Want to quit your job because of anxiety or stress? Read this article first
Anxiety is bad enough, but when it’s at work it can make your life hell. I’ve been there, and I know it can be overwhelming. In this article I will share my advice so you can make better decisions about your career, even when you are anxious or stressed out.
Before you keep reading, I want to make it clear that, ultimately, it’s going to be your choice. I hope my advice inspires, helps, and applies to as many people as possible, however: I don’t know who you are and what you want in your life.
This is why it’s crucial that you truly listen to your inner voice and intuition. When it comes to quitting your job, there’s always going to be a lot of different factors. Some of these factors I will explain and go through in this article; but some of them may be personal, and only you know how important they are.
Ask yourself this question
When you are thinking of quitting your job, especially because of anxiety, you should always ask yourself why: why are you anxious, and why do you want to leave?
The first thing you need to understand is whether your job directly affects your mental health. Are you anxious and stressed out in general, or only/predominantly at your current profession? If it’s the latter, it may be a red flag.
You also need to ask yourself how much anxiety your job is causing. If you had to use a percentage, what would it be? 10, 20, maybe 50 percent of your anxiety? Years ago, I used to work at a very toxic workplace, which I believe was causing 80% or more of my mental health issues — which is why I quit after only four months.
In general, if you find that most of your anxiety issues are related to different factors (for example, not getting enough sleep), then it probably makes sense to keep working, especially if you kind of like your job.
Conversely, when you get to the point where your life is hell directly because of your work or workplace, it probably makes sense to quit. Again, these are general recommendations, that may not apply to your circumstances.
Be really honest with yourself and identify what is the main cause of your mental health problems. Is it your colleagues or boss? Is it a toxic workplace? Is it doing repetitive work that’s just not for you? Is it that you’ve been working non-stop for too long, and deserve/need a break? Or is it something else?
If you are confused, you can draw a pie chart like the one shown above and experiment with different factors and percentages until your thoughts are clear.
Alternatives to quitting
Thankfully, if you are certain that your current job isn’t for you, quitting isn’t the only option you have.
If you feel you never have enough time to de-stress, enjoy life, and do the things you love; if working five or six days a week is overwhelming for you; if you need more days off, then consider working part-time.
I’ve met many people who decided to do this, and it did wonders for their mental and physical health. Sometimes transitioning to part-time hours is all it takes to improve your life. If anyone thinks you are lazy for wanting to work less hours, ignore them — they just don’t understand who you are.
Another thing you may do instead of quitting is switching to a different department. If you like the company you are working for, and you’ve been there for a while, but absolutely hate your current job (or colleagues), it may be sensible to do something different without leaving the company.
Also: if you are constantly thinking about quitting, but you never think of what you will do once you quit, then spend more time on that.
The uncertainty related to not knowing what comes after quitting can be overwhelming, and make your anxiety worse. By removing the uncertainty, you can reduce your stress. Your emotions will change, you’ll have clearer thoughts, and it will be easier to make decisions.
Making better decisions
I believe the following applies to all important decisions, not just those related to your current job.
When it comes to decisions, the first thing you need to do is evaluate is the pros and the cons. Do take time to think, and be as specific as possible.
When you think of reasons not to quit, you may come up with things such as more uncertainty, or perhaps the possibility of not finding work soon enough and not being able to pay your bills.
When you think of reasons to quit, it may be that you’ll have a lot more time to discover who you are and what you want; your mental health will improve; and you may be able to find new career opportunities. Again, take your time, and be very specific.
Don’t think of pros and cons in general, and ignore other people’s opinions: think of those things that are important to you. Only you know what truly matters.
Another thing you want to do before you make an important decision is to think long term. It’s easy to evaluate what may happen or how we may feel immediately after our choice. But what about the future?
If you are anxious or stressed out, and you are thinking of leaving your job, I encourage you to think of the results you may experience one, two, or even five years from now.
For example, you may find out that while quitting would make you feel better in the short term, working for six more months and saving everything would then allow you to take a much longer break, without having to worry about money, so your anxiety will decrease.
Or, you may discover that if you quit you’ll have less money now, but because you’ll have more time to work on your skills and passions, one or two years from now you could easily be making twice as much. In this case, quitting your job would make sense both in terms of mental health and money.
Any career shift or break is temporary. Leaving/changing/keeping your current job or taking time off will only be a very small part of your life, so you need to see the big picture without focusing too much on the immediate future.
Again, every situation is different, so be honest with yourself, use your intuition, and understand what’s right for you.
If you are certain you need to quit, read this
If you have finally decided it makes all the sense in the world to quit, yet others don’t understand your feelings and try to discourage you, this may give you that extra motivation you need.
As I mentioned earlier, there was a time in my life in which I had a terrible job. At the time, I was an anxious person myself (in general), but what I was doing for work made it ten times worse. I hated the hours, the job itself, and management.
I just wanted to hand in my resignation letter and say goodbye, but I was spending a lot of time dwelling on that. What if things would go wrong? What would happen if I suddenly stopped earning money? Would I regret quitting, and be even more anxious?
Eventually I decided that my mental (and physical) health was a priority no matter what. I handed in my resignation letter the same day, and that was one of the best decisions in my whole life.
Today, I’m glad I didn’t spend one more minute working at that job: it would have been a waste of time. Plus, I was able to find work in a relatively short period of time, and I ended up earning more money and being happier.
I hope sharing my experience encourages you to put yourself first, and ignore others’ opinions. Sometimes you just know you’re right, so if those around you don’t understand, you shouldn’t listen.
Coping with anxiety while you are still working
Even if you do decide to quit, chances are you’ll still have to spend another week or two at the same workplace, so here are some tips to reduce anxiety while you still work your job.
- Use your breaks to calm down and unwind (even if you have just one break, do anything you can to relax and think of something else)
- Don’t eat large meals before or when working (it will be harder to concentrate, and it will probably make the anxiety worse)
- Keep telling yourself that this is temporary (and think of what you’ll do once you are free)
- Think of those who love and support you (this could be your partner, a friend, or a relative)
I have written an article about going through tough times, and dealing with stress and anxiety in general. It definitely applies to work as well, so I encourage you to read it here. I’m sure you’ll find it helpful.
Final thoughts and summary
Should you quit your job because of anxiety? The answer depends on many factors, some of which could be very personal, so you need to use logic and trust your gut.
Ask yourself whether your job is the main cause of your mental health issues (if it is, that’s a red flag). Think: are you very anxious in general? Or is it just work? Have you been working for a short or long time? Do your colleagues support you, or do they drain your energy?
If you’re not ready to quit yet, consider switching to a part-time contract, or changing department, so you can do something different and interact with different people, but still earn money.
Also, try to come up with a plan B, or at least think of what you may do after quitting. Removing the uncertainty will also reduce your stress and anxiety, and it will make it easier to take the leap.
When it comes to actually making the decision, carefully consider all the pros and cons, and think long term: keeping or quitting your current job could make you feel a certain way right now, but what about one or two years from now? Take your time and use your intuition.
Finally, when you do decide, ignore those who discourage you — and listen to those who have done the same, and didn’t regret it. If you are 100% sure it’s time to change, don’t wait: life is short, and every single day counts.