How to cope with mid-career blues

This may lead to emotional problems like feelings of depression, anxiety about being “stuck” in this job, irrational anger

By Jyotika Aggarwal

Published: Thu 27 Jan 2022, 8:25 PM

Why did we choose the career we’re in now? For some, it was campus placement. For others, they chose a job matching their own skill set. For the rest, it was about taking up something that their families wanted. Fifteen to twenty years down the career line, many begin to feel dissatisfied. Others might see your job as an enviable one, they may even regard it as adventurous or glamorous. We often feel dissatisfied with our jobs, but brush aside these thoughts and move on till we reach a point where the unrest seeps in strongly and is felt daily. Many of us may even regret the choices that we made, and begin to fantasise about the “unchosen” path. This may lead to emotional problems like feelings of depression, anxiety about being “stuck” in this job, irrational anger. Hence, it is important to correctly identify and tackle our possible mid-career insecurities.

Ask yourself if you dread going to the same office everyday and if you excessively think about how you could have done something else and been happier. If your answer is yes, then it is quite possible you may be having a mid- career crisis. In fact, research suggests that we are least satisfied with ourselves in mid-40s. It is said that even the famous Italian sculptor Michelangelo looked back and felt unfulfilled by his work during his “mid-career”. While many question the reason for this professional insecurity, there isn’t a standard response. For each individual, it could vary from getting exhausted with the same career routine; for others, it could be the reality of fading possibilities and for a few, it could also be the desire to apply oneself in more rewarding endeavours.

Before we take drastic actions to get rid of these feelings, it is crucial to manage our emotions. First, it is essential to discover what is missing. Sometimes, our jobs may not have the space to incorporate all our needs. In such cases, the missing element can be found in external activities. The aim of these activities should be to allow you creative outlet. Second, allow yourself to view your years of hard work from a different perspective. Humans have an innate tendency to focus on the negative. Hence, we often regret our career because our attention is on the mistakes. Ask your loved ones and friends to talk about how they view your career. You may be pleasantly surprised to hear some positives, which you may have never even considered. Third, an important way to manage mid-career insecurity is through guided thinking exercises. Write down 10 things you enjoy doing. Pick one or two that are the easiest and add them to your week’s to-do list. As you start doing these things, you will start feeling more positive and will have something of your own to look forward to. When more areas of life are balanced, we feel complete within ourselves.

Another important exercise is to determine five career goals that you have always wanted to achieve. If you’re finding it hard to come up with these goals, think of other colleagues that you admire, or friends who impress you, and think of the things they have done, which may have added to their career. You can use those as reference. Keeping them realistic, work out how you want to achieve these goals, and focus on attaining them. This can add excitement in your career.

Lastly, it is important to challenge unrealistic, inflexible dogmatic negation. Create rational dialogues that help you realise that all action is result of exclusion of alternatives. Every decision would undeniably lead to letting go of another choice and option. This limitation is at the core of all existence.

Keeping these few simple things in mind will help us find meaning and fulfilment in our careers.

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