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Young People: How Work-Related Stress Can Impact You (and what you can do about it)

How does stress impacts young people, especially those looking for work or in low paid jobs? Read this article written by Joanne Freeman, Accredited Counsellor based in Essex, UK

There is a significant impact on young peoples’ mental health when working in lower paid jobs and when searching for job roles. Particularly in today’s society, with social media over-valuing financial wealth and materialism. Young people are sold the belief that to be successful you have to be in a highly paid job, with good prospects and all of the trappings that go with that. It’s a huge pressure and an unrealistic expectation for some to aspire to at such a young age. The hospitality and retail sector employ a large percentage of the younger generation, and in the main are lower paid jobs and the 2 sectors that have been hardest hit as a consequence of lockdown.

Some young people will apply for any job, just to at least be employed even if they are over qualified or their skills are not being utilised and to maintain a sense of self-worth. One client age 23 said, “Even after 3 years at university it took me 8 months to find a basic entry level role that wasn’t relevant to my degree and it was low paid too, it caused my anxiety and stress levels to sky rocket.” It’s then easy to stay in a low paid, unsatisfying job to avoid the “unemployed” label and being judged and criticised. However, this can keep you in the revolving door of low self-worth, depression and lacking in confidence. Then the thought of looking for a better paid job can feel daunting, with the prospect of being rejected at the forefront of your mind, so you stay put and perpetuate the feeling of unworthiness and financial stress. Unemployment and being in work that is undervalued does lead to low self-esteem and unhelpful thinking – comparing yourself unfavourably to others who you consider to have better paid and more rewarding employment. Avoidance of social gatherings can ensue because you just can’t afford it, or getting into debt in order keep up with your friends’ lifestyles.

In my counselling practice I work with a lot of young clients, and when it comes to job hunting, the process of actually applying for any job role is like a job in itself. In many cases, there’s a 5-step process online before you even get to meet in person. And this is for a basic minimum wage job. It can feel overwhelming, especially if you’ve been turned down numerous times. Financial stress, unemployment and working in low paid and unsatisfying jobs is a strong indicator of poor mental health. Another client, male age 23 commented, “It’s hard graft with little appreciation, I work long hours for little pay and it makes me feel I’m not good enough.”

So what can help?

Talking to a trusted advisor to shift perspective and see things from a different set of eyes. When a young person is in that negative mindset, they may not be able to see the wood for the trees, feel hopeless and choiceless. In reality, this is not usually the case, there are choices and if you can get help with self-esteem issues, your mind-set will change to a more positive perspective and you can then gain more motivation for job-hunting.

Realise that to experience hardship and stick it out in a job that is low paid and unsatisfying, builds character and resilience.

Look at the skills you’re using within your current employment, and value them.

There are plenty of free courses online that you can do to add to your CV.

Realise that you are more than your job, don’t fully identify yourself with your employment, there are so many other parts of you that are valuable.

If you are feeling highly anxious depressed or suicidal seek help from your GP or a registered counsellor. A lot of therapists offer reduced fees for people in financial stress.

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