Is It Time To Quit My Job For Mental Health? Everything You Need To Know
Are you asking yourself "is it time to quit my job for mental health"? Here’s how to tell when it’s the right time to leave, from real-life personal experience.
Everyone has days when their workload is overwhelming (usually fixed with a post-work run or venting to your partner), but when it starts to become a regular occurrence, it can be pretty damaging to your overall wellbeing. But how can you decide when it's the right time to quit your job for the sake of your mental health?
It's clear that taking care of your mental health at work is essential. Not only do we spend a huge amount of our waking hours at work, but the impact our working lives have on our wellbeing can affect our personal lives, too. That is why it is vital to know when it is the right time to walk away to protect your mental health.
It is also worth realising that there are plenty of ways to protect your mental health at work without quitting, from prioritising tasks and taking more frequent breaks, to setting boundaries and restoring work-life balance.
However, sometimes these practices just aren't enough. If you have tried to make changes and still feel like your mental health is suffering, it might be time to consider leaving your job.
Taking this step can be daunting and filled with uncertainty, but it could also be exactly what you need to take back control of your life and reduce the stressors that are negatively affecting your mental health.
So how do you know if quitting your job is the best way to prioritise your mental health and wellbeing? We asked Clare, founding partner of OCCO London, to share her insight from her experience of quitting her job to protect her mental health. Here’s what she had to say.
Signs Your Job Isn't Good For Your Mental Health
There are a few key signs that your job is having a negative mental health impact. Clare suggests paying attention to how you feel when you wake up in the morning, as this can be a good indicator of whether or not it's time to quit.
"If you dread going to work every day and find yourself feeling anxious and overwhelmed at the thought of it, then it might be time to consider leaving," Clare says. "I got to the point where my anxiety around going to work became physical. I used to retch at the thought of going to work."
On top of that, if you can relate to the following feelings a bit too well, you may want to consider quitting your job.
You're experiencing chronic stress
A little bit of stress can be beneficial, as it can give us the energy we need to accomplish tasks at work. But, prolonged or very intense stress can be detrimental if not dealt with properly.
Chronic stress is when you feel overwhelmed, anxious and exhausted for a prolonged period of time. This can be caused by an overload of work, unrealistic expectations or feeling like you're not being appreciated.
In this case, chronic stress can start to cause mental health problems, like depression or anxiety.
According to Mind, some signs that you're experiencing chronic stress include:
- Racing thoughts and inability to switch off
- Feeling overwhelmed and reacting more emotionally than usual
- Binge eating or not eating at all
- Feeling sick, dizzy or fainting
- Spending or shopping too much
- Experiencing indigestion or heartburn
- Feeling exhausted
"These are signals that your body is sending you, to alert you that you are heading in the direction of burnout" she explains. "If your workplace is like a cult for overworking and ignores these telltale burnout symptoms as signs that you need to rest, then it may be time to pack your bags."
You're in a toxic work environment
A toxic environment can be incredibly damaging to your mental health. This could include anything from workplace bullying, workplace politics, workplace gossip or a culture of fast-paced unrealistic deadlines.
A workplace's values should align with your own, and if they don't it can be incredibly draining.
"If you feel like you are constantly walking on eggshells, or that your opinions and ideas are not valued, then this could be a sign that it's time to move on," Clare says. "Being undermined or disrespected by colleagues or management is a sign that the environment is toxic, and it's important to remember that you spend most of your waking life at work, so why settle for a job that drains you?"
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You're not sleeping well at night
Stress and unhappiness can make it hard to relax and get the sleep you need, adding to the exhaustion you already have from work.
Not getting enough sleep can make existing stress-related symptoms like headaches and mental exhaustion worse.
This can become a vicious cycle, and many people turn to alcohol to aid them to relax. Although alcohol can seem like it has the desired effect of relaxing you initially, it has been proven that it actually reduces the quality of your sleep.
Clare recommends reading Why We Sleep, by Matthew Walker for more information on how we can harness sleep, how caffeine and alcohol affect sleep and why our sleep patterns change over our lives. If you have tried all of Matthew's tips and still find that your sleep, or lack thereof, is affected by your working habits, it may be time to consider a job change.
Your self-esteem has dropped as a result of your job
Your self-esteem can take a hit when you're in a job that doesn't make you feel valued or appreciated. If you find yourself constantly questioning your worth and feeling like you're not good enough, this could be a sign that your self-esteem is low.
Having low self-esteem is not a mental health condition in itself. But mental health and self-esteem are strongly linked.
Certain signs of low self-esteem may indicate the presence of a mental health problem. It's especially important if your symptoms linger or interfere with your daily activities. For instance:
- Experiencing a lack of hope or self-worth
- Unfairly self-criticising
- Hating yourself
- Being anxious about not being able to do things
Clare says "it's important to note that a mental health problem can contribute to a lack of self-confidence. It may be more difficult for you to handle or take steps to enhance your self-esteem if you are experiencing mental health difficulties. If you feel that only your job is causing your self-esteem to drop, it may be time to consider a change."
You're unable to enjoy with family and friends
It's Saturday evening, and you're meant to be meeting friends for dinner. But you can't find the energy to get out of bed. You were only meant to have a 30-minute nap.
You're exhausted from the working week and all you want to do is sleep. This could be a sign that your job is taking too much out of you, leaving you unable to enjoy your social life with family and friends.
"I remember when I stopped going for meals and parties with my friends as I just didn't feel physically or emotionally up for it," Clare says. "A wave of anxiety and doubt would wash over me and I would just stay at home and feel depressed. The next day I would feel even worse, having let down my friends and myself. It was a sign that something had to change."
If you are still managing to turn up to events but feel tired, disconnected and unable to connect with others and "be in the moment", this could also be a sign that your mental health is suffering.
The purpose of working is to be able to enjoy life in and outside of work. But, if you're too tired to enjoy your personal relationships due to your job, it may be time to switch things up.
You've lost interest in hobbies and activities that you used to enjoy
If you used to love going for a run after work or playing video games on the weekend, but now find yourself unable to muster up the energy or enthusiasm to do these activities, this could be a sign that your job is taking too much out of you and consequently impacting your physical health.
"It's important to remember that it's ok to take time out for yourself," Clare says. "If you're feeling overwhelmed and exhausted, it's ok to take a break and do something that you enjoy. It could be as simple as taking a walk or reading a book."
If you're finding it difficult to muster up the energy or enthusiasm to do activities that you used to enjoy, it could be a sign that you are becoming depressed or suffering from an anxiety disorder. If you think this could be the case, we recommend reaching out to your GP for advice.
How To Talk To Your Manager About Your Mental Wellbeing
So you're in a pretty low place, and you may feel helpless. But there are steps you can take to help yourself. The first step is talking to your manager about your mental wellbeing.
It's important to remember that it's ok to talk about your mental health at work. Your manager should be understanding and supportive, and they may even be able to offer advice or support.
When talking to your manager, it's important to be honest about how you're feeling. Explain that you are struggling with your mental health and that you need help.
It's also important to allow time for you to discuss ways to make the workplace healthier for you. Do you need more flexible working hours? Do you need more time off? Do you need access to mental health resources?
Your manager should be understanding and willing to work with you to find a solution that works for both of you. However, if that, unfortunately, is not the case, please remember it is more than ok to move on, chill out and then look for new job opportunities.
Below are a few suggestions of useful resources so that you can better understand and manage your mental health.
Check out workplace mental health resources
Your workplace may have trained Mental Health First Aiders (MHFA) that specialise in providing support and advice to employees. They can help you identify the cause of your mental health issues and provide strategies to help you manage them.
They also might have access to mental health training and resources that can help you better understand and manage your mental health. If not, there is plenty of information about mental health at work at Mental Health at Work, Mind, Headspace Mindfulness for Toxic Work Environments, and Able Futures.
How To Request Time Off Work
If you have reached the point where you are already struggling with your mental health and badly need a break from work, you should book an appointment with your local GP.
"Make sure to ask for a double appointment when speaking to the receptionist and state that the appointment is to discuss your mental health" says Clare. "I worked as a receptionist for a GP Surgery post quitting my job for mental health, where our policy was to book a double slot for mental health appointments".
Once at the appointment, we recommend bringing a list of all of the physical and mental symptoms you are experiencing.
"Make sure to jot all of your symptoms down, even symptoms that seem unrelated," says Clare. "The more information you can provide your GP with, the better the help you will receive."
If a doctor recommends that you are signed off work for a few weeks, you will be able to take a sick note into work which will legally cover your time off. It's exactly the same process as it would be if you had a physical illness where you needed time off work to recover.
During your time off work, it’s vital to create a self-care routine that works for you and seek therapy sessions with a local therapist or charity like Mind.
"It's important to remember that it's not your fault that you are ill." says Clare, "Try to relax and make time to do activities you enjoy that will boost your mental health. Just because people can't see your illness doesn't mean it's not real. One of the best bits of advice I received from my GP was - make sure you go outside each day".
Deciding Whether Or Not To Quit Your Job
Taking time off and attempting to change things may not be enough to deal with the root of the problem.
At this stage, your face the difficult choice of whether or not you should quit.
According to Clare, the answer depends on how you as an individual feel in your role; "Are you feeling depressed or anxious because of the atmosphere? Is there too much pressure on you? Are your opinions taken into consideration? Are you taken for granted?".
If the work environment in general is not a good fit for you, rather than any specific incidents or periods of difficulty, this can be a sign that it's time to move on.
Maybe you've voiced your concerns and nothing has been done, talked to other people with similar experiences, or the difficult days are piling up more than the easier ones.
It’s important to tune in to how you're really feeling and trust your gut. If you wake up every day feeling as though you can't continue without destroying your mental health, you probably should quit.
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Frequently Asked Questions
After digesting everything above, you may still have some questions about quitting your job for mental health. Here are a few of the most common ones:
How is taking a leave of absence different from quitting my job?
Taking a leave of absence is different from quitting your job in that it allows you to take a break from work without having to resign. A leave of absence can be paid or unpaid and can last anywhere from a few days to several months, depending on the employer’s policies.
When taking a leave of absence, you will likely need to provide documentation from a doctor or mental health professional to prove that you need the time off. You may also be required to provide a plan for how you will manage your mental health while on leave.
Ultimately, it’s important to remember that quitting your job is a big decision and should not be taken lightly. If you are considering quitting your job due to mental health concerns, make sure you have a plan in place for supporting yourself financially and emotionally.
Are there resources available if I decide to quit my job for mental health reasons?
Yes, there are a number of resources available if you decide to quit your job for mental health reasons. Depending on where you live, you may be eligible for unemployment benefits (Universal Credit) or other financial assistance programs.
Consider researching any potential benefits decisions if you do decide to quit your job. There may be resources available such as unemployment insurance or healthcare coverage that could help you during this transition.
Additionally, many employers offer Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) that provide free counselling and other services to help employees manage their mental health. You can also look into local support groups or online communities.
Charities such as Mind and the Samaritans also provide free, confidential advice and support for people struggling with mental health issues.
How can I prepare myself financially if I choose to quit my job due to mental health issues?
During what can be a challenging time, it’s important to prepare yourself financially. Start by creating a budget and tracking your expenses so you know exactly how much money you have coming in and going out each month. This will help you determine how much money you need to cover your basic living expenses.
You could also talk to a financial advisor who can help you create a plan for managing your money and achieving your financial goals.
What steps can I take to ensure a smooth transition if I decide to quit my job because of mental health concerns?
If you decide to quit your job due to mental health concerns, there are a few steps you can take to ensure a smooth transition.
First, make sure you have a plan in place for supporting yourself financially. Can you ask friends or family to help you out? If you quit your job before you burn out, you could find another job or source of income. This could include updating your resume and applying for new jobs, looking into freelance opportunities, or exploring other sources of income such as investments or side hustles.
If you are in a place where you need time off to completely reset and recover, make sure you have enough savings for that time. You could seek financial help from friends or family or look into financial assistance programs.
What should I do if my family and friends disagree with my decision to quit?
If your family and friends disagree with your decision to quit your job for mental health reasons, it can be difficult to navigate the situation. It’s important to remember that this is ultimately your decision and you should not feel pressured into staying in a job that is negatively impacting your mental health.
Start by having an honest conversation with your family and friends about why you are considering quitting.
Explain the impact that your job is having on your mental health and why you feel it’s necessary to quit. Ask them to respect your decision and offer their support.
If they still don’t understand, try to understand why they are concerned and reassure them that you have a plan in place to support yourself financially and emotionally.
If you find it difficult to make a decision without their approval, you could seek advice from a counsellor or therapist who can help you make an informed decision. You could also take a break from work for a few weeks or months before making a final decision. This will give you time to assess your situation and make the best decision for your mental health.
Will quitting my job for mental health look bad on my CV?
Quitting your job for mental health reasons does not have to look bad on your CV. In fact, it can be seen as a sign of strength and resilience. It shows that you are aware of your own needs and willing to take steps to prioritize your mental health.
When explaining why you left your job, focus on the positive aspects such as the skills you developed while in the role and the experience you gained. You can also emphasise that you are looking for a role that is better suited to your needs and skill set. Or a company whose values align with your own.
"Making the decision to quit my job for mental health wasn't easy, but it can be the right choice for some people" says Clare. "It is important to make sure you have a plan in place to support yourself financially and emotionally before making the decision. Having an honest conversation with your family and friends about why you are considering quitting can help them understand your decision."
Focusing on self-care and knowing what resources are available can make this transition smoother and empower you with confidence in your decision-making.
Ultimately, by recognising the warning signs that it’s time to leave your job, being aware of potential opportunities elsewhere, and taking action towards prioritising your own wellbeing first and foremost, you can make sure that leaving your job will be an empowering decision. Not only protecting your own personal wellbeing but potentially creating positive long-term effects on other aspects of your life as well.
It’s important to remember that no one understands your circumstances better than yourself, so never forget how valuable your thoughts and feelings are throughout this process!