When I was job hunting, I found I had brilliantly sunny days when I was called for interviews, I had great networking conversations and the words flowed easily on an application. Then other days and weeks were more like constant wet, windy, winter days where my perfect role seemed an unachievable dream!
Looking for a job role, whether you’re returning to work or seeking your next career step, has its ups and downs for all of us. And, if you have a few cloudy days in a row, it can get really hard to keep on putting on a bright smile and sending the next email. You might find a spiral of negative thinking developing.
I suspect I’m not alone in noticing this! So I want to share some ideas I’ve found useful when the mental storm clouds roll in.
I believe there are 3 options:
- Continue to ruminate,
- Distract yourself, OR
- Compassionately evaluate
Let’s have a quick look at each option.
Rumination – When we ruminate or intensely reflect, we let ourselves dwell on thoughts. We think long and hard about what we could do better next time and how we might be able to fix things. We fiercely criticise ourselves and our negative emotions of sadness, anger, embarrassment only grow. Sometimes self-criticism can spur us to action but it’s hard work emotionally. Our wellbeing is likely to suffer.
Distract yourself – Distraction can definitely work for a while to help us cope with negative thoughts. We can busy ourselves with activity, give ourselves a treat or redirect ourselves to look at pretty shiny things, in the way we might distract a screaming child. The problem with distraction is it’s a short-term fix and avoids any emotional processing of the situation.
Compassionately evaluate – This option is about showing kindness and acceptance towards yourself. The aim of self-compassion is to evaluate our feelings and thoughts in a non-judgemental way and recognise that they are normal. In fact, self-compassion is experienced by many in our community. There are 3 key elements to self-compassion:
- Being kind to yourself – seeking to understand not to punish yourself.
- Recognising your humanity – everyone goes through this.
- Mindfulness – try neither to ignore, nor exaggerate your negative feelings.
Which option sounds right for you?
I vote for option C!
For a quick fix, distraction works well – but longer term simply distracting yourself to avoid negative thoughts doesn’t give you the well-being returns. In contrast, a good dose of self-compassion is going to help you in both the short-term and long-term.
Research has shown that deliberately building self-compassion leads to higher levels of life satisfaction and wisdom. It also helps to broaden your outlook and make it more likely you will consider various options and reach out to those around you in difficult times. Rumination makes us feel more isolated and likely to withdraw into ourselves, just when we need other people the most.
If this makes sense to you and you’d like some guidance on developing self-compassion; I can share with you a quick activity I use in my coaching practice. You can email me at [email protected]
And remember you owe it to yourself to have more sunny days than cloudy ones!
Kate Wilkie has a Masters in Applied Science (Coaching Psychology) from the University of Sydney, and her particular coaching interest is in working with women to increase well-being, boost resilience and guide positive action.
Evidence from the science of Positive Psychology shows that boosting overall well-being can help women to increase their resilience to stress and help to avoid depression and anxiety. This can be particularly important in the early years of motherhood and as their children become more independent.
Over the past twenty years, Kate has worked and consulted across a range of industries and different sized businesses in the public, private and not for profit sectors. This varied experience has given Kate a strong understanding of, and clear perspective on, the challenges and opportunities that each individual and organisation faces.
FlexCareers offers a free 30-minute introductory meeting with our FlexCoaches, to help you establish if coaching is right for you. You can contact Kate through FlexCareers here, and you can find out more about their practice, Flourishing Mothers, here.