5 Tips for Mental Self-Care in a Toxic Work Environment

Many people start a new job or career full of excitement and anticipation. While some people are thrilled at being offered a position in a new field, others dream of eventually moving up the ladder into leadership or managerial roles. What we often don’t anticipate during our initial period of euphoria is the potential for toxicity in the work environment in the days, weeks, months, or even years into the job. The stress associated with a toxic work environment can feel mentally overwhelming. Here are five tips for mental self-care in a toxic work environment.

1. Ask Yourself Critical Questions

Usually, our feelings and responses to stressful work situations is our signal to alert us that we are not happy on the job. It is vital, however, to evaluate whether the tension you are experiencing is linked to greater meaning beyond commonplace issues at work. Asking yourself questions like, “In what ways does this environment negatively affect other areas of my life?” Or, “Does working here contribute to a diminished sense of myself?” can be helpful in determining whether you are working in a toxic environment. Some commonalities in toxic work environments might include chronic stress, bullying, and being overworked.

2. Stay Above the Drama

While it may feel tempting to engage in gossip and other back-and-forth drama, it is imperative that you avoid situations where there is opportunity to further contribute to an already toxic workplace. Creating boundaries around negativity can go a long way in keeping your mental energy preserved for more important tasks. Keep in mind that sometimes, this will require that you be direct with others when setting these boundaries. This is also a good time to think about how your responses to toxicity around you might be playing a role in your mood and mental functioning while at work.

3. Thoroughly Weigh Your Options

Many of us are dichotomous thinkers. We think in ‘all or nothing,’ ‘black or white’ ways. We often view solutions to a given problem as an ‘either/or’ which usually narrows down our options to only two possibilities (neither of which feel like viable options – usually). The problem with this kind of thinking is that it limits us from discovering viable paths towards a workable solution. The same is true for working in a toxic environment. Maybe you have thought to yourself, “Well, I can either stay here and be miserable, or I can put in my notice and quit my job.” Although these two options are possible courses of action, make a list of other potential solutions and weigh the pros and cons of those as well (for example: discussing your concerns with a superior, requesting transfer to another department, speaking with your HR department for support, etc.). Thoroughly weighing your options decreases the anxiety that comes with making major life decisions with limited solutions.

4. Care for Other Areas of Your Life

It is important that you continue to pour into other areas of your life with the utmost care. Try out that new restaurant you’ve had your eye on. Move your body. Get that new haircut. Say “yes” to social connection and relating with loved ones. Allowing tension from a toxic work environment into the rest of your life can wreak havoc on your physical health and relationships. Remember, what you do for a living is only one aspect of the overall you. Allow yourself to be fully present in the rest of your life as this will support your mental wellness in major ways!

5. If Leaving Your Job, Do So Graciously

Countless people often fantasize about leaving a bad job, and even more so, leaving their job with a behavioral display of “screw all of you!” Keep in mind that fantasies like this generally do not account for real-world consequences that follow inappropriate behavior. Leaving a toxic work environment with dignity and respect gives you the peace of mind that you are not burning bridges with others. We live in a very small world, so remember, your reputation has a tendency to precede you, even when you don’t think it will. It is crucial that you de-personalize your departure and view your leaving as something you are doing for yourself, rather than something that you are doing to someone else.

If you are having difficulty navigating a toxic work environment and need support, I’d love to hear from you. Contact me today so that we can begin working through your concerns together!

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