There may not be anyone that loves their job all of the time. There are always some aspects of work that feel taxing. But how do you know when your job is not just stressful but toxic and draining the life out of you? Jobs can be toxic for many reasons. They might be overwhelmingly stressful or intolerably dull. It could be the clientele who make it unhealthy, like demanding diners in a restaurant, or maybe it’s a boss or co-worker.
It’s important here to distinguish between a toxic job and burnout. Burnout happens when we don’t adequately recharge from the stresses of work and are gradually worn down. With adequate rest and perhaps a different perspective on our work, we can recover from burnout and stay in the same position. However, if the job is toxic, no amount of rest or time away will make it tolerable for long once you return. If you’re depressed at work, look for the following signs that your job negatively affects your mental health.
It’s hard to feel positive emotions at work.
You experience plenty of joy and ease away from work, but those feelings cannot be found once you enter the workplace. Instead, you’re always uneasy, on edge, or just emotionally weary. Perhaps your colleagues tell you to “cheer up,” but you can only force a half-smile.
It takes all weekend to recover from the workweek.
Your mental health declines throughout the week; by Tuesday, you’re exhausted and can’t imagine how you’ll make it to Friday. When the weekend finally comes, you barely look forward to it because you’re so worn out. When you finally start to recover, it’s time to go back to work.
You’re stressed and irritable on Sunday night.
On Friday and Saturday nights, you can push work out of your mind, but by Sunday, you can no longer deny that it’s coming. It’s hard to engage with the people around you, and you don’t enjoy the last day of your weekend as you anticipate Monday morning.
You fantasize about retirement, which might be decades away.
Forget the weekend. You dream about a permanent break from work. You might even start planning your retirement or thinking about ways to get rich, so you no longer have to work.
Your sleep is much worse on workdays.
Toxic work can completely wreck your sleep. Some people feel the effects on their workdays (typically Monday through Friday nights), while others may notice it in anticipation of work (Sunday through Thursday nights).
You’re often physically ill.
Countless studies have shown the effects of chronic stress on the immune system. If a toxic work environment is poisoning you, you’ll feel the impact not only on your mind and spirit but on your body. You seem to catch every virus that’s going around and take longer to recover than you used to.
You take a lot of personal days.
Even when you’re not physically ill, you may be choosing to say home as often as possible. Some days you wake up, and the idea of going to work seems impossible. Maybe you get as far as getting dressed and having breakfast, but then the thought of driving to work makes you sick to your stomach. I’ll work from home again, you tell yourself.
You don’t like the person you are at work.
Perhaps the most telling sign that your job is toxic is that it’s changing you in ways you don’t like. You may find yourself becoming withdrawn, bitter, self-focused, and cynical. It might even spill over into your time at home with your family, which is the most upsetting part for you.
You stop taking care of yourself.
Although it would be nice to partake in self-care rituals every night, sometimes work gets in the way. However, if you’re utterly too exhausted to do one nightly ritual simply, it could mean that your work-life balance could be off the scales. Constantly canceling plans or significantly neglecting self-care routines (i.e., yoga, gentle nutrition, etc.) are signs that your mental health issues at work are impacting you outside of work.
You don’t feel invested in your work.
A poor workplace environment can deter you from feeling attached to the work you want or even need to do. In addition to developing a psychological detachment, you may procrastinate more, make up excuses or be less enthusiastic about growing in the company. A toxic job can certainly make an employee feel less invested in work. Jobs that feel unrewarding or stressful tend to result in a lower overall commitment level. Indeed, we thrive when we are passionate about what we are doing.
If some of these symptoms resonate with you, think carefully about your future in this position. Is there any way to change the job, so it’s less toxic? Or could it be time for a job change? Talk over these ideas with someone you love and trust, and be careful about whom you approach, especially those who have a stake in your decision. For example, a co-worker who doesn’t want you to leave will likely give you biased feedback.
Finally, it’s important to note that a charming place to work might be toxic for you if you don’t belong there. For example, maybe your current job doesn’t allow you to express your creativity, or you’re entrepreneurial at heart and find your 9-to-5 job deadening. No matter how agreeable your co-workers are or how positive the work environment may be, it won’t be healthy for you if the fit isn’t right.
So honor your reactions to your workplace, even if you don’t understand why you’re so unhappy there. Your mind, body, and spirit give you valuable information that it’s best not to ignore. If you think it’s necessary, it may be best to speak to a licensed professional. That way, you can get a professional opinion, and they can give you an idea of what next steps you should take. Remember, you can’t pour from an empty cup, so always take care of yourself.