Work leaves me feeling anxious and empty

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    A little backstory: Four years ago I was working as an assistant in an architecture office. I was 21, the office was well-known and high profiled, with over 50 employees. Just a few months into working there, I started getting anxiety attacks and was severly depressed. I have always had the tendecy towards depression, but not anxiety before then. I started being sick once a month and later every week. I felt like being in bed, not going out and most of all not going to work. On one hand, my job as overwhelming – on the other hand underwhelming. I did what I had to do, got my diploma and degree so I would have a job I could always get back to, should my other endeavours not pan out. My passion is singing and music. I’m a very empathetic, creative and emotional person.
    So working in an office environment is not the best suit for me. It creates structure, which is good and helps me with my mental issues, but it usually is so boring that it leaves me feeling empty and worn out. I think contrary to a burn-out, I had a bore-out four years ago. To make a long story short: I was fired from that job after nine months without a real warning. My anxiety got worse and I finally decided to see a doctor about. I have now been in therapy for almost 2 years, on and off, and have worked in many jobs. At one point I even worked at a restaurant because I couldn’t stand office work anymore. It was stressful but fun, and the physical side to it helped me with my anxiety.
    Well, now I started working at an office again. Early last year I had an accident, broke my ankle and had 4 surgeries. So all I wanted after almost a year of unemployment and hospital visits was to work again, to feel like a part of society. But now I fear everything is starting over again. I don’t get enough sleep because I need to wind down for a long time in the evening and I’m stressed about the prospect of the next day. Trying to work on that.
    Once I’m at work, I’m having a hard time focusing and being motivated by the work, even though it’s pretty interesting. I’d rather surf the internet, and push things I have to do to the last minute. It’s a super small office so I don’t have much contact with anyone and I feel like a plant that is deteriorating. I have tried to practice mindfulness over the past few years, doing yoga, self reflection, working on my issues and I am proud and happy of where I am now. I am nowhere near perfect, but I think I have to find another job or purpose next to music, since I can’t live off of that yet.
    All work does is making me feel empty, anxious and nervous. My neck is so tense you could cut steel with it. I left the office last week after only 5.5 hours of work feeling half alive and like I was going to faint. And yes, I have to get used to working again, focusing and I have some health issues like iron deficiency (taking care of it though). But should a job leave you feeling like this?
    I guess my main concern is that I will fall back into severe anxiety and/or depression and I do not want that to happen.
    Do any of you know what I’m going through, and do have ideas on how to break this vicious cycle? I feel like my soul is suffering, and the other I have all these voices telling me: you should be able to function, like a normal human being. You should be able to go to work and not feel half-dead after a day. Am I wrong? What should I change?

    Thankful for every answer!


    Helen – Do you know what you want your life to be in 5 years, and if so, do you have it written down with a plan of how to get there?

    Ashley Arcel


    Unfortunately, your story is one that many young people can relate to today. We live in really frightening times and “Certainty” as our parents and grandparents knew it is sort of a thing of the past. This forces us to be innovative (hence the huge prevalence of start-ups, creative firms and small businesses) but it can still be very frightening to jump fully out of something that seems safe (your job) even if it is causing you great discomfort. I also work a job that I really dislike (a legal assistant in a law office). Although I don’t find it fulfilling or interesting and there are about 27,000 things I would rather do with my time, I am able to see this well-paying job as a means to an end. For example, I am currently working and, during my down time at work and free time outside of work, building a blog and working on writing the book I have always wanted to write. This allows me to make peace with my job as I know it is simply a stepping stone that is allowing me to write, create and reach people on the side. Eventually, my goal is to quit the day job and work full time in more fulfilling pursuits. Maybe you can work on your music more on the side or join a community group that fosters that passion, even if you can’t afford to leave your office job right this minute. In the meantime, save money, plan your escape and…most importantly….give yourself a timeline! If it is really negatively impacting your mental health…just get out. Nothing is worth that. Find a different job that is more in line with what you want to do or at least one that does not impose so much anxiety. Your sanity is worth protecting, my friend. I hope this helps. Please keep us posted.



    Hi Helen,

    I can absolutely relate to what you are experiencing. I am nearing 30 and since graduating college did the standard thing and got a “real job” to pay the bills. I tried to start my own creative endeavor after graduating, hoping that would take off and I wouldn’t have to get a “real job,” but life hit and I had to suck it up and went to work for a very prominent manufacturing company doing media relations for almost 5 years. Here’s a tip-off that this was a terrible move. I am creative, an empath, introvert, animal/nature/environment lover and despise inauthenticity–my job required me to pretend to be really enthusiastic about things I really couldn’t care less about and pretend to be really outgoing and gregarious and try and pitch story ideas to reporters. I gave up who I was and became completely lost during some of the most formative years of my life. I knew I was unhappy because of work but my husband tried to remind me to be grateful that I had such a good paying job and encouraged me to pursue hobbies outside of work to keep my cool, but when you’re so miserable you can’t find joy in much of anything. This manifested as anger and depression over the years but last summer it all came to a head. I started having daily panic attacks at the office and felt like I was literally losing my mind/dying. At first I thought I just needed a change of scenery so I ended up leaving for a similar position at a different company, but the anxiety and physical symptoms of chest pain, dizziness and fatigue only worsened. It was only two weeks into that new job that I snapped and quit. I was on the express train to a psychiatric ward and that wasn’t worth $50K a year to me.

    Granted, I have been extremely fortunate to have my husband be so supportive (both emotionally and financially) during this extremely challenging transition, though it took awhile for him to get to this point–he’s never seen me happier, so the lower income has been a fair trade for us both. I have worked odd jobs here and there, went back to work in retail nearly full time and found the structure and demands of that suffocating as well, so that didn’t last long. I have gone from a little Uber driving to cleaning houses to doing some freelance writing. I have also been tempted to go back into the corporate world because of the financial strain, but I feel you–it’s a terrifying thought jumping back into that cycle that you know in your bones doesn’t support who you truly are. What I’ve learned is there are ways to make ends meet that don’t involve going back to an environment that causes you more harm than good. They may be very brief, such as my retail stint, but they give you what you need for the time they’re needed. Nothing is permanent, you can always leave if something isn’t the right fit for you. I love Ashley’s advice: set yourself a timeline, make goals for yourself. And don’t let go of your music while you’re planning your next steps. The uncertainty can be terrifying, but it will absolutely pay off if you just stay true to yourself.

    Best of luck, Helen. Always have faith in yourself and your dreams.



    Thank you guys so much for taking the time and answering me! I am giving myself a few weeks now, trying to settle into it. Maybe talking to my boss if I could work only the afternoons, since I am just so not a morning person (I work part-time anyways).
    I also feel like the pressure from my peers and also family is huge! You’re so smart why don’t you want to go to university and get a degree and make a ton of money in a great job?! But that’s just not me, and I have to accept and live that.
    Your stories are really inspiring! And it’s true, we should never let go of our dreams and also never settle for a life that makes us feel miserable.

    All the best to you!


    Hey Helen.

    I’m sorry to hear you’re having a rough time, but I’m in the same boat.
    I’m not sure how old you are, but probably a similar age to me – I turn 25 in two months.

    I, too, feel like I’m wasting my life in a meaningless career and the weather (in England) is getting to me.
    It seems I just get up, head out in the rain and under grey clouds and work my boring and lackluster job.
    A couple of months ago, I started a job in car insurance. I’ve done car insurance before.
    I knew I wouldn’t like it going in, but y’all have to work, right?
    I’ve had quite a few jobs because I get sick of them all fast.

    My Mum thinks I’m weird for not liking any of the jobs I’ve tried, but who the hell likes insurance and admin?
    People I can’t associate with, that’s who!
    She’s starting to get it though, as I learn to communicate better and explain my ways to her.

    Sometimes I feel like this society and way of living will never work for me.
    We end up labeling ourselves as weak and not good enough, but we’re stronger and better than we have time to remember.

    You sound just like me, and that likely means you’re an introvert and HSP (highly sensitive person) – not that I want to start putting labels on everything. Like you, I create music and it’s one of my passions (as well as learning about mental and physical health, and animal welfare). Of course, the World isn’t really throwing out job opportunities for things like that, so it leaves us in a tricky predicament, where we feel trapped and anxious. There seems to be no end in sight and we wonder if we’ll ever be content and feel like we belong. (I know you’re nodding your head right now…)

    So, I don’t have the answers, but here’s a few things that help me. I don’t claim to be living my ideal life right now. But I get up and try my best every day. That’s all we can really do.

    1) Stop trying to figure out an A-Z plan right now. When you’re frazzled after work, you need to give yourself space to breathe. In those moments of frustration and exhaustion, you’ll likely not figure out any solutions to your problems.

    2) When it’s 5pm, say ‘Screw it. Thank fook I’m done for the day. This job isn’t worth making me depressed. I’m more than this. This is just a way I make money, for now… And then enjoy the time you can. A lot of rich people, or people who own businesses, have to carry their work home with them. We can just chill, even if we do just feel like another average rat in the factory. Quit dreading tomorrow and learn to stay present. Mindfulness isn’t an easy practice, but everyone recommends it. There must be a reason for that.

    3) Be kind to yourself. We have special talents that aren’t being used enough. Just because the World is designed a certain way, it doesn’t mean it’s right. I mean, there’s a lot of awful stuff going on in this World… and it’s because a lot of people aren’t happy living with these set restraints. Learn to be your own friend and don’t beat yourself up for your personality and character. I bet you have more morals than many of the horrible people on this planet, who would step on their own friends to get success and power.

    4) Realise you’re an introvert. The fact you’re tired after being in an open plan office isn’t some mystery, kiddo. You’re an introvert. That’s why you’re talented and creative with your music and probably other things like writing… your post was well written, by the way. There are lots of successful introverts too. J K Rowling and Emma Watson come to mind. (P.S… Emma Watson is Hot. Just sayin’)

    5) Make time to express yourself in your own unique way. You don’t have to make everything happen overnight, and you’ll only burn out if you try. But try working on some music at least once a month. Not sure you record, but you should look to… I’ll link some of my stuff in a sec, if you’re interested. I work full-time and I know it can be hard to have the time and energy to commit to the things we really care about… I’m working on it.

    6) You’re not alone. Just find comfort in knowing there are millions of people who feel like you do. Some feel exactly the same (ME!)

    7) Schedule things every week – stuff you can look forward to. Do what feels good for you. Stop trying to be a people pleaser, if you are. Personally, I decline any invites to parties and stuff. I don’t enjoy them. I prefer spending my Friday nights in front of my TV watching Netflix, cuddled up to my girlfriend and dog. It’s much better to be open and honest about who you are. If someone doesn’t like you, that’s cool. You don’t have to waste your time on someone who doesn’t appreciate you. Screw ’em. Their loss and all that.

    8) Check out some podcasts. A few I listen to (search iTunes) are ‘The anxiety coaches podcast’, ‘The self-help podcast’ and ‘anxiety slayer’.

    That’ll all for now. I have a habit of staying up late too… just because I enjoy the quiet and peace I can finally experience at night time. But sleep is important for people like us, especially!

    Check my YouTube channel out, if you like: http://www.youtube.com/stefanalexlay
    I have a song called Corporate Hell that you’ll almost definitely relate to: https://soundcloud.com/stefan-lay/corporate-hell

    I’ve got some music on my YouTube page, but mainly I speak about anxiety and depression. Stuff like that.

    I hope it doesn’t seem like I’m plugging myself. I just felt like it’d be good to speak to someone like-minded.

    Take care x


    P.S… I just read Alison’s reply.
    It’s really awesome on this site’s forum.
    Everyone is so understanding and giving of their time.

    Nice to hear that I’m not alone in the way I feel.
    Being in an office with computers doesn’t sit right with me.

    We should be out in nature, resting and just worrying about food and keeping our families safe.
    It’s no wonder so many of us feel so detached from the World.

    Okay, I should really get to bed now.


    I’m beginning to feel that I found this forum by no mere accident.
    Having read through many of the stories here, I’m breaking a status quo and extending my hand.

    Helen, no. People were not born to feel like this. It is not ‘normal’. Maybe for much of society it’s normal, but I’ve found much of society gives up. Do you really think you are where you are to be a cog in some CEO’s machine? Wouldn’t we all want to believe there’s better options out there?

    Consider this, the concept of an employee is relatively a new concept. Less than 15 years ago, baby boomers had dreams of working in a tiny little office wearing lapel shirts and skinny red ties at IBM for 40 to 50 years. That was ‘the dream job’ for many people, yet I’m fairly confident an audible form of disgust came from anyone who just thought about wanting to sit in a cubicle for 40 years, let alone 50.

    20 years ago, something around 70% (I may be off by a bit but regardless it was significant) of business was privately owned and full of entrepreneurs. A word which has almost been demonized in today’s America.

    “You should be able to go to work and not feel half-dead after a day. Am I wrong? What should I change?” There are very few people alive today who probably could accurately answer this question with certainty. I would wager such individuals are very successful people who don’t trade their time for dollars.

    As for feeling half dead after a day? Average vacation time is two weeks out of a year. Considering the average person can’t calm down during the week until their ‘friday’ in which they unwind all evening, spend saturday playing, and then sunday worrying about monday. Add all that up and the average person lives their life to the fullest 2 weeks out of the year, and stressed out for 6 weeks sporadically. The rest of the year belongs to the job.

    Is that normal? To live your life at 2 months out of 12, or 1/6th it’s potential, until you are 62 years old(The average retirement age)?

    If any part of this text has you upset, I want to have a chat with you. Why? I’m looking for people who are winners, and winners don’t go around getting paid at the value of a job willingly.

    If you don’t want to try and take my hand, then I encourage you to find someone else. You’ve heard “Show me your friends, and I’ll show you your future.”, what do you know about mentors? If you don’t have a mentor, then you are living your future. Look at people who are 10 years into what it is you think you want to do in life. Look at them and decide if you like the way they are living and the things they are doing.


    Hi ,

    I dont know if I can say this but I feel quite relieved reading your posts as I feel that I am not the only 1 in this situation. I have shifted to a new dept 3 years ago as it was more convenient to me..less working hours, less challenging work..I was getting married and so, I chose convenience over ambition and challenge..I was so so wrong..As you, this year is my 3rd year in this dept.. I hate the work..it is repetitive and boring..Over the last few months, I have developed anxiety, panic and stress.. I felt sick and didnt know what was happening to me….I made research, followed online therapies
    on stress and anxiety to understand.
    I am fortunately quitting this hell in 3 months..Every day is a challenge for me to get up and come to work..
    I wanted to ask whether the anxiety symptoms will disappear if I like my other job?or will it take time to go?..
    Thanks for ur help!


    * Dear smita1234:

    The last post on this thread, the one before yours, is one year and four months ago. I hope you get a reply from the original poster. If not, let me know if you’d like my reply or other members’ replies by posting here again.



    Millions of years of evolution and the new generation of youngsters have no choice but to numb all of that expansion down in order to pay bills by joining the rat-race.

    I’m getting to the point where I don’t even doubt or get frustrated with my anxiety because something is obviously not right with the world we live in. It’s all pretty clear to me.

    Best thing to do is to listen to your mind, body and soul as much as possible and to try to give yourself as much tender love and care as you can in your free time. In terms of practicality – a healthy diet, exercise, sound sleep and good social support systems are vital.

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