21 November 2017

How to Ride the Emotional Roller Coaster

One of my clients recently asked me about the emotional roller coaster of job search. I told him and my other two clients that when I got into the career management business 24 years ago, I was taught that job seekers would have good days and bad days. This has not been my experience. What I’ve learned when I’ve been in the midst of the most difficult times in my life is that I have good minutes and bad minutes; joy one moment and despair the next. They concurred.

When my kids and I rode eight roller coasters at Six Flags during Spring break a few years ago, I saw more clearly than ever why roller coasters are such a great metaphor for the ups and downs of job search (and for life in general). There are a lot of ups and downs, stops and starts, twists and turns, light and dark. Here are the eight roller coasters we rode:

  1. Batman: The Ride – Soar like a bat out of Hades, through, above – and even underneath – Gotham City, suspended from the rails of one of the most innovative coasters of all time.
  2. Superman: Ultimate Flight – Face down your fear – face first – as you fly above Georgia at super speed – just like the man of steel, Superman.
  3. Georgia Cyclone – Fasten your seat belts. You’re in for some heavy turbulence aboard Georgia’s one-and-only Cyclone – a wooden coaster for riders with nerves of steel.
  4. Mind Bender – Go on a thrill bender – let North America’s original three-loop coaster blow your mind.
  5. Ninja – The thrills are awesome, but you won’t see them coming till it’s too late on Ninja –the black belt of all steel coasters.
  6. The Georgia Scorcher – Put your feet to the fire on The Georgia Scorcher – one of the Southeast’s tallest and fastest stand-up roller coasters.
  7. The Great American Scream Machine – There’s nothing like a wooden coaster for bone-jangling jitters and the Scream Machine is a living legend – once the tallest coaster in the world.
  8. Goliath – It’s big, it’s mean, and it wants to take you for a ride. Meet Goliath—the gigantic steel coaster the other rides call “Sir.” Top speed: 70 miles per hour. Elevation: over 20 stories tall. [They didn’t publish the G-forces on this ride, but another (Ninja) hits four G’s, so I assume this one is greater.]

We went on Goliath first. I remember hitting the bottom of the first curve and realizing that my spine doesn’t enjoy the G-forces quite like it used to. Prior to that, I thought of roller coasters as more of an up-and-down event. Now I think of loop-the-loops, inversions and other disorienting experiences – sort of like job search.

On Superman, for instance, you are suspended face down looking at the ground to start. Click here to see what I’m talking about. (Warning: don’t get bogged down surfing this site, like I’m prone to do.) When the ride ended they had a mechanical problem, and we spent about 15 minutes staring at a red metal floor. It was uncomfortable and boring – sort of like job search sometimes.

Many years ago I learned about, and then taught, the grief cycle to my classes. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross found that people go through five stages of grief when they learn of their impending death. Job search and other life changes follow a similar pattern. They are:

  1. Denial. “No, not me! I can’t believe this is happening to me!”
  2. Anger. “Why me? How dare you do this to me!”
  3. Bargaining. “If I do this good deed, maybe I’ll find a job within a week.”
  4. Depression. “It really has happened. I can’t bear going through this.”
  5. Acceptance. “I don’t want to fight this anymore. I’m ready to move on.”

M. Scott Peck says we go through similar stages every time we’re about to grow in psychological or spiritual maturity. So there’s the good news. James 1:2-4 says, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

With all this in mind, here are some tips for riding the emotional roller coaster:

  1. Train for the event. People with heart problems, bad backs and expectant mothers shouldn’t ride roller coasters. Since job search is more of a mental and emotional battle than a physical one; make sure you do the things that help you perform at your best. Diet, rest and exercise form the three-legged stool of good health and peak performance. I recommend “Body by God” by Dr. Ben Lerner. Lerner offers a comprehensive plan for getting in touch with our bodies in four areas: nutrition, exercise, stress management and time management.
  2. Pull the safety device down. It’s going to be a wild ride; you can count on that. Ephesians 6:10-12 says, “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” Job search is one of the toughest spiritual battles you will ever face, so put on the full armor of God.
  3. Keep your arms inside. Listen to the advice of experts. We know what works, and we know what can harm you. Don’t panic when several networking efforts appear to produce no fruit. If you don’t heed our advice and you surf the net for the majority of your day instead, you could lose an arm and a leg.
  4. Don’t jump out. The worst thing you could do would be to jump off a speeding roller coaster. Winston Churchill said, “If you’re going through hell, keep going.” Giving up will only make the problem worse.
  5. Scream. Scream if you have to. Better yet, write in a journal. It’s a way of communicating with God; it’s great therapy, and it’s free. Find a few people you can confide in. (I’m thankful for my advisors, they hear from me often.) Get professional help if necessary.
  6. Breathe deeply. On my second time on the Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster at Disney MGM Studios, I tried to keep my heart rate as close to normal as possible. I did this by taking deep relaxing breaths throughout. This is what wellness instructors teach and what good athletes do. Find something that relaxes you. This not only smoothes out the bumps, it will improve your performance when it counts.
  7. Enjoy some other attractions. Roller coasters may not by your thing. True, you are probably not on the roller coaster by choice. Find some attractions you do like. Ride them in between. Succeed at something; that way you can claim some victories along the way. For example, “I didn’t have much luck with my search this week, but the Adobe Illustrator class I completed will position me for some opportunities that I am really interested in.”

Here’s one more similarity between a real roller coaster and the emotional roller coaster of job search: the roller coaster will arrive safely in the end. And so will you, my friend.

Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’s website used to have 12 tips for dealing with grief and bereavement. I couldn’t help but notice that the first tip is to attend support groups in your area.

Sometimes I speak to someone who is too discouraged to come to JobSeekers on Friday. All of us on the Ship’s Crew have had times in our lives when we were too discouraged to get out of bed, or to go somewhere we didn’t want to go, even though we knew it would do us some good. We can empathize. Get out of bed anyway. Come to JobSeekers anyway. Get that big stone, which is full of inertia, rolling again.

We look forward to seeing Friday at JobSeekers, the place where we hang on tight during this wild, wild ride!

Copyright © 2017 / Dave O’Farrell / All Rights Reserved

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