Throughout my career as a psychologist, I have several times heard about individuals regretting their choice of profession. This is really thought-provoking and worrying, especially since those individuals have spent time and money in education and training and perhaps spent years working with their chosen profession. But for what? To throw it all out? Delete? Start over?
There is often an underlying reason for an identity crisis like this. Those individuals that I have heard of or worked with, all have one thing in common: Excessive overload and stress at the workplace or while studying, which eventually leads to burnout.
My friend recently told me about a girl that had spent four years studying to become a nurse. When she started to work, the work was more about quantity than quality, which then led her to experience severe long-term stress that led her to take sick leave. During her sick leave she did not work through her stressors, did not face her fears, did not get proper treatment nor did she get the right tools that could act as preventative if faced with severe stress again.
What happens is that individuals get anxious about returning to work and rightly so. For those who have experienced negative physical and emotional responses in their previous workplace, it is completely understandable that they associate it directly with their profession. Long term work stress can be so overwhelming that it can make individuals throw up. It is an example of a very strong physical reaction towards something that you have dedicated years of your life to.
Returning to my friend: After her sick leave, she applied for cleaning jobs and has never returned to the field of nursing since.
This is not the first story I have heard about, as in dramatical change of direction after experiencing work stress. It saddens me because we need nurses, doctors, pilots, etc. We need exactly those people, those people that were so passionate about their profession that they dedicated all those years to studying, training and applying for jobs within their field.
I have said this before, but I am going to emphasize it again: Seek help if you are experiencing long term stress! It can be treated and it is never too late.
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Picture by Snæþór Sigurbjörn Halldórsson