How long have you been in career paralysis? A week, a month, a year? However long it is, that sense of being ‘stuck’ or trapped in your current job can be overwhelming, and well, paralysing. But what to do? How can you move forward when you haven’t a clue about where you are heading? Many of my clients start working with me from a place of ‘stuckness’ so firstly remind yourself you are not alone. Other people get stuck in their careers too. There are techniques that can move you on:

1.Stop trying to think yourself free

Acknowledge that the paralysis is just a feeling. A feeling triggered by your current situation at work. You hate your job but need to pay the bills, the risk of change is high and you don’t know what you want to do anyway so your only option is to stay. This can feel like the absolute and unequivocal truth of your situation. And when options are limited or non-existent then you can feel trapped. 

And feeling trapped means your natural stress response can be triggered. If you think of a rabbit in the headlights of a car, it often freezes because it can’t think of options due to the complete overwhelm of its senses, and so feeling stuck can cause you to freeze too. Then thinking about how to become unstuck causes overwhelm.

To clear your mind try and locate the feeling of ‘stuckness’ in your body. Ask yourself where you feel stuck. Notice where it sits – is it in the tightness of your shoulders, or is it sitting in your stomach. Focus on the physical feeling, and work at relaxing it/letting it go. Use your breath to help. Focusing on the physicality will help free your mind to realise there are always options and choices.

2. Ask yourself this question

“What does my ideal work day look like in 3 years time?”

Answer in detail and consider:

  • how does my day start – am I doing yoga/meditation/exercise before breakfast, do I answer my emails while waiting for my high energy breakfast smoothie, what time do I get down to work?
  • what am I wearing to work – am I in a suit, jeans and a tee, something in between?
  • what is my favourite thing to work on?
  • who are my work colleagues?
  • what is my boss like? do I have one?
  • how often am I in the office?
  • what to I do after work?

Drilling down into the detail, and being specific about what your day could look like can help you refocus on a) what’s missing currently, and b) how can you start moving closer to the ideal.

3. Get some support

Don’t underestimate the power of others. A mentor, coach or a friend can help you make real progress, and avoid getting stuck in overwhelm again. Make a plan and ask them to keep you accountable in your changes.

Believe that change is possible and you can beat the overwhelm and the sensation of paralysis. 

Originally published at


  • Sarah Archer

    Career Coach

    I specialise in career success through re-energising your career, changing it and building confidence. I'm passionate about helping women, in particular, discover purposeful work that they love. I've helped hundreds of people change career or re-engage with their existing career. I love what I do and I want as many people as possible to discover a career they can love too.