Previously I demystified the relationship between your mental health and working life. I’m going to dive right into the ‘nitty-gritty’ of mental health and mental illness. You cannot simply concentrate and wish away a mental health concern. Many employers don’t take such concerns as seriously as a physical illness, although it is equally important. Mental illness diagnoses, especially specific conditions such as clinical depression and anxiety, have increased over the years; anyone can be afflicted. Often times, mental illness is associated with individuals who dislike, or even hate their jobs. The unpredictable swings in the global economy and recent recessions have only made the situation worse by causing sudden change at work, or sudden job loss.
If you are making up an excuse not to go into work, (sometimes using depression or mental health as a reason) because you dread going to work, you may heading towards a real problem if you do not do something about it.
However, many of us legitimately wrestle with chronic stress. If stress is causing psychological symptoms that disrupt how you live your daily life, you need to be informed about the state of your health. Self-diagnosis, is unacceptable and dangerous when it comes to mental illness. This means you should see your doctor and conduct personal research into your diagnosis (if you get one). Finally, you want to be ready to inform your employer in an open and honest discussion if you feel safe doing so.
KNOW the FACTS!
FACT # 1:
Mental illness does not mean you are abnormal or “sad and miserable”, or a “crazy person”. There are all sorts of conditions that impact the mind and they may cause a range of stressors, or even physical symptoms. The most common conditions have little to do with “going crazy” either.
FACT # 2:
Mental illness is not a choice and does not make you a less valuable person. It is not a direct consequence of any one thing in particular and is not a complete reflection of who you are as a person. Mental illness often is triggered by a complex combination of stress factors both in your environment and/or inherited through genetics. Sometimes making a change in your environment can help alleviate symptoms.
FACT # 3:
One of the most common conditions caused by unhappiness and burnout at work is depression. The most common misconception is that you are simply sad about something, bored, or getting lazy if you are depressed. You may not feel sad most of the time. Clinical depression is different and complex. Recognize the signs early! (http://www.cmha.ca/bins/content_page.asp?cid=3-86-87&lang=1) Since any illness or health concerns can be an impact of employment, it is very important to consider whether you are mentally and physically ready for the job.
Prevention is key! Leading a balanced lifestyle is important. If you work hard physically at work, make sure you have enough down time to relax in your personal life. Having a hobby is often beneficial. If at work you typically sit and vegetate, or it is not physically demanding at all, incorporating an active lifestyle is necessary. The link below is to an article that presents evidence that it can even help shape you into being a better, happier person and boss (yeah, when you get to tell people what to do in the future). http://www.scientificamerican.com/podcast/episode.cfm?id=bosses-who-work-out-are-nicer-12-01-26. A balanced life makes it feel worthwhile. Perhaps you can encourage your supervisor or employer to pursue a healthy lifestyle! A constant unhappy, or even toxic routine or environment will likely induce symptoms such as clinical depression, or trigger other mental health concerns. Substance abuse, especially heavy use of marijuana, can also trigger psychosis. http://www.psychosissucks.ca/epi/whatispsychosis.cfm
Be responsible. Most of the time it is not your fault that you are suffering from mental health problems. When it becomes a hindrance however, you are accountable to do something about it as best you can! Having a job you love is not always easy. If you have one, don’t flush it down the toilet. At work, find your niche, find your balance and remember you always have a choice. Listen to what your mind and body is tells you.
There is much more about mental health care that is interesting and complex. To read more about various conditions, their possible causes, or simply how to effectively take care of your already rock-solid mental health, please visit the Canadian Mental Health Association website: www.cmha.ca; you will find information on specific conditions, illnesses and disorders, as well as community resources and tips on staying healthy! 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.