How to Effectively Manage Mental Health Issues at Work
Corporate executives operate in a volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous environment (V.U.C.A). Their everyday workplace can seem like an emotional rollercoaster of ecstatic highs and crushing lows. Such mental turbulence can leave them vulnerable to issues like crippling anxiety and depression that can have serious physical effects if ignored.
A Stress Epidemic
Multinational companies typically look for traits like creativity, high energy, and self-motivation when they hire their executives. While such personality types are highly desirable to thrive in a corporate setting, they can also be vulnerable to feelings of great despair, worthlessness, and depression when they are subjected to overwhelming amounts of stress. Add long work hours, poor eating and sleep habits to this cocktail and you have all the ingredients for a range of dangerous mental issues starting from volatile moods to complete mental breakdowns.
Let's Talk About Mental Health
Mental health problems can have adverse side effects that can affect your ability to function at work. Whether it’s a bipolar disorder (BPD) that can manifest in manic (high to low) behaviour, depressive episodes that can make you lose interest in your work, to Anxiety that can lead to panic attacks that hamper your decision-making skills. It is important to seek continued therapy and medication (if prescribed) to continue to effectively function at work.
Mental health surveys in India however, indicate that there's is a 90% gap between diagnosis of mental disease and its treatment. The implication of this statistic is that people who suffer from complex mental illnesses typically shy away from getting therapy (despite the availability of therapists) after getting diagnosed for a mental condition. A possible reason could be due to the stigma attached to going for therapy.
Working with Mental Illness
The life with mental illness does not always herald the end of a productive corporate life. People who are diagnosed with issues like BPD, depression or anxiety can continue to lead productive corporate careers with the right measures.
Have an Honest Dialogue with Your ColleaguesHaving difficulties dealing with mental volatility at work? Try discussing these issues with your supervisors and colleagues and explain your condition to them. This will help them understand the cause of any momentary lapses as well as act as an immediate support group when you're feeling low and helpless.
Re-evaluate Your JobHave a critical look at your job to evaluate if you are a good fit for it. You might discover that your current job could be worsening your symptoms due to reasons like rigid timings, long working hours, and stressful schedules. This should however not become an excuse for you to impulsively quit your existing job. Discuss the pros and cons with your friends and family before you make any drastic shifts. Our recommendation is to consider getting jobs that allow some measure of flexibility in terms of work hours (in case you need time off to collect yourself or undergo therapy).
Avoid Unnecessary StressLiving with anxiety can be very stressful and constantly push you to the edge of a mental breakdown. Avoid any unnecessary stress by learning to plan your daily agenda before you start your day and take regular breaks at work to take stock of your day. We recommend taking a quick walk around your workplace, breathing exercises, or just listening to calming music to quickly de-stress your nerves. Such breaks can also give you a good opportunity to socialise with your colleagues and build rich social bonds.
Know the Warning Signs of AnxietyBe mindful of the warning signs of an oncoming panic or manic attack. Find ways to ground yourself in such situations by focusing on small repetitive tasks like colouring an adult colouring book or listening to music to dissociate yourself from the stressor. It is important to reach out to a trusted friend at such times so that they can talk you through such events. Also, remember to keep reminders and take your prescribed medication (if any) as a failure to do so could be the cause of such events.
Finally, it's important to invest in making authentic connections with your colleagues at work and understand that you are not defined by your illness. Make it a point to have a life beyond your work. Find a hobby or activity that you enjoy whether it's meeting your friends for a movie, volunteering at an NGO over the weekend or learning to play a musical instrument. A holistic combination of people and purpose will help you live a rich and fulfilling life and dispel the looming clouds that mental illness can bring your way.
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