What To Do If Your Job Is Negatively Impacting Your Mental Health

Medically reviewed by Julie Dodson, MA
Updated April 18, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

In a 2021 Mental Health America survey of 5,000 US adults, 83% said they felt emotionally drained by their work, and more than 70% believed their workplace had a negative impact on their mental health. Sometimes it may seem like just thinking about work causes your blood pressure to rise.

We spend a large proportion of our lives at our jobs, so it's no wonder that they can have such a sizable influence on our overall well-being. Evaluating these effects can help you decide if you should consider changing jobs or even switching careers for better mental and physical health. This article can provide you with ideas and strategies to try if you're contemplating a career change or seeking a new workplace that promotes a healthier work-life balance.

Unsure if you’re ready to leave your job?

How work can impact mental health

Having a stable, fulfilling job can positively contribute to a person's life. It can provide benefits like financial stability, social connections, mental stimulation, and self-confidence. However, certain situations at work may be unsatisfying, harmful, or even debilitating when it comes to one's mental health. A few examples of work-related issues that may have these effects include:

  • Not feeling connected to or accepted by your coworkers
  • Not being fairly compensated
  • Experiencing discrimination or harassment
  • Being taken for granted by management
  • Unsafe, unhealthy, or uncomfortable working conditions
  • Feeling as though you're not the right person for the current job
  • Having tasks that are repetitive, unstimulating, or especially stressful

Over time, facing problems like these every day can impact a person's mental health, leading to anxiety or even the need for sick leave. One reason is that they may contribute to chronic stress, which can have a wide variety of negative outcomes. According to the American Psychological Association (APA), stress can be responsible for everything from physical symptoms like migraines and hypertension to mental issues like depression and anxiety. So, if a person's job is causing them distress or even illness, why don't they consider switching jobs or changing jobs for mental health? There may be a variety of factors that can make this option difficult or even impossible for some workers.

What prevents some people from leaving toxic jobs

Unsurprisingly, finances and career stability are among the main reasons people may find it difficult or impossible to leave a full time job they feel is harmful to their mental health. Financial pressures such as rent, childcare, loan payments, and other bills are what keep many people in work environments that lead them to feel drained at the end of the day. A person might even have a great salary and benefits at their current place of employment, which can make them feel self-doubt and wonder if their concerns are overblown. Or, an individual may worry about their ability to find a new job, or about the stress and anxiety that can accompany the job search process.

Whatever the reason, it's not always possible for a person in an undesirable work situation to leave their position at any given time. However, there are some measures you can take to try and improve the situation for yourself without having to quit. Seeking support from healthcare professionals like a clinical psychologist can be helpful to better understand and manage your work-related stress, and regain your focus despite challenging work hours or conditions.

Getty/Vadym Pastuk

Strategies to improve the situation at your current job

If your job is having a negative impact on your mental health and you’re able to look for a different one, it may be worthwhile to seriously consider this option. A toxic work environment can impact both your physical and mental well-being and can also bleed into other areas of your life, so leaving this type of situation may be the best course of action. However, if needing a shift or quitting isn’t an option right now or you believe that you may be able to improve things, consider the following tips.

Ask for accommodations

If you have a mental illness, you may be legally entitled to certain workplace accommodations per the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA). Keep in mind that it’s illegal for an employer to discriminate against someone with a mental health disorder and that there are only a few limited, specific instances in which they’re legally allowed to ask about an employee’s health. If you have an idea for a reasonable accommodation your workplace could make that would help you be happier in your job, it is worth asking. Reasonable accommodations might include:

  • Altered work or break schedules
  • Receiving instructions or assignments in a different format (written vs. verbal, etc.)
  • Adjustments to the workspace (noise, lighting, etc.)
  • Additional training for job duties
  • Sick leave options for mental health reasons

It can seem scary to ask for the accommodations you need. While it’s illegal for employers to refuse a reasonable request in this arena in most cases, that doesn’t mean the process will necessarily be comfortable or easy. That said, your mental health is important and affects almost every part of your life, so this option may be worth a try.

Consider options for a different role

If you feel you can’t leave the stability of the company you work for, that may not necessarily mean that you’re trapped in this particular role. Some organizations may be open to the possibility of employees moving laterally to different positions or departments. If the most difficult or stressful parts of your job are related to your role in particular, you may benefit from this type of change if possible. 

For instance, let’s say you’ve come to find the constant social interaction of your job to be overwhelming and exhausting. You may be able to switch from a customer-facing role to something that deals with the same people or topics but indirectly, from behind the scenes preventing the drain of energy you feel in your current role. You could frame this idea to your manager as a desire to build new skills or to get to know other aspects of the company and operation, and they may be receptive to your request.

Cultivate healthy habits

Research shows that sleep, diet, and exercise “strongly influence physical and emotional wellbeing” and can even “improve productivity at work”. If your job is causing you significant stress, taking care to prioritize these things can help. Eating healthier, nourishing meals, getting some form of exercise regularly, and aiming to get enough high-quality sleep are all important. You may also find it helpful to start a meditation practice, find relaxing hobbies you enjoy, regularly spend quiet time alone, or develop other self-care rituals that are specific to you and your needs.

If you work from home, it can be especially important to create healthy habits that support your well-being. Find ways to include physical activity in your workday, whether you take a lap around the house every hour or invest in a standing desk. Find a way to keep work at home separate, turning off work notifications after hours or keeping your computer locked away in your office at night. Remote jobs rely heavily on computers, so give your eyes a break before they begin to feel tired to reduce visual strain.

Unsure if you’re ready to leave your job?

Lean on social support

Having a strong social support network can make an enormous difference on a person’s life and health. Statistics from 2021 points to a correlation between strong social support and lower risks of physical and mental health conditions like heart disease, cognitive decline, anxiety, depression, and more. Cultivating a network of friends and loved ones on whom you can rely and with whom you can spend enjoyable time can help you feel less stressed, which may positively impact how you feel about work or how you’re able to cope with stressors. If you’re having trouble building a supportive community around you, note that a 2018 study suggests that online forms of social support may offer similar benefits. 

Connect with a therapist

Whether you’re experiencing mental health challenges that are affecting your work or your work is negatively impacting your mental health, a therapist can help. They can offer you support and guidance in working through the situation together, including identifying strategies to manage symptoms or to make other positive changes. You can connect with a therapist in person or online, depending on which format is available and most comfortable for you. 

A 2020 study suggests that online cognitive behavioral therapy is an effective way to reduce symptoms and improve work satisfaction and performance for those experiencing anxiety, depression, social phobias, or insomnia related to their job.

Virtual therapy can be a good choice for those with busy schedules, since you can attend your sessions from anywhere and don’t need to account for travel time. It’s also typically more cost-effective than in-person therapy, and represents a viable option for those who don’t have availability to providers in their area. 

If you’re interested in online therapy, you can get matched with a licensed provider through a platform like BetterHelp in as little time as 48 hours. You can meet with them via phone, video call, and/or online chat in order to address the work-related issues you may be facing. If you’re feeling like your job is having a negative impact on your mental health, you deserve to seek the treatment that’s right for you.


Work forms a major part of most people’s lives, so it’s generally smart to prioritize a job and a work environment that are good for your mental health. If you’re facing mental health challenges related to your work, the tips in this article may help.
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