A long break from work, or your chosen career, can make it difficult to get back in, but far from impossible. In fact, it’s very common for people to take work breaks for months or longer. Whether you took a hiatus to raise your children, care for a sick relative, or earn another degree or additional skills, returning to work requires planning and careful attention to your mental health.
Returning to work can be a stressful change. In addition to practical steps, make sure you take time for self-care and to manage anxiety, stress, and other mental health issues. Start with a vision and goal setting, make a plan, and take your time.
Have a Vision
It’s important to jump back into work thoughtfully. Take some time to create a vision for your future and your career. This will help you get exactly what you want in terms of a position that benefits all areas of your life.
Start by making a list of what matters most to you in life and in a career that will fit into that life.
For instance, if your children are still school-aged, do you need a position with flexible hours that will allow you to drive them to school or go to their extracurricular activities? Maybe you don’t have kids and are interested in advancing in your chosen industry.
Also, consider what kind of company would reflect your values and goals. This is important for long-term work satisfaction, so list your values in life and at work. This will give you a clearer idea of which teams and companies you would be happy to join.
The clearer you can outline your work-life vision, the easier it will be to narrow down your options and eliminate positions. Take plenty of time on this step, and you’ll make up the time later by avoiding the wrong jobs and companies for you.
Be Prepared for Stress
A career hiatus is sometimes good, although it has long been viewed that way. It can be a time to reflect on what matters to you, gain and diversify your skills or even train for a new career and industry.
Unfortunately, many employers still view a gap in work as detrimental or are at least skeptical of it. Be prepared for a challenge as you reenter the world of work, and be ready for the stress and other mental health issues the transition can bring.
From the difficulty of finding a job to the anxiety and self-doubt you’ll likely feel diving back in, returning to work can have a big impact on mental health.
One potential consequence is substance use. Many people use drugs or alcohol to cope with stress, anxiety, depression, and other mental health symptoms. Even prescription medications can become problematic. If necessary, turn to a specialist like a benzodiazepine treatment facility in Boston, for example, to learn how to stop misusing medications or other substances.
Instead of going down this dangerous road, be prepared for mental health challenges with healthy coping strategies. Try meditation and breathing techniques, or work with a therapist to improve your mental health and learn positive, effective coping strategies.
Include Self-Care Time
Self-care always matters, but it is especially important when going through a big life transition like returning to work. As you put time and energy into your resume and job search, don’t forget to make time for self-care.
This means managing both your mental and physical health in positive, productive ways. Good self-care improves your overall well-being, supports good health and recovery from any mental illness or addiction, and improves your quality of life.
Self-care is all about making healthy lifestyle choices: exercise regularly, eat a healthy diet, prioritize sleep, and use relaxation strategies to manage stress and other symptoms.
Self-care doesn’t mean indulgence. Basic care can often feel selfish, but it is essential to well-being. You cannot contribute fully to a new workplace or support your loved ones if you don’t take care of yourself first.
Going Back to Work the Right Way
A work hiatus is not quite the dark blotch on a resume that it used to be, but it can still be a roadblock to getting back to a career you enjoy. If you are making this transition, do it the right way.
This means taking time to really understand and seek out what you want in a career. It means managing your stress and mental health and prioritizing your well-being with positive self-care.