Is Your Mental Health Affected by a Career Change?

By Cari Frame, Senior Career Coach at Toombs Inc.


Shayla sat on her couch at home, hiding from the world. The phone went to voicemail, emails went unread, and the dishes kept piling up. Shayla didn’t know what to say to anyone, so she avoided everyone. Her normal routine was completely altered; she had nowhere to go, suddenly she was no longer needed.

Shame kept her from talking with people. Disbelief made her thoughts spin on an endless loop of questions and speculations that was exhausting. Anxiety made her feel shaky, sweaty, and scatter-brained. The more her mind roamed, the more fearful she became.

Shayla had been told yesterday that her full-time job of the last 7 years was over. Even though Shayla knew it wasn’t a performance-based decision, she felt F.I.R.E.D.


Job loss or sudden change is officially one of the seven most stressful life experiences. Yet, it is also a time when people hide from conversation and support. Mental health awareness is about spreading the encouragement to be open and seek supports as needed. Mental health awareness starts with our willingness to acknowledge struggle in ourselves and others. As Career Coaches, we at Toombs make sure every client feels safe and encouraged to bring their full career transition experience to our sessions together.


Shame is the Great Silencer

During career change, shame often keeps people quiet and not reaching for much needed conversations and supports. The career change shame can have many reasons, here are some of the most common –

Like many people going through a sudden career change, Shayla was hiding from talking to people because she was unsure of how to answer the inevitable questions like “What happened?” and “What will you do now?”. Rather than receiving the care and support that is so needed, folks like Shayla face a difficult life change all alone, and their mental health suffers as a result.

Here are some of the signs that you or someone you know may be in need of communication and support around their mental wellbeing.

Mental Health Struggle Symptoms During Career Change


Steps to Releasing Shame & Silence During Career Transition

In my experience as a coach, there are proven ways to release the shame and ending the silence. As Brené Brown taught us – shame cannot survive when empathy is present.

  1. SELF ACKNOWLEDGEMENT. Rather than running from how you feel, write it down. Put down on paper the main words that describe how you really feel. E.g., scared, ashamed, shaky, lonely
  2. SELF EMPATHY. Now look at that list of feelings and imagine a person standing in front of you (perhaps a friend or someone you care about) who is feeling all the things on that list. What would you want to say to them? What would you want to do for/with them? Write those things down as if you are talking to them. E.g., “You deserve to feel proud of all the work you did. You are not alone because we are all here ready to help.”
  3. EMPATHY RECEIVED. Read over your message to the imagined person and feel how much you are deserving of the same care and support. Then write down a list of people you know that would be very likely to give you this kind of empathic support. If you need more, write down a list of resources where you can get professional support. If you are struggling, here is a list for Alberta.
  4. SCHEDULE REGULAR SUPPORT. The feelings of shame may try to keep you from reaching out for support. By scheduling a talk or task on a (minimum) weekly basis, you can help yourself follow through. It is also very stress-relieving to have some order and structure to your days.


Mental Load Multiplier

The mental toll increases exponentially if career change is happening in proximity to any of the following major life changes:

Relationship status change (break-up, divorce, death)

Health change (mental, physical)

Dwelling change (move, eviction)

Financial instability


For almost everyone, the lifestyle and relational upheaval of the pandemic these last two years have created a perfect storm of increased strain on our mental health. As you take care of your physical health, care too for your mental wellbeing. Bringing empathy and supports into your routine will ease the mental load and support overall mental health; learn to recognize and acknowledge when you’re starting to feel overwhelmed and reach out. Whenever possible, try not to wait until you are desperate for support, reach for them at the first sign of struggle.


For more information on career transition support options, reach out to us at Toombs.

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