How to Get Your Brain Back After a Stressful Job Experience
Updated: Mar 30
I was in my last job for three years, and I was probably downright miserable for about a year and a half, if not longer. Before that experience, I’d had other jobs where I felt the same way—miserable and longing for my escape. There’s a part of me that thinks I must be so shallow and selfish, because countless other careers out there are more demanding and stressful than mine were, so what right did I have to go around saying I hated my job? I’m learning to be gentler with myself, because it’s always true that someone will have a more stressful job. Someone will always have it worse, and someone will always have it better. It doesn’t change what my situations were to me, and how they shaped me as a person. We all have different personalities, and we all have a different threshold for work-related insanity.
Maybe you’ve been in that fog before, where you’ve been in a job for a long time, so you’re going through the motions, but you’re not feeling any excitement. Leaving a stressful, soul-crushing job can be one of the most liberating things ever. Sometimes the relief is immediate, but I’ve discovered that it usually takes time for the fog to completely clear. I think it took a couple weeks before it really sank in that I wasn’t just on vacation and that I didn’t need to go back. While everyone’s situation is different depending on what you’ve left behind and where you plan to go next, these are a few of my ideas for breaking out of the post-job funk:
Give yourself at least a week off
If possible, between jobs, or before you start job hunting or working on your next adventure, take a week to just be. Sleep in, relax, get things done around the house, take a mini vacation or go on a long hike. Give yourself a few days to breathe, recover, and reset from your stressful experience. You’ve earned a little downtime.
Tap into your creative side. Maybe it’s reading or writing. Maybe it’s drawing, painting, photography, or animation. Spending time working on a creative project can stimulate your mind and help you reconnect with yourself and the world around you. Whether it’s for fun or hobby purposes, or you’re getting creative as part of your next career move, it’s important to explore that side of yourself and just make things. Go forth and create.
Attack your goals
Maybe you have an ever-growing to-do list (or want-to-do list) that always got neglected when your stressful job was eating all your time. Sit down with that list, refine it as necessary, and get to it. Take the classes you’ve been wanting to take. Visit the people you’ve been wanting to see. Run the half marathon. Renovate the kitchen. Whatever it is you’ve been putting off because you didn’t have the time or the energy, make it happen.
Leave the past alone
If you’re anything like me, you might be questioning your decision to leave your job, especially if it provided stability and financial security. You might find yourself asking if it was really the right thing to do, or if you need to hurry up and find another job just like it to keep the paychecks and company-funded health insurance coming. Don’t do that. Don’t question your decision once it’s made. You made it for a reason, and chances are, you did the right thing for you. Accept it, embrace it, and move forward. Your next adventure awaits.
Amanda Baczek is an aspiring graphic designer and current arranger of words (sometimes good ones.) She finds fiction writing to be the greatest antidote to reality, but has a passion for connecting with the outside world through all forms of the written word. A recovering worst-case scenario expert, she's learning to be okay with change and uncertainty, and hopes to help others discover the joy and freedom in listening to their creative heartbeat and following their craziest dreams.