Changing Careers: Why Freaking Out is a Powerful Tool

career change freak out

Today’s post is by Christie Mims, one of the current participants in my GSD Mastermind. In 11 weeks, she’s had some incredible milestones. She’s earned her first two paid article contributions, built an entire e-course for helping smart women find career happiness, shifted her entire brand messaging, and increased her blog subscriber base. Seriously — I could go on and on. But here’s your chance to meet her and see why she’s completely kickass at what she does. Her WHY? Because no one should settle for anything less than happiness in their career. I like it.


Strange as it may seem, sometimes the best career transitions start with a good ‘ol freak out.

You know the kind: hyper-ventilating, crazy hair, fetal positions, or awkward conversations with…yourself.  We often categorize these as bad, but when it comes to your career, they can be very very good.  As a veteran of career freak outs ranging from: “Should I take this promotion? Should I leave this job?” to  “Is it time to start my own company? What the hell am I doing?!!” I’ve learned that the best career decisions I’ve made have happened right after an awesome panic attack.

There are three reasons why freak outs can be really really helpful:

They Shake You UP!

Often it’s not till we freak out about something that we truly its value to our careers.  For example, there was a time when I knew I wanted to start my own company, but yet…I was still stuck in my suit consulting.  I could not seem to make myself leave.   And then my company started lay-offs.  For awhile I was on the team deciding who was getting pink-slipped, but it quickly became clear that if we continued the way we were going, my job would be gone as well.  So, I decided to panic. But I didn’t panic, I PANICKED.  I went through all the stages of grief, denial and worry about paying rent (coupled with a ton of time in the fetal position) and then I realized…this *might just be* the shake up that I needed.

I had wished for a push to help get me out the door and onto something else, but the safety of my job was holding me back, trapped in gravity well of security and a steady paycheck.  With that safety net potentially gone, I realized that I had nothing to lose. So I might as well leave on my own terms.

The freak out forced me to face my fears about leaving, and realize that leaving was what I had wanted all along.  Also, there’s a reason why they call it shaking up – versus shaking down, right?

I was on my way up.

They Help You Breathe

Handily, when you freak out you start to take breaths. Sometimes they are shallow and panicky breathes, but you are breathing all the same.  This is important: it gets you to slow down and think as you answer the question “what will I do? What will I DO?!”

This is your opportunity to pause for a second, take a few deep breathes (put your hand on your stomach to make sure you are breathing deeply like a baby), and really think through whatever is causing you to freak out.  Is it truly that terrible? What options do you have? When was the last time you breathed deeply and thought about your career?


Giving yourself space to think and challenge your perceptions about your job or your job opportunities is really important.  It oxygenates your brain, makes you smarter, and makes you stop and reflect.  Too many career decisions are made because they are easy.  Freaking out (and breathing) force us to confront the ones that are hard.

They Move You Forward (And Remind You Why You Are Alive)

For a long time in my consulting work, I felt half asleep because the work no longer really interested me.  I was going through my daily routine without paying much attention to anything, and I started to get worried that I’d wake up 10 years down the road doing the same thing, wondering what had happened to my life.

Of course, all of that changed when I thought about starting a business on my own and became paralyzed with fear.

I was terrified, lonely, worried, and yet weirdly, I have never felt so alive.  I realized then that I had a choice: I could sleepwalk through my career and take no risks, or I could push myself and take a leap of faith.  I decided I wanted the unknown, because the known was no longer working for me. When I thought about work I no longer wanted to be asleep at the wheel; I wanted to feel awake and I wanted to feel alive.

Of course, wanting more forced me to address the question, “I’m freaking out! What do I DO??!” and actually build a plan around it.

When was the last time you proactively created a concrete plan for your career (or for your next job)?  Maybe it’s time to start.

For me, my panic helped me build an exit strategy that gave me a little bit of breathing room and a financial cushion for my new business.  I needed the freak out to make me build a plan, because otherwise I was just…stuck (boo).  And the plan worked (yay!!). You can find my successful business over here.


So the moral of this story is that next time you freak out in your career I want you pat yourself on the back, because YOU are one step closer to that next great thing, and that is pretty freaking amazing.


Christie MimsAbout Christie Mims

Christie Mims is the creator of the Career Happiness Revolution, THE number one destination for smart women who won’t settle for anything less than career happiness. Join the revolution and boost your work happiness right here.  Follow her on twitter (hey!) and facebook (hello!) for career advice with a side of sass.


Yes Freak outs are good! I can't say I had a true "Freak Out" moment, but rather several small freak outs that ultimately lead to me seeking out career coaching. Had I not done that I would be stuck in a normal 9-5. For anybody struggling with career path, or starting your own thing, I HIGHLY recommend career coaching. It will be the kick in the pants you need.

Aliza Stein
Aliza Stein

Great post Christie! I've definitely had those freak outs. I experienced this when I left a healthcare career (12 years) to move to another state. Once I settled in the idea of going back to that life just killed me. So, I took the leap and started my own business. I've never looked back. 

Kevin Cole
Kevin Cole

For whatever reason, I have had total freak outs every June for the past three years. Not really sure what it is about that time, but it's like clock work. 

The good news is, they've all brought out the best in me. The first one allowed me to get my shit together and look at relationships in a much healthier way. The second one changed the way I look at life and work. The third one changed the way I look at branding and believing in myself. 

I seriously owe so much to those panicked moments. Huge congrats on all your success Christie and thank you for spreading the (unexpected) benefits of freaking out.


@Kevin Cole Thanks for sharing!!! This is a really powerful stuff - I love hearing stories like these!


Great article! I just took the leap of faith in August, and am now going through the freak out stage now that things are settling in...and maybe not moving as quickly as I'd hoped. But I keep chugging along. If freaking out means I'm one step closer to the next great thing...then it must be REALLY close...because this has been the week of the freak...out. =)

Erika Napoletano
Erika Napoletano moderator

@carrieg777 Freak outs usually happen when I'm on the verge of something great. Sounds like a verge to me!