De-stress, let go of your busy day, and ease into the evening with this meditation.
Tag Archive for: Mental Health and Workplace
Earlier this week, I found a scrap of paper while cleaning that stopped me in my tracks. On it, I had written “take a year off” followed by a short list of commitments in my personal and professional life. The list included things I had entered into with excitement—like training other people in my profession and organizing community events—but didn’t have the time or energy needed to continue.
At the time I wrote the list, exhaustion was my norm. I was living with episodic and unpredictable pain, and my work was suffering. I didn’t have the energy to do all the things I normally do. I was keeping my commitments but performing poorly, which made me feel miserable.
What I didn’t know when I wrote that list was that depression would soon be a part of my life. I missed some of the early signs, but eventually it became clear that I was not well. The first clear sign came when I felt no joy during the Night to Shine Prom, an event my friends and I had spent months planning. It’s something we always consider to be “the happiest night of the year.” I thought something might have been “off” with the event, but as I saw joy on everyone’s face except my own, I realized something was “off” with me.
It was then I realized I needed a period of rest for my mental health. And along the way of implementing that rest, I learned a few helpful tips:
It Can Take A While
Some commitments are easy to take a break from, while others require more planning. After the Night to Shine Prom, I let the planning committee know that I wouldn’t be able to help plan the next prom. It was emotionally difficult, but it was quick. However, some of my other commitments took time to transition away from, as I had to identify and train a replacement before I could step down. It took months to fully cross off everything on my list, but each time, I felt a weight lift.
You May Second-Guess Yourself
Each person will face different challenges when preparing for a period of rest. I felt like I would be judged, I felt guilty for being less involved, I worried that important things would be left undone, and I didn’t want my relationships to suffer. These thoughts were common in the beginning, and I had to keep reminding myself how important it was for me to rest and recover.
People May Not Support You
Your colleagues, friends and family probably aren’t fully aware of the reasons rest is necessary for you. If their initial responses aren’t as supportive as you’d hoped for, it might mean they’re just surprised, or they rely on you and will miss your contributions. You may find it helpful to explain why you need to take a break. In some instances, though, the best thing you may be able to do is to quietly try to understand things from their perspective.
Stepping Away Is A Surprisingly Positive Process
Maybe you realize how important it is for you to cut back and have fewer responsibilities. What you may not realize is how positive it can be for other people. During the process of transitioning my responsibilities, I got to see people step up who were just as passionate about these roles as I had been. Almost immediately, the energy they brought to the roles resulted in growth and improvement I hadn’t been able to fully offer for a long time.
Rest Is Hard…
Rest is not accomplished by simply taking time off and then going back to your busy schedule. Rest occurs when you allow yourself to be fully inactive. A period of stillness and rest may be a necessary precursor to a more active mental health recovery. After a period of rest, you may find that you are more motivated to engage in activities like exercise, reading, crafting, praying, journaling or spending time with loved ones. You will be more likely to benefit from those wellness-promoting activities if you have taken time to rest first.
But The Results Are Worth It
When you’re rested, you’ll have energy to enjoy the things you love again. You’ll know you’re on the right track when your response to your personal and professional opportunities changes from “Oh no” to “Heck yes!” Even before I considered myself fully rested, I found I had more energy to be a mom, to be a wife and to commit to my work. After resting for a month, I was thrilled with the quality of my work. I even had energy left over to spend on myself and the things I enjoy.
You May Not Have All The Resources You Need To Rest
I am blessed to have the support of family and friends—and access to paid sick leave. I know these are not resources everyone has and sometimes paying the bills, getting your kids to school or taking care of your loved ones may not be things you can readily disengage from. My advice if you cannot commit several days—or, dare I say, weeks—to rest is to take advantage of whatever opportunities you can. Do what you absolutely have to do and then rest the remainder of the time. Maybe instead of committing a month to complete rest, you start by committing a month to only doing the things you need to, letting non-essential projects wait and accepting help from others when it’s offered.
I am grateful to have experienced firsthand the profound impact rest can have on mental health and work. Its positive impact has influenced me to incorporate continued rest into my regular schedule. I feel great, and I am proud of the work I am doing. I know if I want things to stay this way, I will need to intentionally make time for rest.
Coming across the slip of paper that started my journey toward rest was a shock. As soon as I saw it, memories of how physically and emotionally exhausted I was rushed in. I cried as I recalled all the moments and days I lost to pain and depression. Then I realized how much better I feel now and the role that rest played in me getting to a better place. Seeing that slip of paper strengthened my resolve to rest when I need it.
Jennifer Adkins is a wife, a mom, and a psychologist. Her professional interests include treatment of anxiety disorders, improving family relationships, and reducing stigma associated with mental illness.
There are so many aspects a job that can cause anxiety: having tight deadlines, trying to harmonize a work/life balance, dealing with office gossip and politics, meeting your supervisor’s expectations… the list goes on.
Thanks to all this, most people who work will experience some anxiety at some point. But what do you do if your workplace makes you feel that way on a regular basis? When you dread stepping foot into the office day after day. When something about your job makes anxiety your norm. When you have an anxiety disorder and work constantly triggers your symptoms.
Depending on your situation, it might be helpful to evaluate whether your job is right for you. But if you aren’t able or don’t want to change jobs, there are ways to manage workplace anxiety.
Before you can improve your situation, it’s important to understand what exactly is creating your anxious feelings or worsening the symptoms of your condition. Even if the root of your anxiety is something you can’t change, like having more work than you can handle, knowing the cause can help you figure out next steps. It’s a lot harder to reach a destination without a map.
Share Your Feelings
It may be helpful to talk to a trusted coworker as they can relate to and sympathize with your anxiety. If you don’t have a coworker you trust, you can talk to a friend, family member or mental health professional. Talking about anxiety with the right person can help you process these intense emotions and it can be validating if the person is supportive and understanding. They might also have ideas or suggestions to help you cope.
Release Your Thoughts
Anxiety feeds off itself and one anxious thought can turn into 100 pretty quickly. There’s no way I will meet this deadline. What if something else comes up? What if Steve thinks the project is terrible? If you’re feeling inundated with this kind of thought-spiral, it can be helpful to release your thoughts.
One of the most effective ways to do this is by writing them all down. Do a brain dump of all your anxious thoughts—not to understand them, but just to get them “out.” If you’re at home (or somewhere you feel comfortable) thinking about work drama, you can also sing your thoughts. The idea of these practices is that you can’t write or sing as fast as you can think, so you’ll actually be slowing down while you release your unhelpful thought patterns.
Know When To Ask For Help
If you’re drowning in work, having a hard day or feeling like you can’t meet your supervisor’s expectations, ask your colleagues for help. While it may feel like everyone handles their own work and stress independently, and you should too, this is often not beneficial to anyone. Asking for help when you need it alleviates your burden and builds trust among coworkers. If you feel guilty for taking up their time, offer your support the next time they need help.
Take Time Off
Every six months or so, take some time off work and disconnect as much as possible. Don’t feel guilty about it. You deserve time to yourself or with your loved ones. There is no shortage of research about how important it is for your mental health to get regular breaks from work to decompress and reset. It gives you something to look forward to, time to reflect and practice gratitude. Time off also helps build resilience.
The more you fear anxiety, the more powerful it can become. Part of reducing anxiety is accepting that sometimes work is going to make you feel that way. This is a lot easier said than done, but it comes with practice. So, next time you feel your thoughts and heartbeat start to race, take a moment, sit at your desk and tell yourself: “I feel anxious right now and that’s okay. I’m uncomfortable with this feeling and that’s okay. I don’t know how long this will last, and I’m okay with that.” Tell yourself these things and mean them. It can be surprising how much this small act can help.
Workplace anxiety happens to everyone. But for those who experience it regularly, it’s not something you should push aside or ignore. Even if you feel stressed out and under pressure, it’s important to take time to manage your anxiety. Work is important, but it’s not worth your mental health.
By Laura Greenstein