My Job Is Too Stressful to Handle. What Can I Do?

Workplace Stress
A female patient is thinking about her stressful workplace and is about to ingest her antidepressant.

If your job is causing you to feel anxious or depressed, you don’t have to navigate the stressors alone.

Albert Hernandez

October 22, 2022
 Medically Reviewed by Tanya Hernandez, PMHNP-BC
Updated on: October 22, 2022
  6 min read

October 22, 2022
 Medically Reviewed by Tanya Hernandez, PMHNP-BC
Updated on: October 22, 2022
  6 min read


For many of us, our workplace is where we will spend a large chunk of our waking hours. Whether you physically report to an office or other workspace, or you work remotely from your home, workplace stress can be a common problem for high-performing adults.

Again and again in my practice, I meet with adults who have never seen a psychiatrist before, nor have they had any history of mental health conditions. And yet, they are now explaining they feel burned out, overwhelmed, and on the verge of a nervous breakdown due to stress at work. These feelings bleed into all other areas of their life, causing everything from low motivation, lack of health promotion, or a lack of sexual desire. How can you know if the feelings you’re having are due to workplace stress? And what remedies are available to help you manage your feelings of irritability, stress, and dread?

Symptoms of Anxiety and Depression

Often, patients who come to our practice and say job stress is overwhelming have high-paying jobs that are very demanding. Other patients may be in the medical field or other service fields and feel the strain of giving so much of themselves daily. Eventually, the demands of the job consumes them, and they can’t handle it anymore. Some of the patients who contact our practice feel some symptoms of anxiety, such as:

  • Irritability
  • Stomach upset
  • Insomnia
  • Increased heart rate
  • Nervousness

Other patients describe symptoms that may indicate depression, including:

  • Feelings of sadness
  • Exhaustion
  • Loss of energy
  • Irritability
  • Insomnia or sleeping too much
  • Trouble concentrating

Job stressors can include difficult work schedules, complex tasks, and being asked to do more than a person can reasonably accomplish in the time allotted. Why can workplace stress contribute to symptoms of anxiety or depression? When the body is under constant stress, it produces more stress hormones, such as cortisol. In one study, mice who were consistently exposed to stress hormones over a period of time exhibited symptoms that seemed like nervousness and low motivation.

So, it seems that chronic stress frequently leads to chemical changes in our bodies that can cause some otherwise-healthy people to have feelings of depression and anxiety.

You may be experiencing this right now. And you likely know that job stress doesn’t just cause tension, anxiety, and feelings of hopelessness at work. Tension that starts at your workplace seldom stops there. It frequently bleeds into other areas of your life, as well. Insomnia makes it hard to concentrate wherever you are. You may find yourself snapping at your kids when that’s out of character for you. Maybe you’re experiencing low sexual desire and having trouble connecting to your spouse. Many people who have a depressed mood might not take care of their health as well as they usually do, and they begin eating poorly and decreasing their exercise time. Before you have a nervous breakdown or quit your job in despair, let’s review what your treatment options might be.

What Will Help Me Manage Workplace Stress?

It might be easy for others to say to you, “Well, if your work is the problem, then switch jobs.” But for my patients in Albuquerque, El Paso, or other areas of New Mexico, I know it’s not always that simple. There are a lot of reasons you might not feel able to change your job, including:

  • You find your work to be very meaningful
  • The schedule is important for you/your family
  • You don’t think you’ll be able to find a comparable job in your field
  • The benefits and/or salary at your job are necessary for you

If switching jobs to alleviate your stress isn’t an option at this time, let’s look at other ways you might be able to decrease your symptoms of anxiety or depression related to work.

FMLA And Workplace Accommodations

When patients are committed to staying in their job, a behavioral health practice can help by making a treatment plan that might suggest some reasonable workplace accommodations for them. For example, if it would be useful for a person to work a different schedule, like 6 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., your provider can recommend this in your treatment plan. With your permission, your provider can share this recommended schedule change with your job. You and your provider will evaluate whether this change is improving your health and performance.

Another possible avenue of relief from workplace anxiety or depression could be the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). This federal law allows eligible workers to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave during a one-year period if they have a medical condition that leaves them unable to complete their job tasks. The 12 weeks guaranteed by FMLA don’t have to be taken all at once; they can be broken up over the year. If you are eligible, your behavioral health provider’s office can help you complete your FMLA paperwork so that you can get relief from work stress while you pursue the treatment you need to return to work.

Antidepressant Medications

A RX pill bottle that has pills spilling on the table.

The standard treatment for many depression and anxiety disorders is an antidepressant medication, such as a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI).  Even though antidepressant medication is for a chemical imbalance, for some patients, their job stress is actually causing a chemical imbalance. Therefore, the serotonin effects of an SSRI can help a patient feel more like themselves as they further develop coping mechanisms at work.

It takes a few weeks for patients to feel the full effect of antidepressant medication for their symptoms.

So, working with a practice that has expertise in helping patients navigate relevant forms and paperwork is key.

At Upper Valley Behavioral Health, we work closely with patients during the period in which they are adjusting to their new antidepressant medication. If patients need forms or letters completed for their work during this time, we will help them take care of it.

For most of us, our job provides needed income for ourselves and our families. Some people find great meaning in the mission of their work, as well. If you are finding the job that you want or need to be overwhelmingly stressful, don’t go in alone. If you live in Albuquerque, El Paso, or one of the other areas we serve, check out Upper Valley Behavioral Health. We are experts in treating depression and anxiety, and we can support you as you find ways to manage work stress. Fill out our short application for treatment today.

Disclaimer: This post is for informational purposes only. It does not replace instructions from your licensed prescriber. Please consult your healthcare provider for guidance on your specific medication regimen.

Tags: mental health, anxiety, depression

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