By Dr. Joti Samra, CEO & Founder of the Psychological Health & Safety (PH&S) Clinic and MyWorkplaceHealth
I have been a career woman for over two decades, but I’ve recently been fired (I deserved it, and the industry knows it – no one will hire me now.) I’ve had thoughts of picking up and moving across the world – I’ve got no roots in Canada – but is that just a flighty response? Should I start over at 39?
You are engaging in very black-and-white, catastrophic mindset – a normal way to a view a situation when emotions are high – but I wonder how realistic and accurate your thoughts that “the industry knows it” and “no one will hire me now” are.
Ask yourself a few questions: What is the evidence that these thoughts are true? What would I say to a friend in the same situation? Thoughtfully answering these questions may help you to arrive at more balanced, accurate thoughts.
That said, losing one’s job falls at the top of the list of stressful life events.
You are likely experiencing a range of intense emotions, including worry/anxiety, confusion, sadness, or even anger. Your reaction may be amplified by feelings of guilt (our ability to accept difficult situations is even more challenging when we feel – accurately or not – that our actions contributed directly to the situation). Furthermore, working in a smaller or specialized industry area may worsen the impact if you feel that the news of the firing has spread.
My very first suggestion is avoid making any rash decision until you’ve had some time to allow the intensity of your reactions settle.
Emotionally-driven decisions often tens to be impulsive. Intense emotions also naturally lead us to experience an intense stress reaction – also known as the “flight, fight or freeze” response. This refers to the three ways we respond when under an acute stressor: by fighting back (retaliating, aggressing), by flight (fleeing, avoiding), or by freezing (becoming immobilized).
Your urge to pick up and move across the world sounds like a knee-jerk response to avoid your current situation. This may, right now, feel like the only viable solution.
Avoidance actually works as a short-term strategy: it removes us from our present distressing situation and can temporarily reduce any fear/anxiety.
This isn’t a long-term strategy, however, as it does not tackle the issues that contributed to the situation to begin with.
I don’t mean to suggest that moving away is necessarily the wrong solution. What I am suggesting is that you want to ensure that you are mindful that any decision you do make is approached in a thoughtful, informed manner and not driven by avoidance.
I would suggest giving yourself a few weeks to allow the intensity of the situation to go down. Speak to a trusted colleague in the industry may help provide some perspective. Then brainstorm all the possible options you have (in addition to leaving the country) and generate the pros and cons of each before making any decision.
Excerpted from Dr. Joti Samra’s “Ask the Psychologist” weekly column in The Globe and Mail.
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