Your mental health is an easy one to push to the back burner, we can feel and sense the symptoms of working too hard or burning the candle at both ends, yet we neglect to pay as much attention to them as we would our physical health.
Typically, if we get physically sick there are options for us, coworkers sympathize and say things like “you should be at home” or they wish you well and for a speedy recovery. When we are sick, we get to play the sick role that our society has defined. You are no longer expected to work at full capacity, and it is understood that you may even need some time off. Usually, it is easy to play the sick role, you have symptoms that others can see and hear, and you clearly are just not yourself. But why are mental health issues not taken as seriously? There doesn't seem to be the same sick role available to those suffering from mental health issues, and support systems are still flimsy and unreliable — not to mention the cultural stigma still hovering around.
Mental health issues need to be addressed with the same vigor that we take to recover from our physical health issues. It’s not easy though, there isn’t a Tylenol for depression or Buckley’s for anxiety, it takes time and effort to heal yourself, but the payout can be huge.
Having a little knowledge of the mental health issues that most affect the workplace can go a long way in helping yourself and others. Be aware of symptoms in yourself, and how they may manifest in the workplace, then take the appropriate steps to mitigate their negative impact.
Here are a few common mental health issues that affect creatives in and out of the workplace.
Likely one of the more understood mental health issues due to an abundance of research done in and out of the workplace. Depression is often punctuated by a low mood, however, in the workplace it can also generate particular behaviours like nervousness, restlessness, or irritability. People dealing with depression at work are often withdrawn, unproductive, or fatigued.
Being in a state of anxiety can severely impair your ability to focus and be a productive team member. Undiagnosed anxiety can be just a large of a detriment to your health as depression and in the workplace can mean lower productivity and increased sick days. Anxiety at work can manifest as fatigue, lack of focus, or excess worrying — among other things.
There is an increasing awareness of adult ADHD, but for the most part, this still goes as a vastly underdiagnosed or misdiagnosed mental illness. ADHD in the workplace can affect people by surfacing as a lack of organization, issues with deadlines, inability to manage workloads, problems following instructions from supervisors, and arguments with co-workers. Now more than ever, there are options if you believe ADHD is affecting your daily life as an adult. Start with your family doctor and explore your options.
You are not alone
According to a Harvard study, Mental health problems in the workplace, 18% of people surveyed between the ages of 15 and 54 identified as having a mental health issue in the previous month.
It is incredibly common for anyone with a mental health issue to keep it to themselves. We become reclusive, sometimes a symptom of the problem, and we don’t share our concerns or issues. When we remove ourselves from the help of others, we shut the door on opportunities to grow and heal. Building a community that you can talk to at work or at home about your mental health issue will go a long way in your recovery.
When we have someone to talk to about this issue, we give ourselves an outlet that can be used when needed. If you keep other people in the dark, you are feeding into the negative connotations and allowing their imaginations to run freely, making lofty assumptions about you. Being open and honest will help hedge those assumptions and gives other people an opportunity to understand and adapt. The symptoms of mental health may are often invisible, but communicating with others is a powerful way to bring them into your side of understanding.
What you can do now
Start with being more aware of your own behaviours, identify when you are in a slump and learn from those moments. If you believe you are symptomatic with a mental health issue, then take action. Keeping it to yourself is a bad idea, this can only compound the effects of the mental health issue and open yourself to other medical issues, not to mention how it affects your life, in and out of work.
Physical activity has also been shown to be a huge asset in combating the onset of mental health issues, and a little can go a long way. Short walks at lunch, for example, are a great way to fit in the fitness you need to get your body kickstarted.
Most importantly, don’t shut yourself off. Mental health issues often encourage us to cut ourselves off from the rest of the world and hide in a dark corner. Don’t fall into this trap, despite how difficult it may be.
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