Should I stay at a job that gives me anxiety?

Having a job that causes anxiety is an unfortunate and stressful situation for many people. On one hand, the paycheck and benefits may be hard to give up. On the other hand, the daily dread of going to a stressful workplace can take a major toll on your mental health. There are no easy answers, but looking at the pros and cons can help you make the best decision for your own well-being.

What are the pros of staying at an anxiety-inducing job?

Here are some potential advantages of sticking with a job that gives you anxiety:

  • Financial security – The job provides a steady income and benefits you may rely on to pay your bills and save money.
  • Career advancement – You could move up to higher positions and earn more over time at this company.
  • Valuable experience – Even if stressful, the job is giving you skills, connections, and resume-building achievements.
  • Convenience – Changing jobs means having to search, interview, start over with a new team, etc. Staying avoids that hassle.
  • Fear of the unknown – At least you know what to expect from your current job, as hard as it is, versus taking a risk on something new.

Assessing these potential pros will help you determine if the positives outweigh the anxiety you feel or if it’s time to make a change.

What are the cons of staying at a job that causes anxiety?

On the other hand, there are also some significant drawbacks to consider if you continue working in an environment that fuels your anxiety:

  • Mental health strain – Chronic stress takes a cumulative toll and can contribute to anxiety, depression, insomnia, burnout, and other issues.
  • Physical health impacts – Studies show long-term anxiety is linked to conditions like high blood pressure, heart disease, lowered immunity, gastrointestinal problems, and more.
  • Personal life disruption – An overly anxious state of mind can hurt your relationships, social life, ability to enjoy hobbies, and overall well-being.
  • Job performance issues – Anxiety makes concentration, decision-making, productivity, and other aspects of job duties more difficult.
  • Self-esteem problems – Self-confidence and self-image often suffer after prolonged exposure to a toxic, stressful workplace environment.

Paying attention to these cons will help reveal if staying in the job is hurting you more than helping you in the long run.

What are some short-term coping strategies?

If you’re not in a position to leave your anxiety-inducing job immediately, there are some temporary coping methods to reduce workplace stress:

  • Talk to your manager – Have an open discussion about your struggles and any accommodations that could help, like adjusted deadlines.
  • Prioritize self-care – Make sleep, healthy food, exercise, social connection, and relaxing activities a priority.
  • Try stress management techniques – Therapies like meditation, deep breathing, and yoga can
    counterbalance workplace anxiety.
  • Take breaks – Use your lunch, periodic short breaks, and PTO/sick days to recharge emotionally.
  • Set manageable goals – Don’t take on more than you can handle. Tackle duties in bite-size chunks.
  • Reduce stimuli – Wear noise-canceling headphones, face a wall instead of busy foot traffic, and otherwise minimize sensory input.

Combining coping strategies like these may help you hang in there while you plan your long-term next steps.

How can I plan my exit strategy?

If you’ve determined the cons outweigh the pros of staying, it’s smart to start discreetly planning a graceful exit. Here are some tips:

  • Line up your finances – Calculate expenses and savings so you can afford a gap between jobs. Live frugally.
  • Work on your resume – Slowly update your resume as you gain new skills. This will prep it for the job search.
  • Build connections – Network, join industry groups, and follow companies you’re interested in to build contacts.
  • Research options – Browse job boards to learn what appealing openings are available in your field.
  • Plan the narrative – Know how you’ll explain why you’re leaving this role in interviews in a professional way.
  • Interview prep – Refresh your interview skills and practice talking about your experience positively.
  • Consider timing – Can you stick it out to complete a major project or until year-end bonuses are paid?

Making steady progress on an exit plan can help you leave the anxiety-provoking job smoothly when the time is right.

What are signs it’s time to definitely quit?

Here are some clear signals that it’s truly time to move on from an overly stressful job:

  • You have strong physical symptoms – chronic headaches, stomach problems, elevated heart rate, insomnia.
  • Your mental health is deteriorating – therapy isn’t helping counteract work despair and panic.
  • You’re relying on unhealthy coping behaviors – like excessive drinking or lashing out at loved ones.
  • Your self-esteem is devastated – you feel worthless, like a failure, and are plagued by self-doubt.
  • You’re completely emotionally drained – you have zero energy or motivation for anything outside of work.
  • Your relationships are strained – your personal connections are crumbling due to workplace stress.
  • You’re making major mistakes – your focus is so scattered that your performance is suffering greatly.

Don’t ignore these types of warning signs. At this point, leaving is likely your healthiest option, before your anxiety gets even more severe.

How can I line up a new job while employed?

Searching for your next job while still employed can be tricky, but is doable with some care. Here are tips:

  • Schedule strategically – Interviews over a lunch break or carefully planned PTO can avoid suspicion.
  • Explain the gaps – If asked, say you have doctor or dentist appointments if you’re out for interviews.
  • Use vacation time – Take a few days off here and there to go on interviews if you have vacation time available.
  • Research discreetly – Browse job ads using private browsing windows or your phone to avoid a browser history.
  • Line up childcare – Have babysitting assistance lined up in advance if you have kids at home.
  • Follow up discreetly – Supply references and do other follow ups using your personal email address.
  • Keep things vague – Don’t share that you’re job hunting with coworkers, only trusted confidantes.

With proper preparation and discretion, you can successfully find a new job opportunity before formally quitting.

What If I get fired before I can quit?

It’s an unfortunate possibility that your job performance could suffer so much due to anxiety issues that you get fired before you make the decision to quit. Here are some tips if this happens:

  • File for unemployment – You may be eligible for unemployment benefits while between jobs.
  • Use it as a learning opportunity – Reflect on what factors contributed to the firing so you can avoid them in the future.
  • Make self-care a priority – Being fired can be a major hit to your self-esteem. Counteract this with healthy habits and seeing a therapist.
  • Get your finances in order – Review your budget and cut any non-essential expenses during the transition period.
  • Update your resume ASAP – Don’t let your skills and experience get rusty after being let go.
  • Begin networking immediately – Reach out to contacts right away so your leads stay fresh.
  • Consider career coaching – A career coach can help you reassess your path and realign your transferable skills.

While being let go is discouraging, it can also be freeing. Use it as a launching pad to find work better suited to your mental health needs.

Should I take a break between jobs?

After leaving an anxiety-provoking job, it’s understandable to want to take a break from work for a while. Here are some things to consider with this decision:

  • Your financial situation – Do you have ample emergency savings to cover your expenses for a few months without income?
  • Health insurance needs – Make sure you have health insurance coverage during a gap period if you need continued care.
  • Other benefits lapsing – Factor in that you may lose things like retirement contributions and transit benefits while not employed.
  • Career stagnation risks – Being out of work for too long can make it harder to get hired again later.
  • Burnout recovery – Time off could be hugely beneficial if your mental and physical health is totally depleted.
  • Supplemental income – Could you do freelance work or drive for a rideshare service to earn during time off?

Analyze both the risks and potential advantages before deciding on taking an extended break when transitioning jobs.

What are some healthy job transition coping strategies?

This challenging period of time when you’re leaving one job and seeking another requires some special coping strategies:

  • Lean on your support system – Don’t isolate yourself. Spend time with encouraging friends and family.
  • Pursue enjoyable hobbies – Make time for fun creative, athletic, or social pastimes you find uplifting.
  • Practice mindfulness – Try meditating, reflecting, journaling to process emotions and stay centered.
  • Limit social media use – Comparing yourself to others will only feed anxiety during this transition.
  • Stay on a schedule – Maintain a regular sleep, mealtime, and activity routine even if you have more flexibility.
  • Get outside – Take regular walks, hike, or otherwise spend time in nature for emotional benefits.

Making self-care and community connection a central focus will help this period feel empowering rather than defeating.

How can I talk about leaving a job due to anxiety?

When you’re leaving a job for mental health reasons, it can be awkward to explain. Here are some tips:

  • Keep it simple – Say it was not the right fit for you personally without oversharing details.
  • Focus on the positives – Emphasize everything you learned and appreciated about the opportunity.
  • Avoid negativity – Even if the environment was toxic, don’t bash your employer.
  • Be vague – Explain that you are leaving to focus on your health and well-being.
  • Omit anxiety specifics – Just say it was causing you stress and impacting your health.
  • Highlight your strengths – Remind them of your contributions and talents, which simply were not able to thrive there.
  • Express gratitude – Thank them sincerely for the chance to be part of the team, even if brief.

Framing it in a diplomatic, gracious way will preserve your reputation and relationships.


Deciding whether or not to stay at a job that’s fueling your anxiety is complicated. Take time to thoroughly weigh the pros and cons and get feedback from trusted mentors or therapists. If your mental and physical health continue deteriorating, it’s likely a sign that it’s time to move on. With proper planning and handling, you can transition gracefully to something that’s a better fit. Don’t stay stuck in a toxic workplace environment out of fear. Take control of your career and choose work conditions that allow you to thrive.

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