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How stressful can your job get? Can this stress change your mind in finding a new career?

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G. Mark’s Answer

I've done several things in my life, and I can tell you that they all can get tremendously stressful. The problem is that, no matter how consequential or inconsequential some crisis might objectively seem later, at the moment it is as stressful as we imagine. So while you may not have all the power to change the situation, you do have some power to change your reaction to it.

That being said, and admitting that the biggest and most important projects I've worked on have been very stressful, the knowledge that what I was doing was important, challenging and could make people happy, I never, ever once considered changing my career. The thrill of accomplishment and purpose always made me realize it was worth it. In fact, you'll have heard engineers toss around the joke about the period after a project concludes as "post partum depression" because the adrenaline high of solving a big problem leaves a lot of folks missing that high and actually getting depressed when there's no fire to put out. So no - I never changed my mind.

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Alex’s Answer

Hi Teresa, I love your question because I recently changed jobs because of circumstances at work. I can imagine you're experiencing stress and are considering a potential change, and if so, I can empathize.

First, it's important to distinguish between stress and frustration. Stress can be more intrinsic to the job and role, such as the subject area, demands, industry. Frustration can be attributed more to factors not specific to the role, such as bad manager, poor leadership, toxic behaviors, difficult co-workers.

I've found that when I leave, it's more due to frustration vs. stress. Aside from going to another opportunity that I was deeply interested in, I decided to switch jobs because of bad culture and management. My manager couldn't support me or offer any useful guidance or resources for both stressful and frustrating circumstances.

Stress itself can be tied to the job and role. Some potential questions to think through:

  1. Is the stress expected of this job and role?
  2. Is the stress seasonal or constant throughout the year?
  3. Can you delegate or share tasks and responsibilities with colleagues or your manager?
  4. Are you able to switch to another role that is less stressful?

Here are some potential next steps, hope they can help you in evaluating your next move.

Alex recommends the following next steps:

Establish or reach out to your support network. If you are able to, share your situation with trusted colleagues, friends, and/or your manager.
Delegate or share tasks and responsibilities to/with others.
Seek professional help if you are able to. Talk to a counselor or therapist who is trained to provide you with the tools to manage stressful situations.

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Richard’s Answer

Being a physician can be stressful, especially when the patients have an incurable illness. After years of education and training the feeling of helplessness can be devastating.

However I am still satisfied with my career and would trade for another if given a choice.