Living in a constant state of comparison is a very real problem for Millennials and Generation Z, and it can show up in relationships, body image, home life, and even career. According to 2021 study In the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, social comparison can motivate us to work harder – but this may have a downside.
Fueled by pandemic career setbacks or hubs, a seemingly endless stream of startup success stories, and social media posts for living the ideal entrepreneurial life, the profession can drive people to get excited and feel like they’re failing and falling behind. The knees so they don’t constantly go to extremes. This struggle to keep up can lead to burnout, which has far-reaching mental and physical health consequences.
over here, Dr. Anisha Patel Den, DOa psychiatrist and chief medical officer of LifeStance Healtha company that provides virtual and in-person healthcare services for outpatients, shares some tips for recognizing and dealing with these feelings.
First things first: Acknowledging the feelings
“If you’re insecure or don’t feel better,” says Dr. Patel Dunn, “it’s not uncommon to fill in the gaps with your fears.” These fears can be large and fact-based, or perhaps only parts based in reality, but there is a nugget of truth in your fear and it may escalate.”
She adds, “This is where the trap is – if you have deep concerns about your career, your mind could turn to the worst-case scenario. It might be a very short interaction that starts this – you probably got a negative comment from a supervisor at work, then you sit at home on a Sunday night. And the brain goes back to that moment and starts spinning.”
Another way this could appear: You may also notice that you feel rushed while scrolling through social media and seeing your colleagues’ posts about career milestones.
When you start to descend into that fear and fumo the rabbit hole, it can affect your mental health. Some people may find that their feelings of self-esteem are greatly affected, or that they feel increasingly anxious about their career. Your sleep may be affected, or you may drink or use substances to self-medicate. Your physical health may also be affected, as some people experience more muscle tension, headaches, gastrointestinal symptoms, and sleep disturbances or find themselves turning to unhealthy coping mechanisms like alcohol and substances to deal with.
If you find yourself in the trap of professional comparison, it’s time to shift your focus.
Focus on your professional goals
It is important to remind yourself that we each go our own way and that there is room for everyone. Think about what for you Career goals are and create a plan to help you work towards them. Dr. Patel Dan recommends, “Create a list of actionable next steps to give you a roadmap. You don’t need to look at it 24/7 — maybe once a week or once a month. Or maybe it feels like you spend X number of months talking to others in your field of choice to see what other options are available if it’s time to make a professional move.”
If you begin to plunge into the whirl of comparison, Dr. Patel Dunn encourages mindfulness to bring yourself back to the moment and identify automatic thoughts. If you need a reality check, she adds, “if you have a mentor, or have ever been connected to a mentor in your career, reach out to them.” If you don’t have a mentor, reach out to a colleague or friend who can bring the conversation back to reality.
Practice self-care during your workday
“There is a huge benefit to structure,” says Dr. Patel Dan. During the pandemic when many of us moved to fully remote work, that structure skewed. Recreating that (although it doesn’t have to be a 9 to 5 schedule) can be very beneficial for our mental health. It’s important to establish a structure around how you divide your days and work hours versus self-care versus the time allotted to other people who may be dependent on you. Also, don’t forget the basics of self-care such as exercising, taking a break and getting some fresh air, going to bed and getting up at the same time each day, reducing alcohol and drug use, and incorporating healthy meals.”
Set limits with your time and energy
Do you burn yourself out trying to search your to-do list? Dr. Patil Dunn recommends taking a break. “A lot of people don’t realize it, but you’ll be more productive when they’re away from your work. Whether it’s 15 minutes or 30 minutes, just do it! In those moments, think about how you can take some time to decompress – meditate, go for a walk around the block Or in your building, make a phone call to a friend or family member, whatever it is, just try to get yourself out of work.” Recharging time will benefit your energy, focus, and mind.
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