The final days of the year are often a time for reflection, and there’s a lot to think back on from this whirlwind year.
Maybe you quit a job or wished you could. Maybe you returned to the office. Whatever you experienced at your job this year, therapists have heard it all.
Below are therapists’ best pieces of advice for how you can get 2022 off to a good start career-wise. Carry their tidbits of wisdom into the new year.
When feeling overwhelmed, do something rather than nothing.
“One issue that comes up repeatedly in my sessions with clients is the urge to shut down when feeling overwhelmed at work.
Avoidance coping is when we avoid what is causing us stress in an attempt to temporarily feel better. So, if we have a bunch of tasks to complete at work and it’s causing us stress to think about where to even begin, it feels less stressful for the moment to not work on anything.
I work with my clients to ‘do something rather than nothing’ when they feel overwhelmed at work. Even if it’s just one thing. This will help chip away at your to-do list and help prevent the overwhelmed feelings from being worse tomorrow.
Questions to ask yourself: What do I realistically have the energy for today? Be honest with yourself about what you have the bandwidth to work on.
What task will give me the most bang for my buck? What would alleviate the most stress to have completed? Start here if you can.”
— Shannon Garcia, a psychotherapist at States of Wellness Counseling in Illinois and Wisconsin
Always choose you.
“Choose you. We learned a lot about what many companies think about the health and safety of their employees. We saw a lot of people get sacrificed in the name of maintaining the bottom line, and that really woke people up. Many of us have been working way too hard, sacrificing our families, our happiness, and our peace of mind for an employer that doesn’t hold any loyalty or concern for us.
So, the number one piece of career advice I have to take with you into the new year is always choose you. Choose your own well-being, move in directions that suit you and the goals you have for your life. And if you don’t know what those goals are, you owe it to yourself to take some time to figure out what you really want. It’s time to step off of that hamster wheel and start prioritizing our own needs.
Next piece of advice is rest. You are a human being and rest is mandatory. Related to rest is, don’t sleep on leisure! Find a hobby, practice getting really good at something for no other reason than you enjoy it.
And please, do not give in to the ‘grind all day’ culture that says that you should be making money from everything you do. Productivity is not your one and only goal in life. You do not need to monetize your joy. Keep some things for yourself. You deserve it and you need it.”
— Tanisha M. Ranger, licensed clinical psychologist based in Las Vegas
You do not need to earn a day off to allow yourself to rest.
“We live in a society that values productivity, busy schedules, and overworking on a daily basis. It is important to set clear boundaries around your work life in order to better care for yourself.
Give yourself permission to rest, take a day off, use your PTO/sick days and allow yourself to say ‘no’ to things that you are not physically or mentally capable of doing. You do not need to earn a day off in order to allow yourself to rest.”
— Katheryn Perez, a marriage and family therapist in Burbank, California
Just focus on this hour or this moment.
“If you’re having a hard time or struggling, then it makes sense. We are living through a chronic trauma [because of the pandemic].
In some ways, get through it one day at a time or one hour at a time. We can’t forever predict how things are going to be. Be as present and as mindful as you can be in this moment. Don’t worry about the whole year, just focus on this hour or this moment.”
— Elizabeth Cohen, a clinical psychologist in New York City
Ask yourself: What do I want?
“Discover what you really want and work toward that goal. If the mess of the past two years have reaped any benefits, it’s that many have found how flexible and adaptive work can be.
With so many possibilities, the most important question is often the most difficult for people to answer: What do I want? Like, really, deep down, what am I most passionate about? Is it money, flexibility, meaningful work, creativity, great co-workers, location, a combination, or something else entirely? It may take some time of self-exploration, talking with loved ones, or working with a therapist to uncover, but it is worth the effort.
Once you discover where your interests and passions lie, then you set out to see if your current job or career path can adapt to your goals, or if you’ll need to change course.
If you’ve felt that work has been a soul-sucking drudgery for years, now might be the right time to make a change. But the first step is knowing yourself.”
— Ryan Howes, psychologist based in Pasadena, California, and the author of “Mental Health Journal for Men”
Set a system for to-do lists.
“Setting a system for to-do lists can be helpful. One system I like is having a today to-do list, this week to-do list, and longer-term to-do list. It can feel overwhelming if there are many items on your to-do list, so breaking it up this way can feel more manageable.”
— Rebecca Leslie, psychologist based in Atlanta
Develop consistent routines.
“Many of my clients are working remotely and felt pressured by their employers to return to in-person work. It seemed as if employers were establishing arbitrary dates to return back into the office without concern for their employees’ mental and physical well-being and these dates kept changing.
I would recommend for clients to focus on what they can control and are doing to keep themselves and other people safe. I encourage with all of the uncertainty, to develop consistent routines that can help you anchor throughout the day, such as how do you want to start your mornings, what grounds you during the day, and how you can settle yourself after work.”
— Adjoa Osei, a clinical psychologist in New York City
When in doubt, communicate directly.
“When in doubt, communicate directly. Since so many people have switched to work from home/remote work setups, digital communication replacing face-to-face interaction means that there’s more room for miscommunication.
If someone’s email or text message seems short, instead of assuming they are upset with you, clarify with a follow-up question, prioritizing a method of communication as close to real life as possible (i.e., video first, then audio, then real-time chat, and lastly asynchronous communication such as text messaging or email).
Don’t avoid conflict. Sure, conflict can be scary, especially in the workplace. But it’s way better to find out for sure if there’s a problem than to spend emotional energy trying to guess if there’s one. Instead of seeing conflict as a frightening thing to be avoided, see it as an opportunity to learn and increase understanding.”
— Therese Mascardo, licensed clinical psychologist and CEO of Exploring Therapy based in Lisbon, Portugal, and Santa Monica, California
People aren’t mind readers.
“As you’re trying to put your best foot forward, be specific about the kind of support you are looking for from your loved ones.
People aren’t mind readers and support doesn’t come in a one-size-fits-all package. Do you want someone who will challenge you during this time? Do you prefer tough love or do you want continued reassurance? Do you want someone to remind you to be realistic or would you prefer someone to take a passive role but comfort you if things don’t work out the way that you had planned?
Set yourself up for success by speaking up clearly for what you need. Feeling supported no matter what happens can be empowering, especially in the face of an uncertain road.”
— Anita A. Chlipala, licensed marriage and family therapist based in Chicago
Answers have been lightly edited for clarity and length.