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It’s terrible to feel trapped at work. It’s also very common.

I meet professionals every day who feel chained to their jobs. They are very often in unhealthy situations that make them miserable. Some have abusive bosses, while others work for companies they no longer believe in. Unfortunately, they’re stuck in their roles because they rely on the income.

I empathize so much with people in this situation. Feeling trapped at work can be demoralizing. It can make you feel helpless and hopeless, increasing your stress and decreasing the quality of your work.

However, there are steps you can take to regain your independence and sanity.

It may sound counterintuitive, but the very first step to freedom is not to quit your job, if possible. This doesn’t apply if you are truly in an abusive environment, but if your office is tolerable, try to stick with it until you have another job in hand. It’s easier to find a job when you have a job. Plus, if you’re out of work and struggling financially, you’ll be more likely to accept another dysfunctional job just to bring in some income. You already have one job you hate. You don’t need another.

Next, take the time to set up a budget for yourself. Make it a point to live below your means. Revisit your budget each month to track your progress. It isn’t always possible, but if you are able to keep your expenses low, you will be less dependent on your current income. That way, if you do lose your job unexpectedly or need to quit, you will have more time to find another job – and more flexibility in your job choice. Because you won’t be tied to a high level of income, you’ll have more options in selecting a new role.

Make every attempt to create an emergency fund for yourself. Even a small amount of money put aside each month can add up. Emergencies are unavoidable, but if you’re ready for them, you’ll be much less reliant on your day-to-day paycheck.

These suggestions may seem small, but it’s amazing how much mental and emotional freedom they can give you. Knowing you are in control of your future makes a bad job feel less like a chore. Knowing you would be okay if your company went out of business gives you a little extra breathing room.

While you are taking care of things at work, be sure to also take care of them at home. You will be amazed at how much better you’ll feel knowing you have a backup plan. In the end, peace of mind and mental freedom are worth much more than any fancy lifestyle.

A version of this article originally appeared in the Memphis Daily News

Angela Copeland is a career coach and CEO at her firm, Copeland Coaching.



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