Employment And Your Mental Health

Mental health… now that is a loaded term that may have already sparked colourful images in your mind, or maybe you may have some opinions about it. Some see it as a warning of impending madness tied to an environmental or genetic cause; others might see it as a problem for “those weak-minded people”. No matter what you think of mental health, it’s an important part of finding and keeping a job. More importantly, mental health problems can affect anyone. If employment is the CEO of a company, then mental health would be the executive assistant. It doesn’t matter how great of a CEO you are, if you have a mediocre or toxic assistant, you won’t be as effective as you can be.

Let’s start with a simple definition of the term “mental health” to make clear what I’m about to touch on. Mental health is like your physical health, but it has to do with your state of mind. What is your headspace like? Your ability to think, relate to concepts and ideas, problem solve and manage your emotions is what mental health is about. Mental health and physical health are inseparable. The above is just my simplified take on mental health. According the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA), mental health is no longer focused just on mental illness and disorders, nor is there an absolute criterion as to what is “healthy”.

So how do you measure your mental health? According to the CMHA, the following factors help paint the full portrait; Ability to enjoy life, resilience, balance, self-actualization and flexibility. So what do they mean?

“Ability to enjoy life – Can you live in the moment and appreciate the “now”? Are you able to learn from the past and plan for the future without dwelling on things you can’t change or predict?”

“Resilience – Are you able to bounce back from hard times? Can you manage the stress of a serious life event without losing your optimism and a sense of perspective?”

“Balance – Are you able to juggle the many aspects of your life? Can you recognize when you might be devoting too much time to one aspect, at the expense of others? Are you able to make changes to restore balance when necessary?”

“Self-actualization – Do you recognize and develop your strengths so that you can reach your full potential?”

“Flexibility – Do you feel, and express, a range of emotions? When problems arise, can you change your expectations (of life, others, yourself) to solve the problem and feel better?”

Since the average full time employee works 35 hours or more a week, a large slice of life is spent at work. It only makes sense to keep your physical and mental health in check to be the best you can be. How can such a large part of your life not affect your mental health? Needless to say, those who love what they do enjoy better mental and physical health than those who dread going to work everyday. Unfortunately, 80% of people dislike, or even hate what they do. One in three Canadians suffer from mental illness. Mental health can pose as a formidable barrier and work against you and your performance at work if you choose to ignore and brush off signs and symptoms. The unemployment rate for persons with mental health disabilities is a staggering 70% to 90%. Take care of your mental health everyday; prevention is key. My next article will wrap up on the important tie between mental health and employment. I will also shed light on silly and harmful myths about mental illnesses. Stay glued to your screen!  We also have other resources listed on our website at: http://www.myerc.ca/Content/Independence/Health.asp.

This article was written by career development practitioner Andrew Lim.

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