Anxiety? Does it come from your career?

“If I am up at night thinking about work, I want to do so because I’m enthusiastic about a project, not because I’m consumed with worry.”  So said, a wise, self-aware career counseling client from Shoreline, CT.  This particular client is wonderful to work with because she’s so self-aware that she understands how much career overlaps with life.

Anxiety is a full-fledged epidemic in the modern world.  Ironically, there is a correlation with affluence, such as in wealthy states like Connecticut, and anxiety.  While there are explanations related to Keeping Up With the Joneses and other materialistic concerns, my view as a career counselor is that states like Connecticut have many high achievers and/or people who want their work to matter.

The cliche of traveling to developing nations and discovering content people whose careers are simple by Western standards reveals that our self-esteem is wrapped into our work identity far more than in other places.

Back to my sage career counseling client, she understood that despite her advancement on other levels – she exercises, meditates, has artistic hobbies, healthy relationships etc. – she can’t simply turn off her work when she leaves the office.

One of the reasons those in less developed societies have less work anxiety stems from the nature of their manual work.  I worked on an assembly line the summer before college.  It was a combination of tough – I often had to lift the boxes at the end of the line – and boring – it was an assembly line!   But I didn’t need to give a moment’s thought to work when I left and that’s not just because it was not my career.  My co-workers had nothing to think about in relation to work after they left the factory either.

Most of us in Connecticut have jobs/careers that engage our mental faculties.  The work itself, the office politics, the deadlines and other work based factors are still in our brain when we leave the office.  We can’t leave those concerns at the office.

That’s why you need a happy career.  Otherwise, you’ll have not only an unhappy work life but also an unhappy life.