When You’re Stuck in a Job You Can’t Quit

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Feeling stuck in a job you can’t quit is a really hard spot to be in. Whether it’s because you need to support your family, are working on a VISA, or some other reason, feeling stuck in a job you hate is the worst. Listen in this week as we talk about the 3 things to do if you find yourself in this situation. Listen and learn.

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Hey, I’m Lindsay Lyman. I worked almost 12 years at Amazon and saw so many brilliant and successful overachievers burn themselves out and leave their jobs because they’re so stressed and anxious. But guess what? Having a successful career does not have to be at the expense of your mental sanity and personal time. There’s an easier way, and I can show you how. Let’s do this today.


My message is for those of you who really hate your job. You’re burned out, you’re not motivated, but you have to stay. You feel very stuck in your job. This usually happens for like one of three reasons. Either you’re here on a visa, or you’re working on a change in immigration status, and if you leave your job, that means you’ll have to leave the country or start the whole process over. I also see people stuck in this situation where they need the job to support their family. Sometimes that’s in the United States, and sometimes also supporting their family outside of the United States. Or I see people feel like they have to stay in their job because they want the stability of a paycheck and knowing what to expect and how much they will be paid every week. Again, it’s usually to support their family and their life.


I want to address this today if this is you or someone on your team, and I want to kind of give you three things I recommend you try if you find yourself stuck in this spot. This is a really hard place to be. When you feel trapped like you don’t have any options, you’re much more likely to get burned out. You’re probably not learning and not engaged as much. You’re dragging yourself to work, and most likely it’s carrying into problems outside of work. Maybe you’re having sleep challenges, maybe you’re struggling to disconnect from work or enjoy life outside of work, ’cause it just kind of feels like there’s this dark cloud looming over everything that’s going on. It is very hard and challenging to feel like you are stuck and you do not have any options.


I’ve personally been in this situation before as the person that was working and trying to support my family. And it’s like work as hard as challenging, but adding this extra layer of you have to keep performing, you have to keep bringing home this paycheck, you have to keep this job. It just is so overwhelming. And like the thought of even entertaining the idea of figuring something else out feels even harder, which makes things even worse. And you just kind of feel stuck. And it’s very easy to go down this spiral of doom and gloom and get very depressed.


So there’s three things I’d suggest you try if you find yourself in this situation. First is, I want you to admit this is hard, okay? It sucks. I’d suggest stop trying to feel good about it and to learn how do you take care of you daily, consistently, and small micro-doses. If you are not dealing with and processing the dread and the frustration and the boredom and the overwhelm and the burnout and the lack of motivation and the depression that comes daily, it is going to add up. And this is where we explode. This is where it gets more intense. This is where our body starts to shut down. This is where we’re not sleeping, where we’re not connecting with people. Don’t try to push it down and just say it’s fine. Fine is almost like a trigger word to me. Whenever I hear someone say, “It’s fine, fine,” I know it’s not, and they’re just brushing it off and trying not to deal with it right now. If you find yourself thinking, “It’s fine,” or “I have to do this,” or just pretending to care, the reason that’s a problem is if that’s what you’re thinking, you’re going to feel disengaged. And when you feel disengaged, when you feel stuck, when you feel like you have no options at work, you’re literally just doing the bare minimum to get by. You’re not thinking strategically and looking around corners. When we feel disengaged and depressed and stuck, we’re not actively participating in team meetings, in brainstorming ideas. We’re kind of just doing the bare minimum to get in and get out. When I’m in this state, I procrastinate even more than I normally do. And I’m always doing things last minute, so I’m just adding this extra stress and pressure because I’m just so stuck and down that I just don’t have any motivation to do things. So, I literally will put them off to the last minute. You’re not engaged, you’re not learning, you’re not pushing yourself to learn new things. And when this is what you’re doing at work, when this is how your workday is going, the reality is you don’t care about your work, and you’re not doing a great job. And you actually are at higher risk of losing your job.


So, I think it’s really important to realize this is hard. Don’t tell yourself it’s fine. Don’t tell yourself, “I have to do this,” and pretend to care. You’ve got to learn how to process those feelings that you’re having daily. You can’t always take a vacation. You can’t always take a day off. We can’t take a break from our troubles. We’ve got to learn how do we face our troubles head-on every day. What do I mean when I say process it daily? You need to learn how to feel those emotions, how to breathe through it. Any of my clients that are listening that are in this spot, go to the course content and in the foundations course, review the tools section. It’s going to dive into some things specifically that I would recommend you practice, and let’s talk about it on our next coaching call, how it’s going. But in order for you to process this daily, you’ve got to take care of you. Start every morning and intentionally, whatever that looks like for you. You don’t need to have some crazy intense routine where you get up at 4:00 in the morning if that’s not you, okay? But just start the morning intentionally with how you want to start it. Don’t start it sleeping in, rushing to get out the door. Practice breathing exercises. Process and allow the stress to relax different parts of your body. Hundreds of times a day, stress is tension held in our bodies. Take a few deep breaths in and out of your mouth and your nose. Smell the flowers, blow out the candles, and relax your body. Make sure you’re doing those basic things that we need for human health of get outside, make sure you’re getting enough sleep, make sure you’re eating things that feel good in your body, get some natural light, have some hobbies, and connect with yourself with others and with some sort of higher being. You’ve got to make sure you’re taking care of you. This is hard. You need daily things to process and deal with it because you’re not fine. So, we’ve got to figure out how do we become fine every day. Maybe you need to cry. Maybe you need to scream. Maybe you need to listen to some rage music on your way home from work. Okay, do what you need to do to allow yourself to not be okay, which will help you be okay. Okay, so I just want to acknowledge this is hard, and it’s okay for this to be hard. We need to stop pretending it’s not. That’s just making it worse, which leads me to my second thing I’d recommend: learning to accept what is. We want to stop the little temper tantrum in our brain because what we resist will persist, right? The more you resist it, the more you tell yourself, “It’s fine, it’s fine, I have to do this, I don’t have any options, I’m totally stuck,” the more we believe that, the more intense those feelings are going to become. Okay, this is a little bit gross example, but stay with me here. So, I love to go to concerts. I’ve been to hundreds of them. If you’ve ever been out in public somewhere, whether that’s like at school or a concert or someplace, and someone has thrown up, okay, so I’ve been at concerts before where people, like, get so drunk or whatever, they throw up. It’s disgusting. But here’s what happens: when someone throws up around us, right, everyone kind of starts whispering and talking about, “Oh man, that person threw up. Oh, gross, did you see that?” Everyone wants to look, everyone wants to see, everyone wants to, like, examine and analyze it. It’s kind of the same thing as you’re, like, “Ooh, this smells gross, smell it,” and then we smell it as humans, right? Well, you know what we need? We need someone to come and throw some sawdust on it and clean it up and get it out. It’s nasty, and it’s gross. So again, I kind of think of, like, this hard spot you’re in is like throw up. Let’s throw some sawdust on it and clean up the nastiness and do what we need to do to take care of it every day. Don’t stew in it. We’ve got to accept this is hard. What does not accepting it look like? Going out with your co-workers and just whining and complaining and talking about all the terrible, horrible, hard things about work, about the projects, about the deadlines, about how leaders don’t understand. And it’s tricky because as humans, we tend to bond over that, and we have commonality in that with our co-workers. But that’s like saying, “Ooh, someone threw up over there,” and overanalyzing it and smelling it and digging in it. It’s like, “Yeah, it’s terrible. Let’s stop talking about it and playing in it and justifying and feeling more terrible about the terribleness,” right? Stop complaining about it all the time to friends and family. We do this because we’re looking for validation that we’re miserable, that we’re stuck. Go back to number one. I’m like, “Yeah, it’s miserable, and you feel stuck.” You don’t need someone to come and analyze the throw up to tell you it’s nasty and gross, okay? It’s hard. Accept that it’s hard and stop trying to get others to validate you. Let it be hard and process that hard thing every day.


The third thing I would offer that I think is the most crucial is you’ve got to stop lying to yourself. We need to start telling the truth, okay? The truth is you do not actually have to stay in that job. You could let your visa expire. You could start the immigration process all over again. You could not support your family. You could choose to not have stability. I’m not saying that these are the best choices, but when we’re lying to ourselves and telling ourselves we have to do this, we’re making it worse. The truth is you’re not happy in your job. You’re not motivated. You don’t want to do this, but you’re choosing to do it today. That is the truth. The truth is you are not stuck, and it’s not that you don’t have any options, right? If you’re telling yourself, “I’m stuck, and I don’t have a choice,” right? If you’re telling yourself, “I’m stuck, and I don’t have a choice,” you’re going to feel resentful and angry and really frustrated, and then you’re going to be an angry person and snappy and miserable and hate everything and be crabby and complain, and it’s going to be hard to be around you, and you’re not going to enjoy things. You’re going to keep wanting things to change before you feel better. The truth is you don’t have to do this job, but you’re choosing to do it today. You are the reason. We know that is because you showed up and you did it again. I was working with a client the other day, and he was really struggling with his job, and he was very much in this camp of, like, “But I have to. I have to support my family. I have kids. I have this other thing going on. Like, I can’t not have a job, and jobs are hard to find right now, and I’m not going to find a job that’s going to pay me as much where I can have this flexibility.” Like, he was just so convinced he was stuck in this job, and it just in such a hard, bad spot. And he ended up getting laid off, and he went through this phase where he, like, felt some relief because he didn’t have to keep doing this job, but then that overwhelm and that depression hit him even harder because he’s like, “Now I have to go out and find another one of these jobs that I hate because I have to be able to support my family.” And we just talked about it, and we worked through it of, like, “No, you could, like, give up a certain lifestyle, sell your house, go move in with people, like, do some extreme things that I’m not saying I would encourage him to do, but we just played with it, like, what could he do?” And when he finally admitted the truth and stopped lying to himself and really realized, “I don’t like this work, but I’m going to do it for my family,” it was just so relieving. It felt so much easier. And, yeah, he didn’t love it, and it wasn’t his favorite, and he wasn’t, like, super driven and excited and getting all this fulfillment from his career, but now he learned how does he get through the workday, how does he, like, who he’s being as an employee, how does he show up in the kind of way he wants to show up, and then, is how does he find that motivation and excitement and joy outside of work, ’cause he wasn’t a miserable person anymore. So, you’ve got to tell yourself the truth. I don’t want to be here long-term, but today I do want this job. Tell yourself the truth. I want to figure something out, but right now I’m going to keep working so that I can stay in the country. Whatever the truth is, start telling yourself the truth. Lying to yourself, it’s like you’re just sniffing around in that nastiness of throw up. Stop. You don’t love your job, but you’re choosing to do it today, okay? Because here’s the thing, when that’s where you can redirect yourself to, it feels easier. It’s so much less intense, it’s less heavy, it’s less hard. And when you feel better, it makes it easier to take care of you through it. It makes it easier to find something to laugh about at work. It makes it easier for you to connect with your coworkers in ways that aren’t just about crappy leadership. It makes it easier to not feel resentful. It makes it easier to sleep at night, to let work go, and to enjoy time outside of work. It makes it so that you don’t have to wait until you have a new job to feel better. When you just tell yourself the truth, “I don’t love this job, but I’m choosing it today,” you’re significantly more likely to figure something out.


Okay, so if you find yourself stuck in a job where you feel like you have no other options, remember: don’t tell yourself it’s fine, don’t pretend it’s fine, admit this is hard and take care of yourself daily. Accept the reality of what is, don’t have a temper tantrum and look for people to validate you, just accept this is hard. I don’t feel good. And then third, tell yourself the truth: I could leave this job, but I’m choosing not to.


All right, y’all, you’re amazing, you got this. We’ll talk soon.


Hey, wait, real quick before you go. If you’re struggling with bad managers or leaders, listen up. I recently did a workshop talking about the three steps to deal with a bad manager, and it’s gotten so much response and engagement. I’m having a hard time keeping up on replying to people about it, and I want to make sure you get it as well. It’s totally free, there’s zero obligation. Click the link in the show notes or go to lindsaylymancoaching.com/badmanager and access this workshop to know the three steps to take if you are stuck with a bad manager.


You got this, we’ll talk soon.


If what you’re learning from this podcast is helping, this is just the beginning. Each week, I offer a limited number of coffee chats so that you and I can connect one-on-one and talk specifically about what’s going on for you. You’ll leave this call feeling more hopeful and motivated, but I’m also going to teach you a few things to try right away to get unstuck. Space is very limited, and these are free, so grab your spot before they’re gone. Click the link in the show notes or go to lindsaylymancoaching.com/chat and sign up today.


You got this!

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Hey, I’m Lindsay Lyman

I spent the last ~12 years growing my career at Amazon. I’ve built teams, launched new products, and created my own jobs. As a certified coach, I teach people how to manage the noise in their head to feel motivated and valued at work again.

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