Are You Stressed out at Work but Too Afraid to Quit Your Job?

Updated on January 4, 2018
SMD2012 profile image

Sally Hayes is a business communications coach who teaches speaking and leadership skills to adults in the midst of a career change.

If you're thinking about quitting your job because you're too stressed, but you're worried about the consequences, the following tips and insights might help you decide if now is the right time to walk away from a job that makes you so unhappy.

Workplace stress pushes many people to quit their jobs.

Are you stressed out at work but terrified of quitting? You are not alone. Find out how to decide if you are ready to move on and find a new job.
Are you stressed out at work but terrified of quitting? You are not alone. Find out how to decide if you are ready to move on and find a new job.

Are you scared to quit your job, even though the stress levels at work have become intolerable?

Do any of these statements describe why you’re afraid to quit your job?

  • You don’t have a new job to go to.
  • You aren’t sure how valuable your skills are. You’ve been doing the same job for so long that you don’t know what your credentials are worth anymore.
  • You need the money and can’t afford to miss even one paycheck, let alone two.
  • You really, really like what you do for a living, but office politics, a nasty boss, long work hours or unrealistic quotas are making your one-the-job life too stressful.
  • You are afraid to leave your job because you don’t want to let your boss down or abandon a cherished work friend.
  • You’re experiencing a personal crisis at home that makes it difficult to even consider such a drastic change.
  • You don’t know if you want to find another job in the same field you’ve been working in. You’re thinking of a career change, starting your own business or going back to school. You just aren’t sure yet.

Making the decision to walk away from a secure job in tough economic times can be difficult for even the most confident and skilled worker. Why? Because quitting a job inevitably leads to change, and that can be scary. After all, there are no guarantees that the changes you make will lead to better outcomes: more happiness, less stress, more money, more security.

What are you willing to do to be happy and satisfied at work? Is it time for a change?
What are you willing to do to be happy and satisfied at work? Is it time for a change?

If you need a change but feel stuck and unsure of what to do, you're not alone. The fear of letting go of a steady paycheck, a predictable routine and the people and surroundings you have grown accustomed to -- warts and all -- can feel paralyzing.

The truth is that there will never be an ideal time to say goodbye to your old job and start over. It is almost impossible to create the perfect conditions you think you need in order to start reaching for your career and personal goals. Here's an analogy: If you believe that every light at every intersection along your journey must be green before you can set out, you’ll be stuck at home forever. The lights are never all green at the same time. That’s just the way life is. But if you venture out to the first intersection and then to the next and then the next, you’ll eventually get to your destination.

Here are a few questions and suggestions to help you decide if you should quit your job now, wait a while or stick it out until things get better. This is not an exhaustive list and at the end of the day, only you can decide what is best for you and your family.

Get your finances in order. If you’re worried about quitting because you don’t have a new job to go to and your household relies on you to pay the bills, work on your finances before you take any drastic steps. As a matter of fact, work on your finances even if you don’t plan on quitting. Sometimes things beyond your control happen (illness, injury, lay-offs) and you may find yourself without a job through no fault of your own. Having a good financial plan that includes a budget, a timeline for paying down debt, clear savings goals and an emergency fund will guide your decision to quit your job now or stay where you are until you find a new job.

Figure out what your priorities are. Are you planning on having a baby in the future? If you quit would you be losing out on maternity leave benefits? Are you trying to pay down debt or save for your child’s education? Do you just want to earn more money or do you want more free time to enjoy with your family? Think about what it is that you really want and then let that guide your decision about whether or not to quit your job.

You may find that telecommuting will help reduce the stress you’re feeling. If you want more money, asking for a raise from your boss might be the answer. The point is that you may already have what you need in front of you: all you have to do is ask. But if you just want to be done with your overbearing boss or nasty co-workers, then you may come to the conclusion that the stress of not having a job is not nearly as draining as the work situation you’re currently in.

Dream about finding your dream job. Let go of all your logical arguments for staying in your current job and, for just a little while each day, imagine what your dream job would look like. Keep a journal, write lots of notes to yourself, do some visualization exercises – anything that inspires you to imagine a better place for yourself.

Let your inner wisdom guide you. Sometimes letting go of the endless 'pros and cons' lists and just listening to your intuition is the only way to face your fear of quitting your job.

Is it time to quit your job?

What's holding you back?

I am scared to quit my job because

  • 34% I am afraid I will run out of money.
  • 7% I will lose valuable benefits.
  • 20% Someone I care about will be disappointed in me.
  • 28% I have no idea what I want to do next.
  • 11% I have too much debt right now.
14226 people have voted in this poll.
Will quitting your job mean giving up on something you have always wanted to do or be? Or will walking away from your job bring you closer to your dreams?
Will quitting your job mean giving up on something you have always wanted to do or be? Or will walking away from your job bring you closer to your dreams?

Quick tips before you decide to quit! (A bonus cheat sheet!)

Before you make a decision to quit your job, make sure that you have actually identified the real problem at work.

Ask yourself what goals quitting your job will help you achieve. Will the decision to quit bring you closer to your goals?

Don’t overestimate or underestimate your capabilities.

Give yourself time to think through your decision to quit your job.

Make lists. Think of 10 things you can do instead of quitting your job. Then ask yourself if any of those alternatives would be better suited to your current financial or emotional situation.

Use mind maps, pens, papers, post-it notes and file cards to explore your options. Lay the alternatives out on a big table. Move them around. Organize them according to importance. The more time you spend exploring the alternatives to quitting, the more confident you’ll be that the decision you arrive at, whatever that may be, is the right one.

Give yourself credit for making the best decision you can with the information that is available to you.

Considering a career shift? If you are quitting your job because you are stressed out, you might want to check out this list of the least stressful jobs out there.

  • Information security analyst
  • Diagnostic medical sonographer
  • Tenured university professor
  • Hairstylist
  • Medical records technician
  • Medical laboratory technician
  • Jeweler
  • Audiologist
  • Dietician
  • Librarian

Source: The 10 Most (and Least) Stressful Jobs of 2016.

© 2012 Sally Hayes


Submit a Comment

  • AlexisG profile image

    Alexis 4 months ago

    Excellent and insightful article! I've had jobs where I've sincerely considered quitting because of the impact it was having on my overall health. Thankfully I was able to find a new job once I felt I'd hit my breaking point without having to quit. A job should never control you and your life.

  • KevinTimothy profile image

    Kevin J Timothy 3 years ago from Tampa Bay, FL


    You better believe there's a way out.

    Unfortunately this is what's hidden from the masses.

  • jacquelynandrea profile image

    Amanda kestler 3 years ago from Louisiana

    I quit a 4 yr job that i worked my way up to manager, they moved me from store to store to show how it was done, to be put in a situation of being told daily that i was less than everyone and look where you are and where im at. It wasn't ideal to quit but talking with the bosses didn't help so that was my next step. I gave them all i could. All i keep thinking is, there has to be better than that for a hard worker like me.. So im out to find it :)

  • cinderella14 profile image

    Sharon 3 years ago from Philippines

    An excellent presentation of an idea. I personally would go on a safer side. Which is maintaining my job because I need to. My family, relatives and some friends are proud of me because I was able to get this job. I got the best job...that is what they think. Well, I guess going with the flow would be the best thing for me to do. I am still lucky that I have an outlet, my online job.

  • profile image

    BeyondTired 4 years ago

    Quitting a job to go do a year long volunteer project sounds awesome. I wonder if the articles writer is single or married. My guess would be single.

  • goldennic profile image

    Nwafor innocent 4 years ago

    Really, most of us do over work ourself thereby becoming worn-out. I think this is an excellent piece for those that will want to balance work and personal living.

  • profile image

    Mattie Mae 4 years ago

    I recently quit my job because I was treated horribly. I would come home every night, just miserable. I am lucky enough to have save up enough money to live for a year. I, of course, am looking for a new job. But quitting this one was the best thing I ever did. I am so much happier now.

  • KatNance profile image

    KatNance 4 years ago

    God's help, WILL HELP YOU.. hope I could come up with what I really want to do in life one day and have the courage to stand by it. Thanks for sharing

  • Ben Jacklin profile image

    Ben Jacklin 5 years ago from Diss, Norfolk

    It is so hard to make the jump, but it is always good to remember that employment isn't necessarily any safer than self employment or chasing your dreams.

  • profile image

    tvfor200 5 years ago

    I give people a lot of credit who can take a leap of faith and either follow their dreams or just simply say enough is enough. I am neither of these and tend to lean toward the safe side. The best time to leave my job would be having a new job lined up or winning the lottery! Good for you and keep sharing your endevors with us chickens. JK ;-)

  • createmyeconomy profile image

    createmyeconomy 5 years ago from USA, Australia

    Well said Fslovenec! Change starts with you and it is an inside job.

  • FSlovenec profile image

    Frank Slovenec 5 years ago from San Francisco, CA

    Well thought out...people who need to make the job change because of office politics need to look at whether they are the office politic problem..if you love what you do but the environment is the problem..look at how you can change the environment...conversations with peers, superiors, etc...speak up sometimes it is your imagination sometimes executives are unaware and sometimes it is not going to change..the decision then needs to be made...

  • Ben Jacklin profile image

    Ben Jacklin 5 years ago from Diss, Norfolk

    There is always a way out, somehow! It's so sad that in this day and age people still have to slog it out at jobs they don't enjoy though. Great tips for those people right here!

  • dscarcha profile image

    Darwin S. Carcha 5 years ago from Sta. Barbara, Pangasinan, Philippines

    You just made an outstanding article, SMD2012. So far as I explore hubpage, your article is the only work that created deep impact in my interest. As I read you words, it's like we're just having a personal conversation. Yes, somewhat I'm in that kind of situation where I feel finding another job. Though the company pays me more than enough to fund my needs, my work is not offering enough challenge to use my skills. But then, thank you for your insights. You gave me a better look on my current situation now. Thanks!

  • pinkhawk profile image

    pinkhawk 5 years ago from Pearl of the Orient

    Oh! I can relate to those questions. Great to know that I'm not alone... With God's help, hope I could come up with what I really want to do in life one day and have the courage to stand by it. Thanks for sharing your experience!... also congratulations!^_^

  • createmyeconomy profile image

    createmyeconomy 5 years ago from USA, Australia

    End the struggle and end the frustration. Put a plan B in place ASAP. If anyone needs a plan B, let me know. I will give you one free of charge.

  • homesweethomebiz profile image

    Millicent Perry 5 years ago from Columbus, Ga

    Great advice. I know a lot of people who struggle with this everyday.

  • KevinTimothy profile image

    Kevin J Timothy 5 years ago from Tampa Bay, FL

    It was absolutely nerve racking when we decided to abandon the workforce ship and become entrepreneurs. I cannot agree with you more when you stated there will never be a perfect time to leave the job. Our conditioning since we were kids won't allow us to make that jump of faith easily. It boils down to self-belief, combined with a lot of built up frustrations of a 9-5.

  • profile image

    Casimiro 5 years ago

    Often the first step is the hardest one. I wouldn't recommend that anyone quite their job just because of frustration, or especially in the middle of feeling frustrated when our thinking is not clear. Planning for departure can help reduce the stress, and at least it takes your mind off things for a while. Actually taking that first step though... that's tough.

  • Perry the Cat profile image

    Perry the Cat 5 years ago from Mouskin, Texas

    SMD- Actually, because she works for the Federal Government, under the Americans with Disabilities Act she can claim reasonable accommodations and keep them far away.

  • SMD2012 profile image

    Sally Hayes 5 years ago

    @aexbush Yes, taking responsibility for our own future can feel so liberating and freeing. "If it's to be, it's up to me!" is one of my favorite mantras. Thanks for stopping by!

  • SMD2012 profile image

    Sally Hayes 5 years ago

    @Perry the Cat (I think your human Mom and I would really get along!) I think considering a job in another office or branch of the company you are currently working at is another way to reduce stress if you aren't ready to quit yet. You get to keep your job, do what you love and hopefully find a more congenial place to work with new people. Thanks for the tip!

  • SMD2012 profile image

    Sally Hayes 5 years ago

    @point2make Congratulations on being debt free and being in position to make the changes that you want to make in life. I think that reducing our household debt is one of the smartest things that we can do, even when we have a secure job. Life has a way of throwing us curveballs (I remember when interest rates shot up to the double digits in the early 90's and mid 80's) so it always pays to pay down debt. Thanks for voting up!

  • SMD2012 profile image

    Sally Hayes 5 years ago

    @greeneryday Thanks for stopping by. I know how hard it can be to contemplate a career change so I'm glad my article was useful to you. Good luck with whatever you decide to do.

    @krsharpo5 Sometimes just knowing that we are not the only ones confused about what to do next on our career path helps. Thanks for leaving a comment and voting up!

    @createmyeconomy Yes, I think that people are often too easily led to believe that if they are not happy at work, it must be because there is something wrong with them, they're aren't good enough, they aren't hard workers etc and they should just be grateful to have a job. But why spend 8 hours a day (or more) doing something that doesn't fulfill you. Congratulations on re-inventing yourself too. It feels really good to find that one thing in life that we are really meant to be doing.

    @Perry the Cat I agree, it is hard to contemplate letting go of a job when you don't have one to go to. In fact I know that some recruiters won't even accept applications from people who aren't currently employed, which I think is highly discriminatory and unfair.

  • createmyeconomy profile image

    createmyeconomy 5 years ago from USA, Australia

    I reinvented my self as a pure entrepreneur. I write, I review, I sell, I assist people in creating their lives that "they" want instead of what they most likely have been pushed into. I see it every day

  • Perry the Cat profile image

    Perry the Cat 5 years ago from Mouskin, Texas

    as what did you reinvent yourself?

  • createmyeconomy profile image

    createmyeconomy 5 years ago from USA, Australia

    Perhaps the problem here is not the economy. It may be that a "job" is not what that person needs. Have a look at my HUB "Time To Reinvent Yourself". I struggled though jobs and ultimately I found that a job was not for me.

  • Perry the Cat profile image

    Perry the Cat 5 years ago from Mouskin, Texas

    unfortunately, in this economy, many folks are afraid of being unemployed. If this is the case, remember: It's easier to find a job when you have a job. If you have to find a new job, find it before you leave the one you have.

  • createmyeconomy profile image

    createmyeconomy 5 years ago from USA, Australia

    No amount of money is worth the stress if you do not like what you are doing or where you are working. I've seen to many people crumble because they hung on because of money. Good HUB for moving people forward.

  • krsharp05 profile image

    Kristi Sharp 5 years ago from Born in Missouri. Raised in Minnesota.

    Excellent information and suggestions for someone who is in a rough or confused position. You sure make it easier to make a good, sound decision. Well done. -K

  • point2make profile image

    point2make 5 years ago

    Great hub. very good advice. I have felt for a long time that it might be time to move on. The stress levels were through the roof and it seemed impossible, at times, to get any relief. Of course the fear of the unknown moves in and you worry about finding a new job....the finances and giving up that steady paycheck. As for the stress I know that stress will be apart of any new position I might consider and if I want to have choices I have to get my finances in order.....and that is what I have done.

    I am now debt free and I have a small side venture that is helping me develop more skills. I have found that getting rid of debt has given me "freedom'' and many more choices in life. I am still in the same position but my new found freedom has helped ease the daily stress and I find that my job is still enjoyable

    . I am now in a better position to make changes in my life but I have come to the realization that I don't want another "job" and all that goes along with that. I want to change my life and explore this world and do the things I love to do in my spare time. I admire what you have done and soon, very soon, I will strike out on my own as well and! Voted this hub up!!

  • Perry the Cat profile image

    Perry the Cat 5 years ago from Mouskin, Texas

    My human mom has a job she loves helping disaster victims and people she can't stand. These people will come over to her desk and start screaming at her out of the blue. The stress involved in this situation makes her want to go home from what ever disaster she is working on. She has found that working outside of her region with professional people is a great deal less stressful. Last year she had a choice of going to South Texas (her region) and Pennsylvania (different region). She chose PA and her manager called her and asked why she didn't come to Texas. They love having her around to take swings at. Mom has been doing this for fourteen years and hangs around because she loves helping people.

  • aexbush profile image

    Stephen Bush 5 years ago from Ohio

    Useful and especially timely advice. In the end each individual should take responsibility for their own future.

  • greeneryday profile image

    greeneryday 5 years ago from Some tropical country

    For long I've been dreaming of quitting my job because of some of the reasons you have written in this hub, but I don't have the courage to do so. Now I know the first step I need to do is to get my finances in order first and see if it can support me while finding a new job. Voted up for awesome!