see in 2019 however, is many people are putting in more effort and still falling behind. Not only are they working hard to get through the work they’ve been assigned, there’s more coming and it’s coming more frequently. So many people are playing a shell game; working on something until they have to switch tasks because something has a shorter deadline, then putting some time back into an earlier assigned job whenever they can squeeze it in. The result for many is finished work that isn’t their best; passable perhaps, but they know the result they’d love to have realized just isn’t what they’ve produced.

When a busy person takes on more, there’s two possibilities; they can handle the extra work load or they can’t. If the extra workload is successfully managed, they often get rewarded with a hearty thanks – and additional work, as they can obviously handle the increased work! The person who can’t handle the extra work; albeit they may have said they believed they could take it on – now has a known limit. In other words, the boss knows the maximum amount of work they can handle. In a just world, the boss would ensure the employee doesn’t get assigned or take on more than their capacity, but in reality, that boss is under pressure too. If the pressure they are under is get their team to deliver more, that extra work might just keep funneling down to the employee.

Pressure and stress impact our mental health and our mental health is something we don’t just put on when we get to work and remove at the end of our shift. We carry the state of our mental health in our travels back home, to the supermarket, when we spend time with our families and friends. When we aren’t observed to, ‘be ourselves’, guess what? We now feel additional pressure to be the person others have come to expect us to be not just at work, but at home too.

The result can be consistent and constant pressure to perform. Our homes; traditional places of sanctuary and places to retreat from the world and relax, become places where we are still experiencing pressure. Everyday tasks like washing the dishes, dusting and preparing meals seem taxing. Someone makes an innocent comment like, “we’ll have to buy some milk” or, “have you seen my car keys?”, and well that’s it; we snap back. Suddenly that pressure that’s been building bursts open. It’s not that the car keys or the milk alone are major issues, it’s that they are that one extra thing that you just can’t take on at the moment.

That stress you’re carrying with you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week is invisible much of the time. There’s no cast as there is with a broken limb, there’s no label that identifies you as stretched, no hourglass in your hands that shows just how little you’ve got left to give. Some of your precious energy reserves have actually been put into covering up your stress. That forced smile, the longer trips to the bathroom where you’re actually just trying to escape and have some, ‘me’ time for 5 minutes alone. When nobody knows – even though you think they should – they are the most surprised people when you act out of character and tell them to get in the car and go get the milk themselves; find their own car keys and stop leaving them just anywhere in the first place.

Sometimes of course we can work past our limits. Typically we do so for short periods and then return to our normal state. It’s even good to push ourselves the odd time to see what we’re capable of. But then, this new level becomes what others interpret as what we’re capable of all the time. That’s not right; that’s not fair and it’s not accurate. When we put extra energy into something at home or work, that extra energy is derived from somewhere; it doesn’t just materialize. Energy is finite.

Replenishing is the key to productivity. What is it you do in other words, that restores your capacity to deliver on the expectation of both others and yourself to perform? Reading? Meditation? Getting out for a walk? Whatever it is you do to recover and restore your good mental health is as important as any work you do.

It may sound counter productive, but in a day when you’ve got a ton of things to do, you may get more done if you go for a walk around the neighbourhood. Thirty minutes outside or with your door shut at work and a good engaging book in your hands. Maybe close your eyes, breathe deep, some quiet music playing through some noise cancelling headphones? Whatever it is in other words, consider building it in to your busy day so you restore some of that balance you have when you’re at your best.

Mental Health Issues At Work

A lot of people don’t get it do they? They may be sympathetic alright, but their sympathy doesn’t translate into fully appreciating or understanding why you falter. When they see you running late, having to leave early, missing days entirely, they wonder how much you really want it in the first place. To be fair, they only see you when you’re experiencing days that are good enough for you to get out in public. If they could see you on your worst days; the ones where you can’t even get out of bed, they’d have a different point of view – perhaps – and maybe their sympathy would turn to empathy.

These mental health issues aren’t what you want in life. It’s not like you go out of your way to take time off. When the anxiety and panic sends you running for the security of your home surroundings; one of the few places you can actually breathe and feel somewhat safe and protected against what assails you, you’re not bolting because you want to, you’re leaving because you have to. When you do get home and shut that door with your back leaning against it out of sheer relief, you don’t always feel happiness at being home but rather, sometimes great frustration that once again, you couldn’t finish what you’d hope would be putting in a full day.

Being normal; it’s not too much to ask for is it? Just getting up, feeling good, having a shower and washing away all the remnants of bad dreams and thoughts along with the water. Dressing, looking at yourself in the mirror and liking what you see as you lock the door and head to work with confidence, looking forward to meeting people, being productive, getting things done. Normal. Sigh… “Why can’t that be me?”, you wonder. Just a normal, average person living free of these constant mental health challenges. Oh to have a day free of meds, free of worry and fear, no anxiety – “do I remember a time when I didn’t have these things?”

Now we all have times in our lives when we experience anxiety and worry. We’ve had moments of panic, a few days or maybe a couple of weeks when something has caused us to feel added pressure and stress. Some major project at work, year-end inventories, staff shortages, some invasive dental work etc. The pressure and anxiety we feel in these moments gives us a small glimpse into what others with mental health issues feel; a good thing of course. However the downside of these moments is that we might feel we know exactly what someone with constant anxiety and depression feels. This can cause us to expect them to snap out of it eventually, put in the effort to pull themselves past the panic attacks and be stronger than their mental illness. After all, if ours passed, theirs should too.

Like I said, this is the downside of having moments here and there where we all experience stress, anxiety and sadness. Oh it’s completely understandable that we evaluate others behaviours based on what we’ve experienced ourselves. As humans, we all do this. We try and understand the behaviours and actions of others using whatever we’ve experienced that comes closest to what we see and hear. The problem in this case is when we see our own short-term challenge; one we’ve overcome, and we compare it to someone with an ongoing mental health challenge and expect them to put it behind them as we’ve done. That’s just not realistic. If these are the expectations we hold, we’re really not being empathetic.

It just may not be possible to fully appreciate and truly understand what we ourselves have not experienced. And many a person with anxiety, depression, panic attacks and constant pressure has told me they wouldn’t wish on anyone what they struggle with every day. I for one can only imagine the strength of character, determination and immense mental and physical effort it must take just to show up some days and then on top of that, work with a smile, look like you want others to see you as. What I can’t imagine is how hurtful it must feel if you were present on the job, thinking you were blending in (finally!) and then someone said, “You know, it wouldn’t hurt you to smile.” It would have to feel like a dagger bursting what you believed to be a pretty impressive rebuilding of your self-esteem.

This blog today is therefore meant to be for both you who struggle with mental health and those of us who work alongside you and are fortunate enough to live free of. Show some compassion; what you can’t understand do your best not to criticize or judge harshly. When your workload goes up because someone is absent again, be mindful that they aren’t, ‘goofing off’, or ‘having a good time lazing about’. Keep them in your thoughts and welcome them back with words of encouragement.

And you who have mental health challenges, problems, struggles – choose what you will – all you can do is your best and your best is all that can be asked of you. May you be surrounded by considerate, compassionate people who lend support, have your back and excuse/forgive us if every so often we fail to act at our best with words that may hurt unintended.

Personal Qualities And Finding A Fit

Almost every job description lists the qualifications required by an employer. Education, experience and demonstrated skills make up the bulk of the posting and in some instances, that’s all that’s provided. However, if these alone are enough for an employer to choose the candidates who will succeed, there’d be no need for personal interviews.

So once education, past and present experience and required skills are confirmed, employers turn to their interviewers to size up the people before them as good fits personally. For you the applicant, this part of the application process can be most frustrating. Many people lament lost opportunities even though they met all the stated requirements for employment.

It’s critically important to be self-aware of how you come across to others; to know yourself. You may think you’re coming across as self-confident and assertive when in reality, an interviewer sizes you up as aggressive, arrogant, self-important or conceited. You might promote yourself as a team player, but the interviewer might have serious doubts about how your going to fit in with the existing employees based on how you’re coming across in the interview. This is especially true when you consider that interviews are typically where applicants are on their best behaviour.

Now as an applicant, you might not think this assessment of your personality and individual qualities is entirely fair. After all, you’re under pressure and may be one of those people who performs great on the job itself but comes across poorly in an interview. Who is to say that the person interviewing you and making a hiring decision is good at assessing personalities and ‘fit’ in the first place? Further, if the truth is that interviewers have made up their minds about an applicant in the first 3 minutes or less after first meeting them, how much information are they really working on to make these career-changing assessments?

As an applicant, I recommend you concentrate on the things you can control and not those you can’t. What you say and how you say it, how you dress, stand or sit, your eye contact, smile, advanced research, interpersonal skills, attitude, knowledge etc. – all these are within your control. So too are your tone and volume of speech, your vocabulary, warmth or lack thereof, tact and use of humour, insights, your handshake – again, all within your control.

I get that with so many things to think about, you might wonder how anyone could be successful! Thinking on all these things might just distract you from performing at your best and ironically result in you being passed over for jobs you’d otherwise be perfect for. This is the mindset of those who’d rather take the easy way and just wing an interview. They reason, “I can’t know what the other person is thinking can I? So I’ll just not bother or worry about all that stuff and just do the best I can.”

For some this is a cop-out; not wanting to really invest themselves in the time it takes to prepare for an important interview. They may not get the job anyway, so it could be a big waste of time; time they’d rather spend doing things they enjoy, and interview practice is at the bottom of the list. They figure that only one person gets the job and so there will be a lot of disappointed people; many who did do their homework and practice ahead of time – and they failed too. So why bother?

Why bother indeed? The answer is because preparing gives you a better chance of succeeding. The odds go up considerably for those who take the time to prepare. Preparation will help you figure out what kind of person does well in one job vs. another kind of person. Sit outside the place of employment just watching people come and go and you can learn a great deal about how people dress and interact with fellow employees. Do they seem happy, stressed out, robotic or engaged? Have a meeting with those doing the job you’d like to land and you can ask about the atmosphere, what it takes to succeed, desired personal qualities and this is all part of the company culture that is promoted as desirable behaviour.

Now, if what you learn tells you that in truth you’re not a good fit with an organization, think seriously about continuing to compete for a job there. You may fool some people and indeed get hired, but what if one of the people you fool is yourself? How long will you be happy and do you really want to be back job searching in 3 month’s when you and/or the employer decide the fit just isn’t there?

Want some solid advice? Get to know yourself. No, I’m not being flippant. Identify your personal qualities and ask friends, family and co-workers how you come across. Ask for honesty not flattery; the good and the not-so-charming. Be thankful for all the feedback you have and then armed with all you learn, start the hunt for the job and company where someone with your personal qualities PLUS experience, education and skills will be the best fit.

Way too many people ignore personal fit when looking at potential jobs and employers; yet its personal fit that every employer takes into consideration at every job interview. Unless they want a round peg in a square hole to shake things up, pay attention to finding the proper fit.

Under Pressure?

The things to know about pressure are:

  1. What is causing it?
  2. How much can you take?
  3. How long can you take it?
  4. What can you do to ease it off?
  5. What can you do to end it?

Under pressure. Carrying around a burden for a short period is something most people are used to doing. Think of the pressure of an upcoming exam, your expectation of a first kiss, sitting beside the Driver Examiner as you do your driving test, watching your favourite team bat in the bottom of the ninth, down a run and down to your last at bat.

You might find the above examples bring back memories for you of tremendous pressure; or conversely you might see the examples I’ve provided as relatively minor sources of stress or none whatsoever. It really depends on the person and how you perceive each event. Of equal importance is how many other sources of stress you’re experiencing at a given moment.

So while going to the game to, ‘get away from it all’ for a couple of hours might be your friends idea of helping you cope with whatever stress you’re under, it could all backfire and be just the thing that sets you off. It may just put you over the top while those around you are hopeful for win but not incapacitated while the outcome is in jeopardy. Yes, you could be exiting the ballpark in the 8th inning and nowhere in sight in a close ball game, just unable to deal with one more potentially stressful event.

Looking for work, looking to get ahead at work; even just looking to keep the job you’ve got now, these too may be immense sources of frustration from which pressure to succeed is incredible. My experience assisting people with their employment aspirations continues to show that almost every job seeker has multiple sources of stress in their lives. If getting a job was the only thing they worried about and had to concentrate on things would be easier. By easier, I mean their concentration level and focus would be sharper, their ability to put into action the necessary steps to find the work better, and this would make the period of unemployment shorter.

However, finding work isn’t all that’s going on. There’s bills piling up, rent and child support to pay, reliable childcare to find, late buses to deal with, dirty clothes to clean and keep up-to-date. There are utility costs and interest on unpaid credit cards to pay down, expectations of family and friends to, “just get a job why don’t you!” that constantly irritate, resumes to write, ink for the printer to buy, food needed for the table, a throbbing toothache and growing anxiety that you’ll always be a burden. On the outside of course, you’re doing your best to fit in, look normal, smile to world and not let on that you’re floundering.

Really though, you’ve been under these pressures for so long, this constant state of chaos has become your new normal. Maybe that’s why self-medicating, forgetting everything for a couple of hours, seemed like something you could handle. Yeah, that didn’t work out as planned. Nope, when you’re honest with yourself you know you’ve got yet another problem, and you know it because you’re on the hunt for your next fix far too often; you’ve become dependent and that’s so typical of just how you see yourself.

No column is going to give you the fix for all the above, nor would I try. If you’re fortunate enough to have none of the above as your personal issue, you might be thinking I’m laying things on rather thick; that surely only a very rare few deal with what I’ve laid out altogether. I know you’re mistaken in that belief. In fact, I welcome the comments of any and all readers who might want to back up what I’ve said with their own experiences. It’s so hard to cope and focus on just getting and then holding down a job when a job is only one of maybe 30 things that are going on and adding to one’s pressure.

I suppose a good analogy is a juggler. If you start with only two balls, you might be able to go without dropping one or both fairly easily. Okay, add another. Now keep that going without dropping one – not for a few seconds but rather for 20 minutes. Could you? Okay add some more; not one more you understand – 4 or 9. At what point did it become overwhelming? Are you surprised with how little you could actually handle when a professional makes juggling look not only easy but actually fun?

I tell you this…take a single parent of two, one of which has a learning disability, add in no job, dependency on social assistance and food banks, no internet, mounting bills, seeing a Credit Counsellor, a Mental Health Counsellor, a Family Doctor, frequent meetings with a School Vice-Principal to discuss behaviour problems at school, and volunteering at her child’s school 4 days a week, and you’ve likely got someone who out of necessity, has become an expert on how to deal with stress. To us on the outside, it looks like a life in chaos. The worst things we could say is, “I think it’s time you thought about getting a job. Don’t you want your kids to be proud of you?”


Maybe You’re A Young Person With An Old Problem?

Last Friday, I had a chance encounter with a young woman who had an appointment with one of my Employment Counsellor peers. She had just finished a 3 week Life Skills class, and so it is our practice to schedule a 1:1 meeting afterwards and talk about the next steps.

Our meeting happened just because as she arrive and signed in at the reception counter I myself was walking through going from one room to another. I could have said hello and kept walking and that would have been perfectly acceptable, but I wasn’t busy at the moment, and I thought I’d chat for a moment if she was open to it.

Turns out she was quite receptive to a talk as well, and having been in a class of my own in the past, and having talked briefly in passing over those same last three weeks, we quickly got on. When I asked her where she was going at this point as a next step, she told me she didn’t really know.

At 22 years old, her career path wasn’t clear, and she was feeling pressure. What kind of pressure and from whom? Two sources actually; herself first and foremost and from her family. Yes at 22, she felt that by now she should know exactly what she wanted to do for the next 40 years of her life and people where wondering what was wrong with her.

Doesn’t this sound like a common problem for many people? You know, if we really break 22 years down, it’s not like she’s had 22 years to choose a career and been wasting her time. At infancy, no baby I’ve ever read about looked out through their eyes and mused, “I’m on my way to becoming an Arborist.” Infants take milk in and empty themselves, sleep, cuddle and cry. Well done. At this point, all the babies of the world have figure out just about the same things in life.

Then there are pre-school years where the biggest life objectives are to play and have fun. Oh sure there are little lessons to be learned like how to tie your shoes, what you can play with and what you can’t, where you can toddle off to and where you shouldn’t go. Then comes kindergarten and public school and children are exposes to some adults with careers and jobs. The simple first books children read have adults with jobs but again no 7-year-old is seriously asked to choose their career path yet.

It’s only with the arrival of high school then that most of the teens who are morphing out of childhood are asked to think seriously about jobs and careers to pursue. Teens though are more concerned with things like acne, puberty, their first kiss, will they ever be kissed?, making friends, fitting in, school marks, wearing the right clothes, not saying anything that will ruin their desired image, saying the right things that will please everyone and maybe score them a boyfriend or girlfriend. That job and career stuff can wait.

So, although the school Guidance Counsellor is impressing upon young people to take the right classes so they are ready for college or university – the choice of which could well determine if they get a certain career or not – many young people haven’t really got a clue. So there she could be at 18, being hurled out into the big bad world and only really thinking about a career or job seriously for the first time. That was 4 years ago.

Now while she didn’t go to college or university, many who do head off to those schools of higher education often choose to change their majors, opt for different careers they get exposed to. In short, changing your mind about what you want to do is normal. When I was young I remember being told that the average person changes their career about 3 or 4 times, and has about 9 different jobs over their lifetime. So where’s the pressure coming from to get it right on the first try?

I blame Aunt Ethel and Aunt Lois really. Oh you might have Aunts and Uncles with different names, but they are to blame just the same. Why? Well it’s them that started asking every time you saw them that standard question you never had an answer to, “So, what do you want to be when you grow up?”

Here’s one thing to think about; some advice really. Stop over-thinking. If you have a clear idea what it is you want to do, that’s wonderful. All the best and if you later change your mind, that’s okay, you’re not a failure. If on the other hand, you don’t know what you’d like to do, just do something. Sell shoes or clothes, bag groceries in a store, flip burgers for a while, work on a factory assembly line, when your Employment Counsellor is talking with you, imagine yourself in their job.

To prevent stalling and growing anxiety, just work or volunteer. Do many things and find out what you like and don’t. Those jobs will give you experience, references and build your fragile self-esteem. Don’t put pressure on yourself to have it all figured out at 22. At an unemployed 22, you may not be the envy of every other working adult, but many of those adults do envy one thing you do have at 22;  the gift of time to figure it out.

There isn’t only 1 perfect job for you. There are dozen’s of jobs you’ll enjoy so try them out!




Living With Abuse and Jobsearching

Why of all days blog about job searching while in an abusive relationship? Well today is Valentine’s day, and it’s supposed to be a day for love and for lovers. But there is no day that’s set aside for victims living in an abusive relationship, and I want to tie this into the job search; because today of all days, some victims in an abusive relationship may suffer today more than any other day.

Job searching for anyone is tough. I’m hearing from more and more people all the time that are telling me how the job search is harder than they remember it being; that the days of getting interviews all the time are over, and it’s getting harder to keep up their self-confidence. Okay so let’s work on the assumption that anyone looking for work is struggling with self-esteem issues over a prolonged job search. Now I want those of you who are in healthy supportive relationships to imagine conducting a job search without any support of any kind. Would that be tough? We all could use some support and encouragement.

I’m not done though. Now imagine if you can, trying to present yourself as a professional, competent assertive person when you’ve got a partner who treats you like a possession; who degrades you and tells you forty times a day that you’ll never amount to anything. (Get a job!) You might think to turn to your friends for some moral support but, sadly, your partner controls who you see, yells at you if you do speak to anybody, and isolates you emotionally and physically from other people who might be in a position to actually help. You’re controlled to the point where their insecurity won’t let you even talk to someone of the opposite sex. (Get a job!) How’s that job search going now?

I’m not done though. You’re told repeatedly to get a job and start contributing and yet you get the conflicting statements about how stupid you are, worthless you are, nobody wants you, and the best you can hope for is to stay with this person because they’ll put up with you. (Get a job!) On top of looking for a job, you’d better clean, cook, do laundry, dishes, and I’m not even going to get into the sexual gratification area, but you’d best be at least decent in that department too. (Get a job!)

How likely is it that you’d be allowed to do much searching on the internet at home to look for work? (Get a job!) After all, your abusive partner would be yelling at you most of the time and definitely doing a search history to see what websites you’ve been visiting and checking your email to see who you have been talking to. Delete that information before they check it out – even accidentally – and you might get slapped around or worse.

Getting a job might seem like a good thing not only for the income, but quite frankly the most appealing thing might be actually getting away from your partner for a few hours or more a week. Guess what? Your partner might just show up at your workplace and spy on you under the premise of ‘visiting’. In the worst situations, they actually interfere with your work and leave your boss with no choice but to let you go because of the disruption your partner shows. (Get a job!) And all this time, you partner will tell you that you deserve everything you’re getting in life. Having a lovely Valentine’s day yet?

Point made. There’s an end to this blog coming, but sadly for those in abusive situations, there is often no hope of an end in sight. So what if anything can you do? Well some of you reading this may know of an abused person, and further more, an abused person who is looking for work. Sometimes the abused person can’t imagine how they would support themselves financially without their abusive partner.

So here are some things you might do if you want to help. First, find out about some resources in your community that help victims of abuse; shelters and counsellors for a start. Victims often have no idea where to get started. Offer to store their resume or important documents like certificates, ID or copies of ID etc. so they can’t be stolen or withheld. Most of all, just be an ear. Don’t fret about knowing what to say, just listen and ask how you can help. If you have the ability, maybe you can make copies of their resume for them, let them use your own home computer to apply for jobs if they can get to your home.

Of course one of the things that any of us can do for victims of abuse is point out their good qualities. Who knows how many people, and over what period of time have beat down their self-image. Reinforce the positive and tell them things you admire in them; point out their strengths in a genuine way. And because victims live constantly in such a high state of stress and anxiety, as much as it defies logic, don’t add pressure on them to get out. Give the information about options and if you have the skill, write out an exit plan so the possibility is there. When the time is right for that person they may put that plan into action.

Interviewing for a job can be intimidating and stressful for anyone. Ironically I’ve interviewed people before who used their years of enduring abuse as part of their answers to interview questions. They spoke of their determination to improve their lives, their resolve, their appreciation for opportunities, and their inner stamina to keep working until things are done. The best interviews are usually when applicants bring real-life examples from their past into the interview, to demonstrate how they have used a skill or character trait in the past and how they would transfer that experience to the present job they are applying for.
All the best.

Were You Voted Most Likely To Succeed?

Sometimes the best of intentions can have unintended results. Many high school yearbooks have pictures of their alumni and if you look at all the quotes under those photo’s, one that seems to pop up frequently is, “voted most likely to succeed”. Somebody at the time thought this was a cute idea, and their classmates agreed that so-and-so will be the most successful out of the entire class. What pressure!

So what happens then if you go on to University or College, and then realize upon graduating that you’re just one more person out there with hopes and dreams looking for a job? And then after a few months of unsuccessfully looking for a job, you run into your former classmates who all expected you to be bringing in the cash and well established in some large well-known organization. But you aren’t are you? You’re unemployed; struggling to make ends meet, and somebody tells you that they ran into someone from your school that you had thought was never going to amount to anything, and they have a great job and are doing well. More pressure.

So the first thing to realize is where this pressure is coming from. Well of course it’s those expectations you put on yourself in the first place, and the added expectations of your peers. Remember first of all that those expectations were thrust upon you by high school students at the time who knew very little about how tough it is to get a job; you yourself didn’t know either. Markets change, companies come and go, industries go through hiring phases and periods of lay-offs and contraction. So when you started to look for a job, you have to take the pulse of the economy and what field you are looking at.

The other thing about expectations is that the kind of job you are willing to be seen by others working at becomes important. Sure you could get a job selling greeting cards in the mall, but there may be part of you that doesn’t want your friends to know that. Why? Well again, it’s the social stigma of being expected, unrealistically I might add, to have the best job of all the graduating class that year.

Experience in a broad range of employment sectors can actually be beneficial in the long run. You may still just be laying the foundation for future success by trying out entry level positions in retail, manufacturing or labour and that experience, those references and recommendations may lead to a wonderful opportunity down the road. That’s what’s great about life; you never know really where life will take you and what job might interest you enough to pull you in a completely different direction. Few people I know in my work said when they were fifteen years old, “I want to be a Welfare Worker”.  Most didn’t even know that job existed, although the job title has undergone a change.

Now that you’ve graduated and have joined the ranks of the job seeking, you may also have noted that you are no longer the ‘star’ shining down on the rest of us. Your high school days of being the darling of the dance floor, the dreamboat of the prom, or the exceptionally talented athlete are over. You’re just as good, but no better than most of your peers, and in some cases, they are much better now than you are, and that makes you something you may have never been before; average and normal.

So those lofty expectations are still hanging on you unfairly. Recognize though that you have the power to leave them on your shoulders or remove them and just get on with your life like everyone else. In the course of a lifetime, the average person is going to change their job about eight times; their field of work about five times. When this happens, it will be new and exciting and different and maybe perplexing too. If you could look into your future and see what you’d be doing years from now, you might say, “No way!”; and you’d be wrong.

Now you can still excel of course. However, the skills you had in high school aren’t going to be good enough to succeed long term unless you build on existing skills, and learn new ones. Learning new things is exciting and a chance to grow both physically and mentally. This stimulation is often why people want to get ahead and try new things. It helps us become more well-rounded, valuable to employers, in demand, and it keeps our own brains active.

So if you are uneasy, unnerved and experiencing a lack of self-confidence and self-esteem for the first time,  maybe you’re just going through what many of your classmates went through in high school when they felt awkward, unpopular and unwanted. A frustrating job search can rob anyone of their self-worth and change their perception. It just means you are growing, and maturing. In the end, it will probably all work out for you just as it will for your peers, but there is no guarantee; you’ll have to work hard to succeed perhaps.

So I’m pulling for you. Whether you live of life of entitlement or you have to struggle, I really hope you have the good fortune to be productive and happy in your work life. We all deserve that much.

Dealing With The Weight Of The World

Today I’d like to speak to those readers who are either dealing with a massive amount of pressure on a daily basis, or those readers who know someone in their lives who is. Whether you are currently employed or looking for your new job, dealing with overwhelming stress and pressure has to impact on your ability to concentrate on your job-at-hand.

Most people have events in their lives that cause some form of stress. Stress remember, is neither good nor bad, but how we react to it can make the event a positive or negative one. For example, the pressure of an upcoming wedding is usually expected by a bride or groom and because the desire to marry their partner is greater than let say a Caterer that falls through in the final week, there is enough motivation to solve the problem by getting a new Caterer.

When you have multiple events that appear to be specifically targeting you, it can be difficult if not debilitating. It is said that bad things often come in threes, and for some readers, three would be welcomed because you’re dealing with eight or thirteen. When every moment of the day your thoughts are consumed with problems that don’t appear to have solutions or involve a great deal of effort, it may seem easier to just crawl under a sheet, turn off the lights, and try to escape into a deep sleep. Worse yet, escape might mean alcohol, drugs, self-harm, or even attempts at suicide in the extreme. Other than a successful suicide, at some point you’re going to be back to reality and having to deal with both the problems you had, and maybe some additional ones because of the alcohol, the drugs, the self-harm.

A real danger too is that the, ‘weight of the world’ that was on your back has actually transformed into a chip on your shoulder. You develop a bad attitude, look for people to dump on, to beat on, to vent your anger and frustration on. The source of your problems is everybody else, the responsibility for your mess is other people’s, and you may expect to be helped and supported because somehow you feel the world that was weighing you down now owes you a living.

Okay enough of the bad. Time for a reality check. You need the help of other people, but not the people you may have been speaking to. Your family and friends might actually be huge pieces of your problems. That advice you’ve been given, those messages they’ve been drilling into you, well, they may just be the opposite of what would help. So who CAN actually help you? Well a professional Counsellor sure can ease some of the load by listening to you in a non-judgemental way. If you want advice, they may give it, and certainly can connect you with other service providers that would be best for you depending on YOUR needs.

Financial debt might be best addressed through Debt Counselling and consolidating all those bills into one payment a month that would actually be lower than paying them all separately. Other options are drying out under supervision either through Alcoholics Anonymous or getting your addictions addressed through Drug Treatment centres. Your unemployment might actually be best left until you take care of some of these personal issues. After all, even if you got a job today, would you be able to perform well at it five days a week? Maybe applying for financial assistance is actually a better plan in the short-term.

Experienced helpers in Social Services and Humanities know that most of the people we provide help to, have to deal with a number of things, which typically we call barriers. Barriers to employment could be things like; lack of affordable housing, addictions, criminal records, few social supports, having less than grade 12, poor attitude, little work experience, having no references. The number one barrier however tends to be lack of self-motivation, and it’s hard to be self-motivated when you feel under attack and overwhelmed.

While most people will sympathize and hopefully empathize with your situation, even with a solid plan in place that will eventually lift the weight off your shoulders, it has to start initially with you. Please do yourself a favour and reach out. If it turns out that you don’t connect with someone who you go to for help, try someone else. They may tell you things you need to hear, but not always what you want to hear. Think over any advice you get and be open to consider taking that advice.

Even the smallest step forward is a step in the right direction.