“Stress from work is killing me. Please help!!”

Question: I have been employed by a company for almost 5 years and the stress is becoming unbearable to the point that when I come home, I just want to curl up in a ball and be left alone.

I am almost 60 years old and I just can’t handle stress like I could at 25 or 30. I even talked with a therapist for the first time yesterday and confirmed that by me staying there it is doing much more harm than good. My mental health is more important than the job.

I have no work performance issues and in fact if my boss knew that I am considering leaving she would be shocked. I am concerned that if I quit, could I still get unemployment benefits? This situation is affecting my relationship with my wife and I have to decide very soon as the job is not worth what it is doing to me.

Please help!!  

Ken
St. Paul, Minnesota

Answer: Dear Ken: For a very long time I have counseled people in your situation. Though I am not a therapist and do not claim any training or expertise in therapy, I believe that what I have learned from my experiences helping clients in your situation may be of some help to you. I sure hope so.            

1. First, congratulate yourself: Despite your great stress, it is a personal triumph and a clear indication of your innate survival skills that your values and priorities remain solidly intact. I would like to express to you that I, for one, am very impressed with the fact that you continue to bear in mind that your health and marriage must come first, both before and above your job. The applicable saying goes something like this: “Good health and good family will get you through times of no job much better than a job will get you through times of ill health and no family.” Your “inner compass” on this point is surely grounded, and I for one am certain that you will survive this ordeal.

So, count your blessings and when you do so, know that your good values and healthy perspective are among your greatest blessings, and the ones that will safeguard your continued health and family relations.  

2. Second, making a “Plan of Positive Action,” however tentative, will in itself relieve some anxiety, and is a great place to start. What do I mean by “Plan of Positive Action?” Quite simply, steps you can take, all of which are positive to health, emotions, finances and career, to go from where you are – entirely stressed out – to where you will be better off – out of your present stressful situation at work, perhaps in a different department at the company, or collecting unemployment benefits, maybe in a new job elsewhere, potentially opening up your own business, or even collecting disability benefits.

However simple it may be at first, draw up a list of positive steps to take to get you where it is you want to go. I hope that this response to your submitted question will help you begin to do just that.

I often quote the folk singer Joan Baez on this point: “Action is the antidote to despair.” When you are feeling “stuck” in a bad situation, anxiety increases, often to the point of panic. But taking steps to get you “unstuck” from that bad situation will reduce the anxiety and start the feelings of “control” that make each of us feel so much better.

Making a plan is positive; acting in a reactive manner, without direction, is negative.

3. As your “first step” you really do need to find positive ways to reduce your stress level. For everyone, stress can be a very difficult problem, and can even get you sick. Being in my sixties, myself, I can attest to the fact that stress can get to you and affect your health more than it did when you were younger. Among the positive ways to reduce stress, anxiety and panic you can simply walk a lot, (I do so for an hour every morning), pray, meditate, practice yoga, go to therapy, and spend time with friends and family. So long as it is not “negative” things like alcohol, cigarettes, gambling, or drugs (legal or illegal), take a bit of time to do stress reduction. Make doing so a regular daily habit. It will surely pay off. 

Rest and sleep are positive; curling up in a ball and ignoring others, is negative. 

4. The second step in your “Plan of Positive Action” should be to “Acquire a Positive Plan Partner.” Whether it is your wife, your therapist, your brother, a close friend, your rabbi, priest, minister or imam, find a person in whom you trust, in whose judgment you have faith, and who has the time and patience available to act as your sounding board on your Plan of Positive Action.    

There will be times you feel lost. There will be times you feel overwhelmed. There will be times you will feel frightened. We all have these feelings, even though yours may seem magnified and particularly vexing at this time in your life. Having a “partner” to lean on for needed support, guidance and direction will be a very, very helpful source of confidence for you.

Finding support, encouragement and an ear to listen is positive; “going it alone” and avoiding others is negative.

5. As your third step, please consider taking some time off – if not now, very soon.  Over the years, our society has put into place certain safeguards for employees facing difficulties of different kinds, including the kind you are now facing:

(a)    Paid sick days or accrued vacation time: If you have paid sick time or accrued vacation time available to you, by all means take a day, two or more to reduce the immediate pressures on your mental and physical health. It is likely available to you, and I urge you to consider doing so to protect your health and marriage.

(b) FMLA: You can likely take a leave of absence from work, unpaid if necessary, under the federal Family Medical Leave Act (often called “FMLA”), which provides up to 12 weeks off for such reasons, although without pay;

We offer a “Model Memo Requesting FMLA Information, Forms and Procedures” from your Human Resources representative. If you would like a copy to adapt to your own particular facts and circumstances, just [click here.] “What to Say and How to Say It.”™ Delivered Immediately by Email, 24 Hours a Day.

(c) EAP: in many companies there is a Employee Assistance Program, which is supposed to be confidential, to assist employees facing difficulties with substance abuse, emotional difficulties or similar hurdles, through which you and your employer and they might devise other means of gaining relief for you. Consider finding out if your company offers this “safety valve.”

(d) Short Term Disability: Your therapist can probably speak with you, and maybe even assist you, with filing a claim for short-term disability, which would give you time off with at least some incoming pay. 

Taking some time to calm down and “chill out” is surely a positive step forward. 

6. Now the real “Positive Action Steps” begin: Consider requesting from your boss or HR – in an email – that they consider assisting in lowering the intolerable stress by altering your work assignments, your work schedule, your work environment, who you report to, or your work group. Ken, in your note to me you indicated that you do not think your boss knows you are feeling great stress. Based on that, it seems to me that she has not been asked to assist in reducing it in one way or another. Your asking her to do that will help you in three separate ways:  

(i) It will make a permanent record that you brought to your employer’s attention the stress-causing situation, your personal difficulties with that stressful situation, and that you did what you could to reduce or eliminate the problem.  

(ii) It might just work. Your boss, HR or other employer representatives just might take the steps to effectively deal with the source of your stress at work. Hey – that          can’t be too bad a thing to happen.

(iii)If after your request, your employer does not take effective steps to assist your stress, you will have a much better basis for our “Involuntary Resignation” – and all   the advantages that offers – and to collect Unemployment Benefits, too. 

7. Also, consider the very real potential value and potential advantages of presenting not a “Resignation,” but an “Involuntary Resignation.” I don’t know if you are familiar with our concept – which we invented – of “involuntary resignation,” but it sure would be a good idea for you to review my Q&A’s, Newsletters and Videos on the subject available on this blogsite. 

To view our entire blogsite Resource Center Section of Q&A’s, Newsletters and free YouTube Videos on “Involuntary Resignation,” just [click here.]  

The idea behind “Involuntary Resignation” is to make a record that your leaving is not voluntary, at all, but something you have no choice about . . . which seems quite true from what you have written. Some people must “involuntarily resign” due to health, stress, fear of abuse, being forced to engage in improper or illegal activities, sexual harassment, or many other situations at work. When doing so, it is essential to create a clear, written record of the “involuntariness” of the situation and resignation. 

We offer a “Model Involuntary Resignation” letter that you can use if you decide to submit your own Involuntary Resignation. To obtain a copy – instantly by email – just [click here.] “What to Say and How to  Say It”™ 24 Hours a Day. 

While there are no “guarantees,” if you are going to resign, by making your resignation an expressly “involuntary” one, you very much increase your chances of receiving one or more of the following after leaving, as a kind of “severance” in exchange for a release of claims: 

  1. Unemployment Benefits, because they are usually awarded to those who resign with “good cause” and can prove they did with convincing emails, etc.;  
  2. Vesting of unvested stock, stock options and other equity;  
  3. Deferred income, earned bonuses and coming-due commissions;  
  4. Release from having to pay back educational and relocation monies previously received, as well as sign-on bonuses;  
  5. Pro rata bonus;  
  6. Voiding of Non-Competition Agreements;
  7. Continuation of health care; and even
  8. Possibly, severance. 

In the event you are initially unsuccessful in obtaining one or more of your desired objectives in submitting your own Involuntary Resignation, we offer a “Follow Up Letter to Voluntary Resignation.” To obtain a copy for your adaptation, just [click here.] Delivered Immediately by Email, 24 Hours a Day. 

8. Finally, an answer to your most pressing question: If you take steps 6 and 7 above, your chances of receiving Unemployment Benefits will increase a great deal. Unemployment Benefits are given to those who either (a) have lost their jobs to no fault of their own, such as in a mass layoff or workforce reduction, or (b) those who resign with good reason. What is “good reason?” Well, it is a circumstance at work that a reasonable person would consider intolerable. Sound familiar? 

If you have emails that show (a) you were suffering or in fear, (b) you brought the problem to your boss’s attention, (c) your boss did not take prompt remedial steps, (d) you resigned, but did so EXPRESSLY involuntarily, your chances of being found to have “resigned with good reason,” and thus awarded unemployment benefits.    

Bear in mind that it is clerks, not Judges or Juries, who make the initial decisions regarding granting Unemployment Benefits. In my experience, they want to see emails and other documents, and are very impressed with email evidence of “involuntariness,” as well as doctors’ and therapists’ letters.    

Applying for Unemployment Benefits can be confusing! Eliminate the confusion, and make sure you don’t forget anything – use our 132-Point Guide & Checklist for Unemployment Benefits. To get your copy, just [click here.] Delivered by Email – Instantly!

9. So, you see, there are many steps available to you that might ease, improve or even solve the problems you are facing at work and, if need be, receive Unemployment Benefits. With a little insight, a little inspiration and an ounce of faith, you can solve almost any problem at work, or at least make it a whole lot better than it is. Though difficult to see through the “fog of anxiety,” the solutions are there. It’s just a matter of calming down, making a plan, and following that plan.

Nothing is worth the stress you are facing, or the potential damage to your health, home and happiness that your workplace is giving you. 

10. A final, admittedly personal, note on the critical value of faith in such times. Being a person of faith – in one’s God, in one’s community and in one’s self – in my experience provides an extraordinary advantage in overcoming the negative effects of stress, fear, anxiety and hopelessness that are sometimes brought about by events and circumstances at work.   

Faith lets you put things into a larger perspective, an overall positive perspective that is better than the narrow and negative “view” you may, for the moment, have of things you are experiencing. Faith also gives you the lift that you need when everyone and everything around you seem to be letting you down.  

I do not know if you are a person of faith, Ken, or if you are experiencing a test of your faith, but I do want you to consider renewing your faith at this time. If you do so, I am certain you will begin to emerge from the dark and dense fog and fear you see all around you, into the bright sunlight and fresh air of what your life really offers.     

Ken, I truly hope that this has been of assistance to you, and that you understand that you do, indeed, have available to you several good steps to take. Know, too, that you are in my prayers. 

My Best to You,
Al Sklover 

P.S.: Your might be interested in obtain our (a) Involuntary Resignation, (b) Follow-Up to Involuntary Resignation, (c) 119-Point Checklist for Involuntary Resignation, all bundled in our “Ultimate Involuntary Resignation Package, ” which provides you all the benefits we have to offer on this subject, with a 19% savings. To obtain the complete set, just [click here.] Delivered by Email – Instantly – 24 Hours a Day.

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