For the majority of us, work is a necessary part of life and in every role or career there are some elements that you may dislike or that can cause you stress. But a career that you feel an intense sense of dread around or doing a job you hate has a major impact on our mental health. What if we feel truly stuck in a job that we can’t stand – how does it impact us?
Some lucky few have a clear career path or passion from an early age. They have a comforting certainty about their future and what type of work would make them feel fulfilled. Others happily stumble into a career that, while it wasn’t planned, happens to suit them perfectly. A few may feel that while their role doesn’t necessarily fill them with a great deal of excitement, that they don’t mind it and they do a decent job. Sadly, there are some that are in a role or career that they genuinely dislike but feel stuck in. So how does this impact their lives?
Being in a role that you dislike, or even hate, impacts your mental health in a huge way. The common effects include:
- Anxiety: people who feel trapped in a role they dislike can have intense anxiety, not only when going into work but it spills over into free time as well.
- Depression: facing a job that you strongly dislike can create a cycle of depression. It is often born from feeling like you have to repress your emotions to get your job done. This constant repression over time can lead to intense sadness or depression.
- Anger: there can be a sense of resentment that builds when you feel you have to go in to a job you dislike every day. Often this anger spills out onto colleagues, customers or friends and family.
- Burn out: our mind and body can only take so much when it comes to being in a stressful or difficult situation. Burn out occurs when we pushed through so much emotional/physical discomfort and can no longer go on. Burn out can look like extreme anxiety, depression, panic attacks and/or physical sickness.
- Addiction: people who feel trapped in a role that they don’t want to be in can often look for ways to numb or escape their feelings during their time off. It can show up in unhealthy habits or addiction.
- Physical health: our body keeps a score of our emotions and mental wellbeing. Even if we are ignoring our thoughts on it, the stress of a difficult job can show up as insomnia, constant physical illnesses or recurring injuries.
All of the above are just some of the ways it can show up in your life. These can therefore have a negative impact on our relationships with our friends and family as we struggle to keep our feelings about work and home separate. Over time this type of constant strain can lead to massive health and mental wellbeing issues. This is seen when people seem to have a “sudden” breakdown, when in fact there is normally a very consistent build up.
You may have family that enjoy their own careers, who then struggle to empathise with you in this situation; this can make you feel alone and unheard. There may also be those in your life who tell you to simply “get on with it” or “suck it up, it’s just a job”. Previous generations who sometimes had little choice when it came to what careers they got into, may feel it’s simply “the way it is”. But research has shown that being stuck in a bad role is not only a strain but it has serious consequences. (See just some examples of research here (10.1177/0002764213487347).
So what do we do? It can sometimes feel hopeless and overwhelming to even consider a change, especially when you’re feeling burned out. While every situation is unique there are ways you can slowly adjust your work life:
- If it’s not the work you dislike, but rather
- the work environment (i.e. schedule/difficult colleagues/supervisors etc), explore a move to a new company/business that better suits or explore the potential systems within your work that could help. For example could HR assist, is moving to a different day or department possible – sometimes we assume things could never improve but we won’t know until we ask.
- If it’s the very work that you can’t stand then it’s time to explore your options. This may not be an instant fix, it may include studying in an entirely new career, starting over in a lower position or perhaps starting your own business.
- If you feel as though you’re lost and unsure of what it is you’re looking for, then it’s a good idea to take the time to do some self exploration before making any big decisions. You can start by simply looking at what you enjoy as a hobby, where your strengths lie and what you are interested in. Then identify what type of things you want from a role (ie: flexibility, can work from home, good benefits, certain structure etc) and what things you don’t want from a role (ie: high pressure, extensive travel etc). Once you have a clearer idea of your priorities and your abilities you can start to research different areas. A career guidance counsellor can be useful with this.
This article was written by Lauren Hall, pre-accredited and newly qualified Psychotherapist at The DMC Clinic. If you are affected by the issues mentioned above, you can book an appointment. If you would like to discuss how any of the topics mentioned above are impacting your mental health, please contact The DMC Clinic to arrange an appointment.