You would be hard pressed to throw a rock and not hit someone who hasn’t been in a toxic work environment. Whether its toxic coworkers or a boss who forgets you are a human being with needs and wants, people often have to deal with a bad work life. Most articles tell you that if your workplace is toxic, then you have to find a new job. And although I do completely agree with that, it isn’t always that easy, and sometimes life circumstances just do not afford you the opportunity to quit your job.

It takes time to work on your resume, network, look at career websites, and apply. All that can take months! And not only that, we still have to live our lives and provide for our families. Sometimes, you may wind up stuck in a job with an emotional abusive boss. Although the circumstance is absolutely not okay, it is OKAY if you need to tough it out for now.

Tips and Tricks to Deal with the Toxic Boss

In my former life, I was a Licensed Trauma Therapist where I worked with adults to help overcome past trauma to have happy and healthy relationships. Because of this, I have an incredible network of therapists who are actively practicing and staying up to date on the latest and best practices in the mental health game. I reached out to an amazing colleague of mine, Trisha Kelly, MAS-MFT, LMFT, who is the Owner/Clinical Director of Life in Motion Therapy. She was gracious enough to give you all some tips and tricks to bring calmness to your central nervous system as well how to set boundaries to bring some joy and control back into your work life.

1. Shake things up in your central nervous system.

What does that look like? Your body needs to physically react to something other than the anxiety building from being bullied by your boss. An example of this: Go get a warm or cold beverage. Touch the ice cold diet coke can or heat up some water to make tea. Allow your hands to feel warm or cold and tell your body it’s time to focus on the temperature change. This is distracting your mind from the emotional beating it just took and can help bring you back to a calm state. This is called “savoring” which is a mindfulness practice. It helps you go back into your body and be present. Usually, emotionally abusive bosses put you in a state of anxiety. Anxiety cannot live in the space if you are practicing mindfulness.

2. Find things to do at your desk like taping techniques.

Or the clinical term, “Bilateral movement” on your knees. Bring awareness back to your body and focus on what you can do while sitting at your desk. Tap on your knees left/right in rhhythm. I know it sounds simple, but we all know sometimes simple is best and to not overcomplicate an already complicated situation. Give it a shot, trust us.

3. Go for a walk.

This is a simple, but effective response. Walk around the office or outside the office. That is also bilateral movement which mimics other therapy techniques (EMDR, etc) which brings a calming state to your restlessness.

4. Get a stress ball.

Use stress balls or any type of tactile sensory. Tools, playdough, clay, there are all sorts of gadgets you can have at your desk. The clinical term for this is “Tactile stimulation.”

5. Make the place smell good.

Bring a calming scent into your atmosphere. If you’re at home, having a certain candle or oil diffuser at your desk can help the sensory part of your smell. Activating the different senses (touch, taste, smell, sound) etc, are proven to help reduce stress and calm our nervous system. While office policies will prevent options that change the environment for others around you or cause a fire hazard, most essential oil companies offer nonelectrical diffusing options.

6. Set Boundaries.

Setting boundaries is about creating protection and containment for yourself.  The protection boundary is learning to say no to tasks that you do not have the time for or are capable of. No is a complete sentence, and you do not need to explain yourself.

7. Protect your time.

When it’s time to go, it’s time to go. Change the dance. Set parameters about your time. People struggle with the guilt of leaving after their designated time if their work is not finished. Reminding yourself to use self-talk and give yourself PERMISSION to clock out and turn off all devices. This will create a solid boundary for when work ends and rest begins. If we never “clock out” we don’t ever give our mind time to reset and recharge, which ultimately creates a vicious cycle of burnout.

Take Steps to Cope with the Stress

These are all things you can do when you are desperate, and you know it’s time to move on but just can’t RIGHT NOW. We are attacking the senses to create a state of calm and stillness when faced with anxiety while also setting boundaries and parameters for you to live your best personal and professional life. It’s easier said than done, but pick the ones that you think will best suit your personality and ultimately help you cope. You deserve better than a toxic work environment. But use these techniques while you are updating your online career profile. It’s important to not ignore your mental health while you look for another job; otherwise, you are at risk for walking into your next position at a disadvantage.


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NJ has over 10 years inside the DoD working for various organizations and cleared defense contractors. With an ear to the ground on all things OPSEC, cyber, machine learning & mental health, she is an untapped keg of open source information.