“My job is making me depressed but I can’t quit.”
I’ve heard this from many people who feel trapped in a job that’s making them miserable. I even wrote about what to do if you just want to quit working. Here’s the thing I want you to consider. Why are you staying in a job that’s making you sick?
Because it is making you sick. Stress at work affects your mental and physical health. It affects your relationships with other people. It saps your happiness. It makes it harder for you to succeed.
And you’re not alone. You’ve probably seen lots of news stories about workers trying to form unions at big companies around the country. They are trying to change the working conditions that lead to workplace stress and all that comes along with it.
If you’re in a job that’s making you unhappy and unhealthy, there are things you can do about it. Uniting with your fellow employees in an effort to make a bottom-up difference is just one of the things you can do. But is it always the best route for your own mental health?
Understanding the Real Impact of Stressing at Work
There are many causes of stress on the job. These are the most common.
- Not being paid enough for the work you do.
- Being expected to work long hours with few breaks.
- Not being sure whether you’re doing the right thing.
- Dangerous work conditions.
- Feeling like you have no power over your work and your life.
What Are the Warning Signs That Job Stress Is Affecting You?
Job stress can be sneaky. You may not always recognize that job stress is causing a problem in your life. These are some of the warning signs that workplace stress is affecting your health.
- Trouble sleeping.
- Short temper.
- Stomach upsets.
- Overeating or undereating.
- Unhealthy behaviors, like drug use or drinking too much.
- Frequent mild illnesses.
- Feeling blah.
- Often feeling angry.
- Feeling like you don’t belong.
- Accidents at work or at home.
- Relationship problems.
- Sexual problems.
How Workplace Stress Hurts You
Constant stress puts a strain on your entire system. These are some of the possible health effects.
- It increases your risk of heart disease.
- It increases your risk of stroke.
- It increases your risk of anxiety and depression.
- It can damage your relationships at work and at home.
- It can sap your creativity and motivation.
In other words, your job — where you spend about a third of your life — affects a lot more than just the hours you spend at work. A bad day at work can spill over into a fight with your roommate, spouse, or child. An unexpected schedule change can make you miss an important event. A job that leaves you feeling burnt out and powerless will affect nearly every other aspect of your life.
Is Starting a Union the Answer?
What do Amazon, Apple, Starbucks, Google, and Tesla all have in common? These five big names are all part of a growing trend — companies where workers are fighting to unionize. Around the country, workers are fighting to get better working conditions. Between October 2021 and March 2022, there were 57% more petitions to unionize than in the same six months the year before.
Unions are one way for employees to get higher wages and safer working conditions. These are just a few of the ways that unions make a difference.
- Unions affect wages outside their own workplaces.
- Strong unions make communities healthier.
- Unions help prevent workplace injuries and deaths.
- People in unions get better healthcare.
Although unions can be a good choice for some workers in some situations, it may not be in YOUR best interest to try to unionize your workplace or join a union.
Starting a union isn’t easy. Often, you’ll be fighting against a company that does not want a union. Many of your co-workers may not want a union. It can take years of hard work, and add even more stress to an already stressful situation. If you’re already dealing with the effects of stress at work, trying to start a union could make things even worse. In fact, one major activist group even puts out a self-care workbook for organizers.
In other words, starting a union at work can become another source of stress and burnout.
Also, unions typically bring additional workplace regulations that could make your job more difficult. They charge significant fees deducted from your paycheck. Most importantly for your own well-being, they can prevent disruptive, abusive, and nonperforming coworkers from being disciplined or terminated by the employer. All of these factors could make your individual situation even worse.
So what should you do?
When Is Quitting Your Job Self Care?
The secret to living a happier, healthier life is simple: spend more time doing things that make you happy and less time doing things that make you feel bad. That’s good advice for anyone who wants to be more successful, healthier, and happier. If you’re working a job that is literally making you sick, though, quitting your job is more than a step in the right direction. It’s the most important kind of self-care — removing yourself from a situation that is bad for you.
Of course, you also want to be sure you land in a position that’s good for you. Before you send out one resume or fill out one application, please read my article about defining success for yourself. Once you’ve figured out what you really want and need from life, you can start making a plan to get it.
5 Reasons to Work for a Small Business
If you go back to the list of companies where workers are unionizing, you might notice another thing they have in common: they’re huge.
There’s a reason for that. The bigger a company is, the harder it is for one employee to make a difference. Smaller companies — especially locally owned ones — can offer you opportunities you won’t get when you’re just one employee out of 50,000.
Here are 5 reasons you should be applying to small, local businesses right now. (If you need even more convincing, you can check out 12 more reasons in this article from Monster.)
- Small businesses can be more flexible. They don’t have huge HR departments with rigid rules. That can mean better chances to work from home or create a schedule that works for you.
- You’ve got a better chance of getting the job. You’ll be competing with a smaller pool of applicants. And if you’re applying with a local company, there’s a good chance that you know someone who can put in a good word for you with the hiring manager. Plus, small businesses are hungrier than ever for excited, capable employees.
- It’s easier to get noticed in a small company. When you work with a smaller team, you’ll have a chance to work more closely with owners and management. That gives you more chances to actually make changes and do the things you like best.
- You’ll feel like you’re making a difference. One of the biggest reasons people give for being unhappy at work is that they feel powerless. When you work with a smaller, local company, you’ll see the difference you make every day.
- You’ll get to work in a lot of different roles. In smaller businesses, everyone pitches in to do the work that has to be done. That can open up the chance for you to learn new skills or find new things you really love doing.
On top of all that, you’ll probably have a shorter commute, giving you more time to spend doing the things that are most important to you.
The Bottom Line: Do What’s Best for You
There’s a saying among activists and organizers — you can’t pour from an empty pot. You can’t help others if you’re always running on empty. When you align your job with your goals, you’ll have more energy to put into doing the things that make you healthier and happier.
If you want more tips on how to transform your life for the better, check out my book Life Hacks: Simple Steps to a Healthier Life. If you liked this article, please consider giving it a clap and following @wellnessmadeeasy on Medium for more simple ways to improve your life.