My daughter is really stressed at her first job

Your Life
Dr. Cathleen McGreal
October, 2017

My daughter is really stressed at her first job. What can I say to help her handle this new reality?

The college seniors in my classes often are stressed during their last semesters. Will they get into the graduate school of their choice? Or, will they be offered a job in the field they have trained for throughout their college careers? The stress continues after good news is received. As one student remarked, “I’ve worked since I was 16 but this will be my first real job.” Students know they are entering the “new reality” that you mention, but a transition into a new phase of life can be disconcerting, even when leading to a future that has been dreamed of for years.

Distress? Or, Eustress? When we speak of stress typically we think of its negative reactions – the distress we feel when events in our lives feel overwhelming. But eustress is different. The prefix, “eu” means “good” in Greek. If your daughter is able to reframe some of her work duties as challenging rather than overwhelming, then the stress she feels can promote effective on-the-job performance.

All of us engage in “self-talk,” which is an internal conversation that we have about ourselves, such as, “Why didn’t I pack lunches last night so the morning would go smoother?” Since your daughter is sharing her stressors with you, listen to how she is framing her job tasks. For example, “There is no way I can ever make those deadlines” is likely to lead to distress. But, “If I break down the work into daily tasks then I can hit deadline” is effective self-talk. With a positive framework, those physiological sensations of stress can be a motivation to be “on top of her game,” energizing her for the tasks at hand.

What about a support system? A first job often means a move from familiar settings to new locations. Contact with college friends continues, but it can be lonely when there aren’t face-to-face friends. Meeting other young adults can help your daughter enjoy her off-work hours. Many parishes have groups that target early adulthood; these interactions could help your daughter build new relationships. Checking out the diocesan website and contacting the Director of Young Adult Ministry might reveal other activities that interest her.

Prayerful meditation as a response to stress. You and your daughter may gain insights into her stress through prayer and meditation. The United States Catholic Catechism for Adults states that, “Prayer is the gate that leads us to a deeper understanding of the Word of God” (p. xxiii); the catechism provides specific meditations after each chapter. For example, the meditation on God’s Providential Care at the end of Chapter 5 might provide encouragement regarding God’s plan for her life.

Continue to offer conversational opportunities for your daughter to sort through her first job experiences. Find reassurance in the words of St. Augustine, “God loves each one of us as if there were only one of us to love.”