How to tell when it’s time to quit your job to protect your mental health
Can’t decide whether it’s time to quit your job to protect your mental health? Here’s how to tell when it’s the right time to leave, according to an expert.
The height of the ‘great resignation’ may have been and gone, but its legacy will undoubtedly be around for some time to come. From ‘quiet quitting’ to setting boundaries, more and more employees are taking their wellbeing at work seriously – including leaving a job altogether if their workplace is proving detrimental to their mental health.
It goes without saying that protecting your mental health at work is incredibly important – not only do we spend a large portion of our time at work, but the emotional impact of our working lives can take its toll on our personal lives, too. And that’s why it’s important to know when it’s time to call quits in order to put your mental health first.
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However, that’s not to suggest that making the decision to quit your job for mental health reasons is easy. Being able to quantify the impact a job or workplace is having on your mental health can be difficult when you’re in the middle of it, and the idea of leaving a stable job behind – especially if you don’t yet have something else lined up – can be really scary, especially in a cost-of-living crisis.
So, how can you tell when quitting your job is the right thing to do to protect your mental health and wellbeing? We asked Chance Marshall, a creative psychotherapist and founding partner of the online therapy platform The Self Space, to share his insight. Here’s what he had to say.
1. You have communicated your needs clearly, and nothing has changed
If your needs at work aren’t being met – perhaps you’re not receiving adequate feedback, or feel undervalued – then the obvious first step is to voice your concerns. However, if you’ve voiced your concerns and nothing has been done to rectify them, then moving on could be your best option.
“Work has become so much more than making a living; we go there to make friends, make a community, make a lifestyle, make meaning,” Marshall says.
“But no amount of money, alignment on vision, staff yoga or free lunches can compensate for dysfunctional and poisonous relationships at work.”
While, Marshall suggests, you should ensure you’ve done your best to communicate well and acknowledge whether there’s anything you can do to improve the situation, if things don’t change for the better, it’s important to protect yourself.
“If you have communicated your needs clearly and taken responsibility for your part in what may be going on, and if you’ve asked for reasonable adjustments to be made and still, nothing changes, it may be time to leave.”
2. You’re experiencing chronic stress
It’s normal to experience some stress at work, but if you’re feeling stressed out all the time, it could be a sign that things need to change. Indeed, not only can this kind of chronic stress put you at risk of developing burnout and take its toll on your mental health, but it can also affect your physical health, too.
According to Marshall, some signs that you’re experiencing chronic stress include:
- Lack of focus: things are foggy, and it’s harder to finish an activity
- Changes in memory: you have a more challenging time remembering things that happened throughout the day
- Fatigue in mind and body
- Reacting more emotionally than usual
- Neglecting basic needs like showering, exercise or eating a well-cooked meal
- Being impulsive: ie. spending excessively, eating more or not eating or increasing your intake of alcohol or substances
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“These are all warning signs from our psyche and body that we need to stop,” he explains. “If your workplace celebrates the kind of grind culture that minimises or ignores these symptoms as a sign to rest, then it may be time to leave.”
3. You dread going to work every day
Perhaps the most obvious reason to quit your job for your mental health is if the very idea of going to work leaves you feeling anxious, upset or dejected.
“This could be because the company’s values do not align with yours or you feel like you’re not able to make yourself heard within the workplace, especially if you’re from an underrepresented community and your workplace shies away from conversations about race, diversity and inclusion,” Marshall says.
He continues: “What you do, where you do it and how you do it should generally give you a sense of purpose. You may have a few bad days here and there, but the sense of purpose you get from what you do needs to outweigh the bad days.
“If it doesn’t, it can lead you to feel demoralised and demotivated – both of which can undermine your mental health.”
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