Mentally Challenging Careers


Mentally Challenging Careers

Mentally Challenging Careers

Not all careers are created equally. Each path has its own challenges and rewards that are hopefully consistent with the effort involved.

Jobs can be difficult for many different reasons ranging from the levels of stress involved in the mental capacity and higher education needed to perform well. Any career that involves the welfare of others is almost automatically a high-stress position, but it’s not that clear-cut. Here are some of the most demanding and mentally strenuous careers and the reasons that they have that reputation.

NFL Quarterback

When it’s game time, the life of an NFL quarterback is no easy affair. You are under constant pressure to perform on one of the biggest stages in the world. Football, like all sports, is not as simple as tossing a ball around. There is a lot at stake here, as professional sports are a massive industry with a lot of money involved. Athletes are playing for their jobs with every match, and a series of bad decisions or off performances can mean an end to your career.

When it comes to NFL football, the quarterback has it rougher than most. The quarterback is the playmaker and thus constantly has a target on his back as 300lb behemoths try to break through his offensive line to tackle him. Every play is an exercise in thinking under pressure as you run through option after option and make a decision. It is the definition of a stressful career.

Amazingly, there are many players, both rookies, and veterans, that show they can block out all of the stress and perform well. One such player is the young standout Super Bowl champion Patrick Mahomes of the Kansas City Chiefs. If you follow the latest NFL picks against the spread, you’ll see that the Chiefs are often heavily favored to win in their matchups. For being such a young quarterback, Mahomes consistently rises to the challenge and does not fold under pressure.


Being a lawyer is one of those unrelenting careers that never seem to stop piling on the challenges. A career in law is exceptionally difficult from start to finish and thus comes with an alarming amount of stress, doubt, and daily struggles. For these reasons, it is very common for lawyers to quit the profession they trained for nearly a decade to enter.

First, the job is emotionally draining on many levels. For criminal lawyers, the freedom of your clients can hang in the balance. For business lawyers, a failed case may mean the end for your client’s business and, by extension, your own. Not every case is so dramatic, but everyone is important. As a result of this mentality, lawyers have a tendency to be hard on themselves. They mourn every lost case and cannot focus on the things they did right.

Other careers may have a set schedule where they clock out and go home at 5 pm. For a lawyer, the job never ends, and thus many become workaholics and find a work-life balance almost impossible. The time spent researching cases and filing paperwork is immense, and oftentimes it consumes your every waking moment. While not all lawyers have the same experiences, this is certainly not a career for the faint of heart.


The life of a doctor is rigorous and always stressful. It’s well known that the schooling required to become a doctor is no easy affair, to begin with, but many people don’t know that it never really ends. A medical doctor must continuously study and attend conferences on the latest procedures and advancements in the field. To be involved in this industry, you have to have a true passion for it on some level and a desire to help others if you want to continue long term.

The mental challenges that a doctor must go through are enormous. Every day there may be dozens of patients that all have different ailments and need different treatments. To continuously keep all of these details straight and perform for long hours day after day is certainly difficult. Thankfully, doctors can rely on their great nurses to help keep things in order and make sure all patients are being cared for correctly.

On the topic of stress, a doctor indeed has enough of it for everyone. Luckily, they must know some good ways to deal with it. When the life of your patients depends on you giving the correct diagnosis and treatments, you can be assured that there is a constant weight on your shoulders. Then there is the fear of lawsuits that are so common in the US and other countries. Being a doctor is certainly not a career to be taken lightly.


Air Traffic Controller

The public may understand the mental challenges of industries like medical and criminal justice from the many television shows and films about the fields, but not many people are aware of the staggeringly difficult lives of air traffic controllers. In this job field, operators coordinate the movements of aircraft in the area and make sure that safe distances are kept between them, and make sure that these aircraft are safe to take off and land. This is a specialized position that less than 1% of all applicants are qualified for.

While air traffic controllers are very well compensated, there are numerous drawbacks to this industry that make it a difficult fit for most people. The actual duties of the job require you to be thinking and assessing the situation constantly. As they are speaking with the pilots, they are monitoring the airspace nearby and checking their equipment to gauge the aircraft’s altitude and speed. Multitasking is a must, and there are many strict codes and phrases that need to be memorized and repeated instantaneously.

While this in itself sounds exhausting, you also have to consider the lifestyle that comes with it. Much like the pilots themselves, air traffic controllers have schedules that are constantly in flux. They may be working the opposite shift as last week, and regardless if it’s 3 pm or 3 am, they have to remain sharp and focused at all times. When people first try to break into this industry, they are often overwhelmed because this is foreign to them. There is no other work experience comparable to this industry, everything is brand new, and there is a lot to learn. Without a doubt, this is one of the most mentally challenging careers in the world today.

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