Managing Mental Illness At Work

Those suffering with mental illnesses will tell you that there is no typical day. Anxiety isn’t always triggered by the same events, depression can hit hard on different days and last for varying durations, and sometimes mental illnesses can manifest themselves in the loudest, most emotionally-charged way, and other times it’s quiet and slow.

It can be a blessing and a curse that mental illnesses, unlike physical ones, aren’t always visible to those around you. A blessing, because if you’d prefer to keep it to yourself, undisclosed – you can. However, mental illnesses can make it difficult to do your job effectively, where your colleagues or employer might just see a poor performance. 

Use these tips to help keep your mind healthy and happy at work…

  • Find flexibility

Employers are becoming more aware of the importance of employee mental health, but if you don’t feel as if you can speak to your boss, try asking for a more flexible work schedule which will suit you. For some, the rigid routine and stable structure of the 9-5 can be a comfort. For others, work-from-home days, flexible hours or a more accommodating work environment might help. If you don’t feel comfortable speaking with a manager, it can help to speak with a complete stranger. Our online pay-as-you-go consultations can provide a confidential sounding board to discuss your struggles and challenges. We also provide a nationwide employee counselling service which can offer you instant support when you need it. 

  • Match your work to your mood

Many people who struggle with their mental health, will often experience ‘down’ days and then days that aren’t so bad, whilst most jobs will include creative, careful tasks balanced against more tedious and mind-numbing jobs. Try to get the mentally demanding work done on days when you’re feeling your best, and save the repetitive, less-stimulating tasks for when you’re having a ‘down’ day.

  • Take control of your personal life

Unfortunately, we won’t all receive accommodation and help within our working lives, especially if you choose not to talk with your manager about your mental health challenges. However, you can control your home life, the way you spend your time outside work and your personal relationships. Take care of your hygiene and maintain some sort of exercise regime as neglecting self-care can simply make you feel worse. Give yourself ‘me time’ when you need it and let yourself feel whatever you might be feeling.

  • Stop comparing yourself

I often talk about the switched on, 24/7 lifestyle many of us now lead. Dealing with the pressure to reply to emails at the weekend or spend extra time at the office because that’s what people do in these big corporate organisations. If you feel better taking small breaks more regularly as opposed to working in big blocks, then do it. As long as you’re getting your work completed, how you arrive at that destination shouldn’t matter.

A Note For Employers

‘Even if they looked at it from a coldly transactional cost-benefit viewpoint, every employer should want to reduce staff sickness and improve people’s productivity at work.’

– Martin Edwards, Chief Executive of Julia’s House which runs children’s hospices

Whilst mental illness has become less taboo than it once was, it is still not universally accepted. This year The Guardian reported that 300,000 people with long-term mental health problems in the UK lose their jobs every year.

The best way to eliminate the stigma surrounding mental health in industry, is to encourage companies to start talking about it. One of the first things Martin Edwards did as Chief Executive was recommend to trustees that they fund an employee assistance programme – a confidential counselling and specialist information helpline for staff and their immediate families. Many other companies are seeking external help in order to provide effective employee assistance programmes. Some managers and HR departments are being trained to identify the symptoms of employees who are suffering, and know-how to offer support. It is also important to encourage employees to receive training such as arranging Senior Masterclasses, Resilience Workshops or Wellbeing Programmes.

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