This blog started as a brief post on LinkedIn and then I realized I wanted to say a bit more. Let’s talk for a moment about stress and its impact on the body. A toxic work environment isn’t just “stressing you out.” Toxic work environments slowly sabotage your soul and often cause literal physical damage to your health.

On the soul level, when we are in an unhealthy environment for an extended period, we lose our sense of self. This loss of self manifests as imposter syndrome, lack of confidence, and a frequent second guessing of decisions. We lose the ability to trust our intuition. When I talk through this concept in coaching, clients are often shocked at how far they’ve slid down a negative path, embarrassed by who they’ve become in the unhealthy environment where they’re working.

Under a manipulative manager or in an unhealthy culture, gaslighting is common, causing confusion over what is real and making it nearly impossible to feel confident in any decision, even a decision to leave. A bad job or boss can cause us to shift from a place of strength to victimhood, much like those in an abusive relationship. You end up saying things like “It could be worse,” justifying why it isn’t hurting you to stay.

The more I listen to my own intuition, the more I pay close attention to the signs the universe lays out for me. It’s through this connection to my core self that I find clarity in reality.

The signs last week couldn’t be ignored.

One morning, I had a client share that she was delighted to have found herself pregnant after trying for quite some time. The timing of her getting pregnant and when she quit the job that was weighing her down, dampening her light and frustrating her to the point of wanting to quit, was completely in sync.

Thirty minutes after that session, I jumped onto Zoom with another client who had recently been laid off from an uber-toxic work environment: The company manipulated the truth, played dirty politics, and left her in tears daily. She had been looking for a new job, but the layoff caught her off guard. (It always does.) Now, a few weeks later, she was set to begin IVF treatments when, lo and behold, she discovered she was pregnant.

The next day I spoke with a client who’s been fighting terrible rheumatoid arthritis flare-ups. Rheumatoid arthritis is an auto-immune disease; auto-immune diseases are often triggered by stress.

We cannot flourish when we’re in fight mode. It just doesn’t work.

So why do we stay? Well, much like the abused spouse, we convince ourselves that things are probably worse somewhere else. The enemy we know is better than the unknown. I hear this most often when working with working mothers. If you have young children, especially in that age group that catches every cold, strep, ear infection, and flu bug from daycare, kindergarten, and/or elementary school, then having flexibility is paramount to balancing it all and maintaining any semblance of sanity. And your environment, albeit horrible, is a known quantity: You can leave at 10 a.m. to take your kid to the doctor for a COVID/strep/flu test and no one bats an eye because you’ve been there for years, because you have flexibility.

But the reality is that most companies offer that kind of flexibility these days and you wouldn’t be leaving something sacred. And the toll a bad environment takes on your health and your sense of self is just never worth it.

This is your life. Own it. You only have one chance to live this life. And if you don’t believe in reincarnation, you’re never getting any life again. Is this, today, the best that you can give yourself? How would your 10-year-old self feel about who you are today?

What is your toxic environment creating or preventing in you? When you say you don’t want to give up the flexibility that your company offers, what is the price? Let’s get real about workplace stress and the havoc it creates. Figure out a way to tell your nervous system it’s safe. Take care of yourself.

The current job market is VERY hot. If you’re unhappy where you are, you don’t have to take it anymore.