Study after study shows that dissatisfaction with your career can be detrimental to your health. Job-related strain can send your stress levels skyrocketing, disrupt your sleep, and even, in cases of severe burnout, lead to clinical depression. A 2012 study by Gallup found that a drop in well-being (caused by several factors, including career) resulted in a higher risk of these health problems:
- Sleep disorder
… as well as more sick days overall.
Deep unhappiness at work can simply make your body break down. Arianna Huffington, co-founder and editor-in-chief of The Huffington Post, is a living example of this. She’s gone around the country talking about the day she collapsed from exhaustion caused by her workload, a wake-up call that led to her book Thrive, about how to balance work and well-being.
Before your job takes such a toll on your health, you need to evaluate if one of the following career changes could address the stress and dissatisfaction you’re experiencing:
- Shifting the way you perceive yourself, others and your work (this is helpful in nearly any situation, and we often recommend it in addition to any of the following)
- Moving to another department or team within your company (if it’s your boss, a toxic co-worker or your specific role that’s dragging you down)
- Finding employment at a different company in your field or industry (if it’s the company culture that’s driving your stress)
- Changing careers altogether (if it’s the field or industry that’s the root of your dissatisfaction)
Getting to Greater Career Congruence
As you might expect, feeling happy and engaged in your career leads to greater overall health and well-being. And research shows that as we progress through our working lives, we make changes that get us closer and closer to a satisfying career. A study conducted at the University of Akron found that mid-career students attending college to enter a new occupation ended up in jobs of “greater congruence” — in other words, jobs that more closely aligned with their individual personalities, talents and interests. The study also found that greater career congruence leads to higher job satisfaction.
Fortunately, you don’t have to participate in a study (or even go back to school) to consider whether your current career is congruent with the person you are. But you do need to take time to assess whether the tasks, responsibilities and goals in your current job fit your personality. Do they allow you to make use of your natural talents? Do they allow you to do what you enjoy? If the answer is yes, you’re likely a healthier person because of it.
Why Change Motivates Us
Even if you’re not suffering from severe burnout (and the attending health problems), you may be experiencing boredom. This can be normal in any job. But when that boredom develops into total ennui, it’s time to make a change.
Neuroscience shows that our brains are hardwired to appreciate and even seek out change. When we encounter something new — whether it’s a career or a haircut, a new office or a pair of shoes — we get a rush of motivation to explore it, because we anticipate a potential reward from the experience. Once our environs become familiar, we stop expecting a reward — and our curiosity and motivation to explore begin to dwindle. Novelty, on the other hand, engages and excites us.
Taking Control of Your Career — and Your Health
Making a career change can not only unlock your natural talents and allow you to do what you enjoy, it can energize and motivate you. And if you’re leaving behind a career that was causing you boredom or stress, you’ll likely experience positive changes in your health: better sleep (which studies show leads to healthier eating habits), more physical energy, less tension and more happiness. And ultimately, isn’t that what you’re after?
How is your career affecting your health? Could a career change be your cure?