4 Ways to Put Your Job to Work For Your Mental Health!
Managing your mental health is a full time job. In fact, it’s a full full fullllll time job and if you’re busy building a career, it’s not always easy to give your mind the care it needs.
I wish I could tell you that I’ve always been able to balance my needs with my aspirations, but that is a large load of bullshit. For years I used my job as an escape from my symptoms. I volunteered for every extra shift, worked unpaid overtime like a fiend, and managed to wrap my self-worth right up with my title.
Inevitably, my unhealthy behavior caught up with me in a perfect storm of personal struggle. Fortunately, facing a seriously abusive colleague caused me to wake the fuck up and make some changes. I ended up ditching my career like a bad date and I took some much needed time off to start a family. When I reentered the workforce, I made a promise to myself to respect my mental health every moment, no matter where I was working or who I was working for.
Having a job is like death and taxes for most of us - a total inevitability. And it would be awesome if we could all have the jobs we want or the accolades we feel like we deserve, but the truth is that sometimes work is a struggle and when you’re also dealing with mental illness it can feel fucking impossible to get through the day.
Here are 5 ways you can use your job to manage your mental wellness:
- Need a win? Work one in!
Life is messy. Period. There’s no handbook to help you learn how to human, no roadmap to follow to make things turn out the way you want them to. And if we’re being real about it, sometimes you’ll do all the “right” things and put in all the “right” effort, and shit will still hit the fan. C’est la vie!
Jobs, on the other hand, are one of the few places in life where you have a mostly reliable roadmap to success. It’s simple: do the things you’re supposed to do in the manner and timeframe you’re supposed to do them and you’ve done a good job.
Feeling good about yourself and who you are is one of the most important aspects of mental wellness. So when you’re feeling like a failure, it’s important to find ways you can show yourself how much you’re capable of doing. Accomplishing a task - whether it’s as small as writing an email or as big as engineering a major merger for a Fortune 500 company - is a great way to give yourself evidence of how capable you really are.
2. Challenge Challenging Challenges!
If you’re anything like me, your natural thought patterns are probably about as healthy as a deep fried Oreo smothered in chocolate syrup and served with some Chunky Monkey on the side. I often tell myself that I can’t do something or I won’t be good at something and if I let it go on long enough, I end up on my couch in pajamas for two days before I realize that maybe I shouldn’t have been listening to myself in the first place.
When you’re at work, you have a unique opportunity to learn how to challenge yourself and your thoughts by engaging your employer to help you get a little uncomfortable. Most jobs, no matter what they are or where they’re at, provide some level of opportunity to learn and try new things.
For example, I get terrible anxiety when I have to drive on the freeway. I even went through a long period of time where I didn’t do it at all because I was sure having a panic attack in 5 o’clock traffic would kill me or somebody else. But I’ve been working on it over the last few years and every now and again there’s an opportunity to volunteer to do some mild road tripping around town to get shit done. Guess who raises her hand? Not only am I helping out my company, but I’m helping myself whenever I get the chance.
3. Break It Up!
Schedules are, for many with mental illness, an incredibly important part of a self-care routine. There’s all kinds of things that can throw us through a loop, so when we’ve structured our days properly, we’re able to take care of our responsibilities and stay on top of everything else we need to get done.
Work schedules are super smart in that they train you to take a load off when you need it the most. Lunch breaks, for example, are usually in the middle of your day to prevent you from debilitating fatigue. We know how important it is to take a break, but we often only apply it to our time on the clock.
Just like you’d stop to take a 10 minute breather or an hour long lunch on a workday, it’s equally important to keep that going whether you’re working or not. When I’m home on weekends with my kids, they’ve got me running around like a wild woman from the moment I wake up. Every 4 hours I stop and take a break. Just like I do at work, I remove myself from the area physically, eat a snack, chill out, read a little, Tweet like a crazy lady, and then go right back in when my “break” is over. Use your workday as practice and start putting it to good use in all areas of your life!
4. Get Paid For Paying it Forward!
One of the most commonly recommended methods to build up and maintain a healthy sense of self-worth is to give to others. From something as small as a smile to something as huge as a multimillion dollar donation, when you take the time to do some do-goodin’ you’re helping yourself by helping everyone else.
At work, you have daily opportunities to invest in others. Your coworkers, for example, can always use a small boost to make their day better. Ask yourself: How can I be helpful today? Where can I go the extra mile or make an intentional effort to do some good? Once you figure out a way to bring a little sunshine, do it!
Even better, if you work for an organization that offers volunteer opportunities or champions charitable causes, you can choose to get involved! Whether you’re collecting donations at a 5k or reaching out to local non-profits, the more good you do, the more you’ll feel good.
Whether you’re on the clock or not, you can always find creative ways to work wellness no matter where you are! Try a few of these out and let me know how they… wait for it… worked out! Hahahaha (Can’t stop myself.)