4 Ways to Work Towards a Career Goal without Sacrificing Your Physical and Mental Health

Pure Style Photography

Pure Style Photography

Whether you’re dissatisfied with your job, anxious about when you’re going to get that promotion, or just wondering how to balance long days at work with your personal life, your career can impact your physical and mental health. When we’re happier in our careers, we’re healthier overall and when we’re healthier, we’re better able to thrive at work. 

How can we keep this in mind and take care of ourselves when pushing to achieve a career goal? Here are a few important things to consider.

Know Yourself and Get Clear on Your Goal

It may sound obvious, but the more specific and actionable your goal is, the easier the path ahead. Note the difference between “Get a new job” and “Land a job within a small organization where the culture aligns with my values.” Start by creating your “dream” or ideal scenario even though you may compromise on some aspects of it later. This will help you target where to look and what actions you need to take to get there. If you’re looking for any job anywhere, or just a promotion instead of certain responsibilities, you’ll be overwhelmed by too many options. This overwhelm can lead to chronic stress, and it’s estimated that up to 90% of visits to a doctor are for stress-related issues. This impact on your well-being diminishes the energy and motivation you need to work on your goal.  

If it’s hard to get clear on what you want, you may need to slow down, take a step back, and turn inward. Ask yourself how a potential goal aligns with your own values, skills, and interests. What do you want and how can you listen to that message amongst the noise from what others may be telling you is the “right” next step?

Pure Style Photography

Pure Style Photography

Create Action Items

What do you need to do to achieve your goal? Does the answer sound daunting? Another way to minimize stress is to break things down into smaller pieces. Each time you achieve a mini-goal or cross an action item off of your to-do list, these wins release dopamine in your brain. That chemical will motivate you to keep plugging away so you can release more and continue feeling a sense of happiness and reward.  Make some of your action items so easy that you’re setting yourself up for success.

Here’s an example of breaking a big goal into smaller ones: If you’re looking for a job, you likely know that you should do some networking. Instead of trying to talk to anyone and everyone, start by finding one person you’re excited to speak to. Once you’ve checked that off, set a date/time to draft your informational interview request, and another one for when you’ll send it, and continue in this way of small steps until you’ve sent your post-meeting thank you note. Networking can be scary and intimidating, but these smaller steps can help you build confidence.  

Find Resources and Support

Not sure who to speak with about professional development in your office? If you don’t have a mentor or your supervisor isn’t someone you rely on, look to see who’s in the type of role you’re targeting and set up a conversation with them. Human Resources can be another place to find out more.

If you’re looking externally, check with the career services office of your undergraduate school as many offer services to alumni. Career coaches like me also provide lots of free guides and advice, so if you’re questioning next steps or how to go about part of your process, don’t feel like you have to figure it out on your own.    

"Prioritizing happiness in your career is a form of self-care."

Aileen Axtmayer

Take Care of Yourself

When we don’t meet a goal or expectation we set for ourselves or the process is taking longer than we visualized – we feel the opposite of a dopamine release. There’s a certain vulnerability that comes with putting yourself out there in your career, and when we get news we don’t like it can be painful to process. Feelings ranging from disappointment, rejection, and sadness all, unfortunately, can be typical. Fostering a sense of resilience is key to success.

The good news is that this means taking breaks and walking away from your action items to do things you love is not just fun, but necessary!  Some ideas include:

  • Do exercise you enjoy (it doesn’t have to be rigorous either) – it releases dopamine and other feel-good chemicals like endorphins and serotonin, improving your mood and making you more productive. It’ll also help you sleep better, and your sleep impacts everything.

  • Eat foods that nourish your body – over 90% of serotonin is produced in your digestive tract!

  • Ask yourself which activities you can do to build self-trust and confidence (Nailing a challenging pose in yoga? Meditating to train your brain to notice when negative self-talk arises? Spending time with people who celebrate you as you are?).

Prioritizing happiness in your career is a form of self-care. Use these steps to support your physical and mental health throughout the process so that when you get where you want to go, you have the energy to enjoy it!


This post was sponsored by Aspire with Aileen - but note that JUGS only accepts sponsorships from mission-aligned brands that meet our core values of compassion + fulfillment.