Workplace issues & unemployment

Work can be a big part of life and identity, so challenges in that realm can have a significant impact on your mental health. This guide will help you identify common issues and learn ways to help yourself and others manage them.
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What is it?

Workplace issues, problems related to tasks and overall interactions at your job, are pretty common. We all encounter occasional pressure and stressful moments—it’s called work for a reason, after all. But when the stressors become constant, they can affect how you’re doing at work and may even trigger a stress response that leads to bigger health or relationship issues. 

Research for the Surgeon General's report1 on workplace health found that 84% of survey respondents said their workplace conditions had contributed to at least one challenge they were dealing with related to their mental health. For some people, this may trigger burnout

Unemployment and job loss are other types of work-related issues that can have a significant effect on your health and life. It may feel like you’ve lost stability and a sense of your identity, which may trigger feelings of grief and loss. Those feelings, combined with the need to find work to support you and your loved ones, can be difficult and scary.

But there’s good news. More people—including employers—are realizing how important workplace well-being is following our collective experience of pandemic stressors, and are exploring ways to support it. There are many steps you can take to keep work issues in check, and a number of resources are available to help you manage the workplace and unemployment.  

What's causing it?

There are many different types of stressors that cause issues in the workplace and they can vary by person and by workplace. 

Some workplace issues are related to the nature of the work and can leave you feeling overwhelmed, unappreciated, or disconnected. These include:

  • Excessive, overwhelming workload
  • Uninteresting or unchallenging tasks
  • Strict, long or unpredictable schedules
  • Lack of input on decisions or lack of control 
  • Lack of meaning or purpose

Other issues could be related to workplace dynamics and can leave you feeling unsupported, unequipped to do the work you need to do, or even unsafe. These include:

  • Low pay, limited growth or stability concerns
  • Lack of clarity on roles and responsibilities
  • Difficult relationships with managers or coworkers
  • Lack of work-life balance
  • Not enough tools or training
  • Lack of value, appreciation or support by supervisors
  • Discrimination, inequality and disrespect
  • Health, wellness and safety issues
  • Workplace environment or commute

Though you might feel undervalued, stuck or unhappy to the point you’d like to resign or find a new job, there are many reasons why that may feel like a daunting or unrealistic option—your financial situation, family responsibilities, available time and the state of the job market are just a few factors. Your situation can feel even more difficult if you feel pressure to push through, link your identity with work and achievement, have negative feelings toward yourself or have reached the point of intense burnout. 

Since time off isn’t always possible, you may need to find ways to cope with stressors on the job. It’s important to recognize what workplace issues exist for you and how they’re affecting your mental health so that you can take the steps to refresh your outlook on work and how it fits into your life. 

Lingering work issues or ongoing unemployment can have trickle-down effects on your overall well-being.

If workplace or job loss struggles continue to weigh you down and affect your day-to-day life, there’s a chance they can lead to more serious mental health conditions. 

Certain mental health conditions may also contribute to workplace struggles and further threaten your well-being, especially if you don’t have the proper arrangements with your employer. This doesn’t mean you need to tell your boss everything about your health—but it could be beneficial to (slowly) introduce your employer to the idea that you may perform better and be happier at work if small modifications can be made (for example, working a different shift or different hours, or trying to schedule meetings at certain times of the day).  

How should I deal with it?

Given the pressure to be high-performing, it might be hard to admit when something needs to change. Recognizing the extent to which a challenging work situation, losing a job or being unemployed is having on you is the first and necessary step.

If you’re employed, start by exploring what support your employer may offer by talking to a manager, union rep, or human resources; taking advantage of an employee assistance program (EAP) if your workplace has one; or taking some time off if you can (check with your workplace to understand what paid leave options they may have).

If you’re unemployed, you can take small steps to ensure your basic needs are met in this moment of transition. Explore filing for unemployment if you haven’t already. It’s also worth looking into getting health insurance (check out, especially if your mental health is worsened by job loss. If you find yourself with extra time, consider using some of it to do things you enjoy like seeing friends, revisiting a hobby or going on longer walks. 

Try to recognize the value you can bring to a workplace that treats you with the respect you deserve. Taking care of yourself—mind, body and soul—can help you celebrate your value and land you a better work-life balance.

Things to try

Here are some things you can try to find better work-life balance and position yourself to better deal with common work stressors or unemployment: 

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Picture yourself at the top of your game
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Be like Mike. He credits tapping in to the power of his mind—visualizing himself winning—to helping him become a master of basketball. And it’s is something you can try too. What’s the equivalent to making a basket, or winning a championship trophy in your life? If you picture yourself achieving this in your mind, your brain actually does the work to create a new neural pathway. In non-science speak, this means when you visualize something vividly, and repeatedly, the brain feels like you’ve actually done the thing you’ve imagined. So when the situation arises in real life, you can be calm in the moment and worry a little less about how to do the thing because you’ve already experienced it your mind.

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Acknowledge and avoid negative self-talk
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Stress or worry might lead you to interpret situations negatively, be overly self-critical, or doubt you ability to deal with stressors. To reframe negative thoughts, avoid thinking of them as facts and consider other possibilities. Doing this over time can help reduce the negative emotional response to stress. The world is hard enough, you don't need to be hard on yourself, too.

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Reward your achievements
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Do something nice for yourself after you complete a task or have a win—big or small. This might be taking a break, talking to a friend, or getting outside for a bit.

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Create an end-of-work day habit
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To create a clear end to the work day, try doing things like putting away your work materials, stepping away for another activity, or following away-from-work communication rules you define with your coworkers (like setting expectations you aren’t available for meetings, calls, or email replies after a certain time).

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Try some breathing exercises
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Breathwork, or consciously controlling your breath, is easy way to relax that you can do almost anywhere, and anytime—even when other aspects of life might seem out of control. The practice has existed for thousands of years, and there are many different approaches you can experiment with. Belly breathing is a great basic you can start with, and even just noticing the quality of your breath during the day is a great way to focus inward and away from all the thoughts in your head.

What can I do now?

If you’re dealing with work issues or unemployment, it may be difficult to imagine work becoming more satisfying than stressful. But by becoming aware of your stressors and how to cope with them, being kind to yourself, and taking steps to improve your situation with the support of others, you can start to see positive change.


  1. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Workplace Well-Being