Picture this. It’s Sunday, you’re relaxing at home, and suddenly your phone starts ringing. It’s an ex boss — someone you had hoped was out of your life for good.
5 Signs of Work-Related Stress
- You’re always tired and mentally drained.
- You have difficulty falling asleep.
- You’re drinking more alcohol than you should.
- Your physical appearance is drastically changing (for the worse).
- You start to be more agitated and withdrawn.
This was my reality just a few weeks ago when I noticed a missed call from “she who must not be named.” I couldn’t believe that my calm, soothing weekend, possible because I’m now my own boss, immediately turned into the Sunday scaries. I instantly got PTSD and started to remember just how toxic this boss was and how she caused me to stress out and hate the job I had at the time.
We’ve all been there. Miserable, tired and uninspired working for a company and with colleagues that you can’t stand only to get a bi-weekly paycheck. Or at least that was the case for me at the majority of startups and tech companies I worked for. While working for corporate America, I hardly ever felt valued despite my immense contributions, so I learned how to cope and identify strategies to help me survive and, most importantly, free myself from jobs I hated.
Below are six tips that have helped me. Use them, too, so the job you despise doesn’t take a toll on your mental health.
Communicate the Problem
If you can, first find someone at work whom you can trust and confide in who won’t sabotage you. Be careful who you tell your business to at work. Not everyone at work is your friend and you don’t want to find that out the hard way.
Even though I worked in some pretty terrible environments, I was lucky to have individuals I could share my frustrations with. I usually always felt better after I did, albeit temporarily, and noticed that my mood slightly improved.
If you’re at the point where a colleague isn’t going to make much of a difference, then flag whatever issue you’re having with HR. If nothing changes even after HR gets involved, then it’s time to reconsider your options.
Remember Why You Took the Job
No job is perfect. I get that, and it’s why, for each role I’ve held, I’ve always tried to remember why I applied for and wanted the job in the first place.
Doing this takes a lot of ownership of and pressure off of you and the horrible situation you’re in. Focus on what you can control and on your long-term goals. Never lose sight of that, and think of this as your guide throughout any difficult career move. You’ll start to celebrate all the achievements and hone in more on parts of the job that you still enjoy, even if the rest sucks.
Get a Side Hustle
Develop your skills, lean on your strengths and make sure you leverage them outside of whatever company you’re working for. All jobs are temporary, even if it feels like you are stuck there forever.
Plus, you should never put all your eggs in one basket by giving all your time and energy to a company that isn’t your own. Protect yourself at all costs mentally and financially by increasing your income. If you’re persistent, this will eventually get you out of any job you hate. I began freelancing and then consulting full time on the side after my first job about 10 years ago. I was able to shift my priorities away from toxic jobs and to what I always knew was going to be my career path — founder and CEO of my own business.
Keep interviewing, even if you are satisfied and overall happy in your job. It’s so important to recognize how other companies and competitors do business. Interviewing is a great way to take more time away from your awful job and interact with some of the brightest brains and c-suite executives in your industry. You also uncover a lot of truths, such as market insight, when you interview.
It wasn’t until I started interviewing heavily during all my jobs that I realized I was underpaid and overlooked. You’ll gain more confidence when you realize you can take your talents elsewhere. And whatever you do, don’t fall victim to accepting a counteroffer from your current job. Nothing changes in your position except your salary. If you do accept a counteroffer, it’s safe to say that you just passed on an opportunity to work for an employer who saw what your current employer never did.
Whether it’s workload, bandwidth or a micromanager who is limiting your growth, always set boundaries on working styles and what you can and can’t do. You’re hired to do a job, that’s it, and ensuring you have a healthy work-life balance is crucial.
When I worked for corporate America, constantly being pulled in so many directions ultimately kept me from doing my job to the best of my abilities. So I started to push back and avoid burnout by saying “no” more. I would also pass up the offer to go to drinks and dinners with colleagues to avoid further damage and talking about work more, which was the last thing I wanted. Never take tasks home with you, and if you can, avoid distractions like unnecessary calls and meetings that make it impossible to get anything done.
Realize It Might be Time to Quit
When your job becomes a huge source of stress in your life that you can’t seem to escape from, it’s time to know when to move on. Avoid dragging this out into a long and painful process and just cut ties. No job, no matter what, is ever worth your mental or physical health.
Jobs come and go, and there will always be another out there if you choose to go that route. Put yourself first.
I quit my last corporate job with no notice, even though it was remote and paid over six figures. It started to take me away from my true purpose, it caused feelings of panic, and I had four different managers in under a year. I mainly kept it going for free health insurance. Sure, it can seem scary to resign especially if you don’t have something else lined up, which is why it’s important to start applying all the above tips first and make preparations for your exit.
If you find yourself pouring an alcoholic beverage all too often, or you’re bringing work back with you and staying up into the wee hours of the night to make a deadline, then it’s probably time for a change. Coming to terms with the necessary steps and planning you’ll need to take to survive and ultimately get out of the job you hate starts and ends with you.
So what are you waiting for? Get moving.