10 Ways to Heal After Leaving a Toxic Work Environment

It’s been months or even years in the making. It’s time to leave your job. Your new gig is lined up and your current manager received the proper resignation. You’re about to free yourself from the toxic work environment that held you back for so long. 

Your hard work, focus, and resilience paid off with a new opportunity that excites you and you’re feeling optimistic about your career future. You pack up the things, say your goodbyes and feel a sense of freedom as you take those final steps out the door.

You made it! It’s finally over. Or is it?

Yes, you’re free from the daily stress of interacting with the toxic manager and surviving the equally toxic work environment. You escaped and you should celebrate the fact that you were courageous and brave enough to not only identify the change needed but you took action by getting out of that situation. Enormous kudos to you for making the move. 

Walking out that door or signing off remotely wasn’t the end to your toxic job story though. It’s time to heal from the trauma your toxic workplace created within you.

Your job is your livelihood. Your career has a direct impact on your financial stability, security, fulfillment, sense of self, and support. A toxic manager or workplace can affect every aspect of your life.

Working for a bad manager can be a traumatic experience and take time to properly heal so you can thrive in your next career endeavor. Let’s define trauma and look at examples of workplace trauma.

Defining Trauma

According to Psychology Today, trauma is a person’s emotional response to a distressing experience. Few people can go through life without encountering some kind of trauma. Most important, events are traumatic to the degree that they undermine a person’s sense of safety in the world and create a sense that catastrophe could strike at any time. 

A traumatic experience can occur in an instant like a car accident or rape. Trauma can also develop from continuous experiences over time. Let’s explore the latter.

Toxic Work Environment Trauma

Workplace trauma can develop from simple acts that occur over time. Your manager may consistently marginalize you or your work in a manner that’s not supportive for example. Trauma can also develop from daily interactions that are belittling, demeaning, and/or isolating.  Interactions with your co-workers can also have an impact.

Emotional and psychological trauma in the workplace can steam from many causes. Some of these causes include:

  1. Racism
  2. Sexism
  3. Bullying – includes intimidation, domination, oppression, gossip, mockery, and/or abuse of power
  4. Poor boundaries – work and personal life boundaries
  5. Exclusion – from meetings, promotions, and interactions that would provide opportunities or experiences
  6. Gaslighting
  7. Promotions and growth opportunities – being passed over or not considered
  8. Layoffs
  9. Harassment – which is a form of bullying and can be of a sexual and non-sexual nature
  10. Other ways trauma can develop include- overworking, withholding information, threatening and not appreciating one’s work

Workplace violence such as office shootings and physical altercations can also cause trauma. The focus of this article includes items 1-10 above.

These experiences can be overt when the actions occur openly for others to see and witness. Covert experiences are not displayed openly and may not be acknowledged or known by others. 

If you experience any of the items listed, you can ask yourself if the actions are overt or covert in nature. It’s likely they are occurring covertly which can undermine and diminish your confidence and self-worth over time.

Every person will have a different experience and manage interactions in their own way. Many people however develop coping mechanisms that are essentially survival tactics. You can be working at a heightened stress level without even realizing your mind and body are in survival mode.

Ways a Toxic Workplace Can Impact Your Mental Health

Workplace trauma can impact us physically, psychologically, and emotionally. Your mental health is much too important to continue working for a toxic manager and in a toxic work environment. Below are some ways a toxic workplace can negatively impact your mental wellness, physical health and overall well-being:

  1. Lack of trust in leadership and/or coworkers
  2. Self-esteem and self-confidence issues
  3. Stress
  4. Depression, shame
  5. Anxiety, agitation, edginess, burnout
  6. Continuous Traumatic Stress Disorder (CTSD) or Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSD)
  7. Sleep issues, fatigue
  8. Digestion issues, heartburn
  9. Headaches, muscle tension, pain, lack of concentration
  10. Racing heartbeat

This list is not exhaustive of the numerous ways trauma and stress can wreak havoc on your body and mind. You may even start isolating yourself and withdrawing from others in your life as a result of prolong exposure to toxic experiences in the workplace. 

You might feel hopeless or sad while you’re in the situation and still experience these symptoms after leaving that environment. Your nervous system was at a heightened response and figured out how to survive the toxic work environment for so long. It takes time for your nervous system to calm down once you’re no longer interacting with the abuser (ie: the toxic manager).

The physical symptoms can often be dismissed as being some other issue rather than identified as trauma. Is your body talking to you now? Honor what it’s telling you and note where in your body it’s talking to you from today. It could be telling you it’s time to make a change.

Healing from Workplace Trauma

A flower sprout of new growth from the dirt with the sun shining on it.

Healing comes when we choose to walk away from the darkness and move towards a brighter light.

– Dieter F. Uchtdorf

There’s no doubt that you’re excited to start that new position. When you don’t take the time you need to heal, the old wounds, survival tactics, and coping mechanisms you developed at the old job will still be with you as soon as you start the new one. 

You need to allow your mind, body, and spirit to decompress from the prolonged stress of working for a toxic manager and in an unhealthy work environment.

It’s possible your baggage from the past will be right there with you in the present and future. That baggage will hold you back from thriving in your new position. You’re still in survival mode and can be triggered in the new gig without even understanding how or why. 

Healing is a process that takes time. It took time to get to the point you’re at with your trauma and it will take you time to heal from it. Be gentle with yourself. You’ve been through a lot and healing will help you become whole again. 

Take time between jobs to reduce the stress, create calm, and develop new ways of interacting in the world, especially in your professional world.

You have seedlings within you for a new beginning, new opportunities, and new growth just waiting to be nurtured. Healing will prepare you to face your new work with excitement and forge a new path in your life.

You have to do the inner and physical work to see and feel the results though. It’s quite possibly the most important work you’ll ever do in your life and it will have a positive impact on your mental health.

10 Ways to Heal After Leaving a Toxic Job

Healing may be defined as the personal experience of the transcendence of suffering. Healing is an individual journey and is different for everyone. The methods that work for you may not work for another person.

The key is to try different ways to heal from your trauma and practice what resonates for you. Yes, it’s work and sometimes it will feel really hard. Small steps make a big impact over time. Below are ways you can start the healing process:

  1. Therapy – talk it out
  2. Yoga – study breathing techniques that will help calm your nervous system
  3. Meditation
  4. Walk outside or choose any exercise for added body movement
  5. Journaling to get the thoughts out
  6. Podcasts – find what you connect with for positive, healing, and supportive talks
  7. Do more of a hobby you love or try a new hobby
  8. Volunteer – this can be in-person or online volunteering with your work skills (see Catchafire)
  9. Connect with family and friends (those who are supportive and positive) or join a support group
  10. Massage – acupuncture, Reiki healing, deep tissue massage

The stress in your body will take time to fade and you’ll slowly start to feel calmer. Exercise and movement are helpful ways for your body and mind connection. Keep moving to support the nervous system relaxation and let your body know it is safe. 

You no longer need to be in flight, fight, or freeze survival mode. You can begin to enjoy your life again.

Practice daily affirmations and repeat them often. These are a great to get you started:

Don’t isolate yourself or think the trauma triggers will go away on their own. Breathe easy now and remember you are safe. You were brave to leave that situation and now it’s time for your bravery to shine through again by taking the steps you need to heal.

Your New Life

Healing is a road of self-discovery that can take time to explore. The amount of time it takes to heal depends on what created the trauma, how long you survived in that environment, and the methods you use for healing. 

Acknowledging the trauma and that you want to heal are the first steps in the healing process. When you are ready, explore how to heal and know you have so many resources available that will help you take the steps you need to regain the wholeness in your world.

When the student is ready the teacher will appear.”

– Tao te Ching

You will be amazed at the clarity you’ll gain once you are away from the environment that caused so much pain. The time you take to heal and move forward will be invaluable. The ways you heal and the methods you use will become your toolbox that will help you thrive and grow. This growth will also become a set of lifelong tools that will help you as you continue to move forward.

Take those baby steps each day to heal and before you know it, you’ll be ready to embrace a new job, a new volunteer opportunity, or a completely new career path.

The person or people that caused the trauma will become a small part of your past. That person has no power over you anymore. It’s time to bid farewell to that part of your work journey because you have bigger, better, and more meaningful things to do with your beautiful life. 

Letting Go of the Past

Letting go is another way to improve your mental health. They don’t deserve any of your energy and quite honestly, that manager will always be stuck in his or her own negative, miserable existence. You don’t have time for that now. The train has left the station of the past and is heading to the amazing future that lies ahead.

The biggest tragedies in our lives can be turned into new opportunities we would have never seen if that past experience didn’t occur. Workplace trauma changes us. That change can be a positive one if we decide to acknowledge it, heal from it, and move forward.

Look for the positive things you can find in a negative situation and embrace them with gratitude. The challenges we face are our greatest teachers. Love and gratitude will help you release anger and resentment. Having a grateful heart and practicing daily gratitude will also help you heal. 

You’re on a new path now. You climbed the mountainside as you escaped that situation and now you’re gazing at the beautiful sunlight. The days are brighter and filled with new opportunities. You deserve it for all your bravery and the courage it took to make a change. 

The possibilities are endless because you, my friend, are smarter, wiser, and stronger from all you have been through. That wisdom will serve you as you succeed in your new life. Your limitless future is just waiting for you.

Have you experienced a toxic work environment? Let us know how you healed.


7 Signs of Gaslighting at the Workplace

Continuous Traumatic Stress Disorder (CTSD)

Four Ways We Can Be Sensitive to Trauma at Work

How To Heal From Workplace Trauma

How to Identify and Manage Workplace Bullying

Let’s Talk Trauma: Your Toxic Work Environment May Be Destroying Your Mental Health

Psychology Today: Trauma

Self-Care and Recovery After Trauma

Shame vs. Guilt

The Meaning of Healing: Transcending Suffering

Trauma At The Workplace, What To Do About It

Why Long-term Workplace Trauma is a Real Phenomenon

Workplace Burnout: Here’s What’s Causing It (And How To Avoid It)

Images from Pixabay

One response to “10 Ways to Heal After Leaving a Toxic Work Environment”

  1. […] – toxic work environment, manager, […]

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: