We’re taught from a young age that being a “quitter” is the worst possible thing you can be—that in order to be successful, you have to say yes to every opportunity, juggle tons of different projects at once, and be an expert at everything. Doing all of the things at all hours, we’re told, is the way to get ahead. But of course, the cost of that success includes long hours, busy schedules, and zero downtime whatsoever.
Which makes it pretty unsurprising that in our recent survey of more than 2,700 readers, work was by far the most common anxiety trigger. Well, according to our panel of experts at this week’s Well+Good TALKS: Generation Anxiety event at The Assemblage NoMad in New York City, it’s more than time to make a change—even if that means calling it quits.
“I’m a quitter. I’m someone whose work has triggered anxiety and depression, and when that happens, I’m out of the door. I’m very firm with boundaries,” said author and licensed social worker Minaa B. “My boss knows that at two o’clock when I clock out, don’t call me, don’t text me…If you send me an email, I’m not checking it until I come back the next day.”
This might seem like a bold move, but Minaa said that setting those boundaries is a key part of her well-being. “For me, it’s taken too much trauma and too much depression for me to allow a job to stress me out,” she said.
While work days used to be more defined with clear starts and endings—and no phones or laptops for bosses to keep in touch with once you get home—holistic psychiatrist Ellen Vora, MD, said that today’s world is totally blurred: you’re connected 24/7, constantly being pinged with notifications and emails even when you’re away from your desk. That’s all the more reason why boundaries are so incredibly crucial to your well-being, even if setting them in place makes things uncomfortable.
“There’s more choice in the 24/7 responsiveness than we realize. Yes, your boss wants you to respond to that email at 10 p.m., but you could also not do that,” Dr. Vora said. Yes, you might risk losing some “credibility” in your manager’s eyes, she says. “But you gain a different type of respect. Someone with healthy boundaries—there’s maturity in that. There’s balance,” Dr. Vora said.
And at the end of the day, setting boundaries at work will make you better at your job (and a happier person, too). “We’re all so fried that we’re not that productive during the day,” Dr. Vora said, “so if you do start setting boundaries—like not checking your work email after a certain time—you’ll be refreshed the next day and you’re better able to be on, be creative, and intelligent, and kind, and patient, and productive.”
If setting those boundaries gets you serious push-back from your boss, Dr. Vora said it’s more than worth recognizing that being a “quitter” might just be the best decision you could ever make, for your health and for your future. Hear, hear.
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