The past few years have been very difficult — social isolation, a pandemic, and changing work demands are just a few of the things that Americans and people all over the world have had to contend with. What has become clear is that the effect of stress in the workplace is taking its toll on emotional well-being.

According to a Gallup survey just released, workplace stress is up, employee satisfaction is down, and many are wondering what to do next. Just 32 percent of workers in the United States polled in August of this year felt “completely satisfied” with stress levels at work. What’s more, more people report feeling unhappy with workplace stress in 2021 than did in 2019 and 2020. Most notable is the fact that the percentage of employees around the country expressing “complete satisfaction” with their jobs dropped to the lowest point seen since 2001 this year.

So, what is the effect of stress in the workplace?  Stress can have a significant impact on your mental and physical health. In addition, it can certainly impact your mortality. In fact, research has found that CEOs under high levels of stress visibly age quicker and die earlier.

If you are in the growing category of Americans feeling stressed, trapped, and ready for something else, you might be wondering “Will a vacation solve the issue?” While vacation is enough for some people to recharge, others may need to consider stepping away.

Let’s take a deeper look to help you determine what’s right for you.

Can a Vacation Make You Less Stressed About Work?

Yes, you really should start with a vacation if you’re contemplating making a career move out of frustration, desperation, or curiosity. It’s wise not to make a drastic career decision when you’re simply burned out due to your workload. Many people who think they are ready to “walk away from it all” in a career they’ve worked hard to build over many years find that simply unplugging for a vacation allows them to get the perspective they need to recharge.

While a career change may be needed to tackle stress-related health issues, a vacation is an excellent place to start to establish a baseline of how your body and mind feel when you’re out of the office. A vacation is a critical “fact-finding” mission for people who need to get off the hamster wheel. It’s also important to truly take time off when taking your vacation. As soon as you activate your out-of-the-office email, be genuinely unavailable. Resist the temptation to be available even for emergencies. Too many people today don’t actually get the mental and physical benefits of vacation even when they use vacation time because modern corporate culture often doesn’t respect boundaries.

When A Vacation Isn’t Enough To Cure the Negative Effect of Stress in the Workplace

Taking a vacation can sometimes bring clarity that returning to your work life as you know it would be detrimental to your well-being. However, if taking a genuine break while fully unplugged doesn’t reduce stress levels, it’s time to move into the phase of investigating alternatives. Here are some telltale signs that your career-related stress levels may be severe enough to warrant a career change:

  • While on vacation, you feel agitated and restless regarding the obligations you’re missing.
  • You’re spending the entire vacation experiencing dread and fear about returning to work.
  • You find yourself intentionally missing deadlines and offering poor performance.
  • Your relationships are suffering due to your stress, fear, anger, and anxiety about work.
  • You’re unable to maintain an appropriate schedule due to work-related stress.
  • You may stay up all night because you’re upset about having to return to work in the morning.

You should return to work feeling recharged and ready to shake things up. If you don’t feel that way, it may be time to consider stepping back to get the rest and rejuvenation that you need. While many workers fear the anticipated mental stigma that comes with prioritizing emotional well-being, more and more high-level CEOs and business figures are publicly making decisions to preserve their personal health and wellness by stepping down. Robert “Robin” Loudermilk of Aaron’s, Inc. and Matthew Cooper of EarnUp are examples.

Of course, you may be in a position where you’re still unsatisfied even if your emotional health isn’t in a dire place. In this case, it may be time to orchestrate a pivot to a new role instead of a temporary exit from professional life. This is a time to evaluate and assess your motivators and skills to see how they can be transferred in a way that’s satisfying.

How Should You Respond to Stress in Your Career?

While it’s not realistic to expect a stress-free work-life, there is a point where stress becomes toxic to your physical, mental, and emotional health. It’s essential to do an honest assessment of how your job is impacting your well-being. The good news for workers feeling trapped in their jobs is that the stigma around leaving a job you don’t love has essentially evaporated. We are living through a time when people are increasingly re-evaluating their goals, desires, and stress thresholds when making career decisions. You don’t have to base your next move on what was standard and acceptable in 2019. Consider meeting with a career transition coach to make a change with the poise, professionalism, and strategy needed to turn your career into something different.

Peter Sherer is a nationally recognized career coach who offers clarity and confidence to mid-career and senior executives in transition. In just two short days, his rigorous assessment tools enable his clients to identify a meaningful assignment that uses all of their skills and experience. Learn more and get in touch with Peter today.