He also stressed the importance of being realistic and suggested setting small goals that you have control over, like spending three hours preparing your résumé as opposed to telling yourself that you’ll get a new job by next week. The second goal, Dr. Schneier said, is a “recipe for anxiety because that’s a goal you don’t have direct control over.” He also recommends exercise, meditation and relaxation as first steps, and therapy and medication if your anxiety becomes too much to bear.
Most important, Dr. Rosmarin said, is not to catastrophize or judge yourself. “That’s usually where people start to get into trouble,” he added. “It’s when they feel nervous, afraid, stressed, and then they get upset about the fact that they feel stressed — meta-meta worried.” Instead, he suggests, go easy: “Notice that you’re feeling anxious; don’t just pretend nothing’s happening. Acknowledge it.”
You’re not alone, especially right now
The pandemic actually prepared us — or at least gave us a preview — of what post-quitting anxiety might feel like. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration: “Rates of depression and anxiety were rising before the pandemic, but the grief, trauma and physical and social isolation that many people experienced during the pandemic exacerbated these issues.” Which is to say, there is a community out there of like-minded people, perhaps now more so than before. “We know for sure that there are people who had never met criteria for generalized anxiety disorder” before the pandemic, who now do, Dr. Villatte said.
For better or worse, Covid ripped off that Band-Aid for us. “Do we wish a pandemic on the world? Of course not,” Dr. Sawchuk said. But there have been silver linings. The pandemic proved that many of us could acclimate quickly during a chaotic time, including those of us who are averse to chaos. The emergence of video calls and flexible schedules changed the traditional workweek in ways that have been beneficial for some people who are prone to anxiety.
When I quit a different job in 2022, one I had been recruited for and had been doing for only three months, I did not have anxiety attacks. What changed? For one thing, I’d been down this road before, and familiar roads are less intimidating than new ones. I was a full-time freelancer before taking the job, so a return to gig life — something that had once scared me — also seemed fine. And in 2022, I was, like everyone else, exhausted; the idea of setting my own schedule and being able to take midday naps was appealing, not incapacitating.
In addition, I had sold a book in 2021, and quitting meant I actually had time to write it. I had friends to see, money in the bank and antidepressants in my bloodstream. And quitting did not lead to a major disruption in my routine because my full-time job had been remote, and now that I had quit I was … still remote.
Once I decided to quit, I acted, with no endless vacillation. I was making a very big change in my life by quitting, but all things considered, it didn’t feel quite so big.