It’s early morning, and that alarm is going off again—time to start a new day doing the same things over again. Dreading going to work is one of the lousiest feelings you can have: that new job “buzz” has faded, and a new reality sets in. Nobody delights in that experience.
A massive problem today’s worker faces is how to manage when going to work becomes a source of dread. Many people—perhaps including you—fail to recognize that this feeling may be more than what it seems on the surface. There is a good chance that it is a symptom of you not being well mentally. That dread is a symptom that something inside of you has taken its toll and made functioning day-to-day at work something that you feel is impossible to achieve with a modicum of success. Gone are those moments of the optimistic achiever you once felt like you were.
When you find yourself struggling, and even the autopilot you set doesn’t work the way it should, it is time to evaluate your work situation and why this internal discontent is happening to you. If you do not become attentive to these subtle changes, which build up to a heaping pile of change over time, you put yourself at serious risk of letting your mental health go from good to challenging. For work, this could mean a loss of opportunity, camaraderie, support, and even your job. That worst-case job loss scenario is likely to happen if you keep your struggles a secret. To be blunt, remaining secretive about your challenges doesn’t work. It blocks you from finding solutions and allies to aid your restoration process.
Look, we get it. Most of us know you would prefer to have your mental well-being tended to and on track. Sometimes you don’t know how much it’s changed until you can’t take anymore. If it gets to that point, it’s time to approach your employer for assistance if they haven’t already approached you. It is okay to admit you’re not okay; however, it is ineffective to be untruthful about that because you’re scared or nervous. There is a strategy that will work for both you and your employer; a team effort, if you will.
Why would your employer care or wt to help you with this? You may have thought that, and your perception is shared by many. But truthfully, employers have everything to gain by understanding those situations that impact their employees and make it more challenging for them to perform their work functions as well as possible. If the employer and employee can agree on these two matters, they can get in alignment:
1. Both parties will benefit from employees whose mental health is addressed
2. An initiative-taking approach is always better than a reactive one
Addressing mental health is about becoming proactive in making the decisions that start to change the tide of a floundering individual into one that can experience the brighter side of the day. There is nothing to be ashamed of, either. You are not alone, and everyone in an organization is vulnerable to mental wellness challenges, from the CEO downward.
It is not easy to discuss mental health with your boss. People understand this and see why it feels challenging—even overwhelming—to go from privacy to disclosure, especially during such a vulnerable time. Yet it is necessary. There are two ways you can approach this. First, you can write a letter, then have a conversation to find solutions after you have done that. Second, you can start with the conversation and solutions. Letters work well because you can craft what you want to say in a positive and solutions-based manner. However, the conversation will inevitably be a part of the process. When you have it, you need to:
· State your problems or challenges
· Share what you feel you need for workplace support
· Show commitment to the workplace and that you value your job
· Express a desire to produce a winning solution for both parties
· Talk about follow-ups (whether it will be a meeting, email, etc.)
Most people find a caring and compassionate manager who will achieve the same goal as you—having you be in your best mental state. Then the wellness journey begins, and you start to gain control of your situation.
What does control look like in a chaotic world where everything feels out of control? This is a fair and proper question to ask. Here are some examples of what you can do in certain situations to calm the tide and change the flow of your energy and emotions to something healthier.
If your stress and anxiety are about life in general, take a break from the news and those sources of information that lead you down a dangerous path of discontent. There’s a good reason people say that “worrying doesn’t solve any problems;” it doesn’t. Taking the burdens of the world and placing them in your reality can be debilitating to you mentally and emotionally. This also includes workplace conflict. You do not need to be involved in everything and can lessen stress and anxiety by being attentive to this realization.
For those of you who have stress and anxiety rooted for a long time, the need to go to counseling and receive medication to help with your condition is an option to consider. The combination of these two things can help you to learn ways to reframe your perspective and approach to situations, leaving you better equipped to go from anxious and uncertain to neutral, at minimal, to even confident. Remember, nobody expects you to become the best problem-solving optimist out there. They hope you can restore your abilities to be effective in those qualities you are best known for. That feels good.
People unable to achieve a proper work-life balance are vulnerable to having no balance in either area. If this sounds like you, you can find effective ways to get things done effectively and efficiently with your manager or coworkers so that you can keep an eye on your time management. Contemplate essential questions: What does a good week look like for you? Do you plan and organize what you do and recognize when you’re trying to do too much? Are your expectations placed on you by yourself or by a higher-up in the organization? What type of discussions can you have that help you balance out life? It is also possible that your problem isn’t just isolated to you; it’s an organizational problem that impacts everyone and is waiting to be brought to light. Finding solutions to your problems, or at least participating in those solutions, feels excellent and is a natural booster of serotonin and all those other feel-good chemicals the body can create.
There is also a possibility that you have something more uncommon, such as bipolar disorder. Regardless of your diagnosis, know that you have a more substantial chance of gaining control of what is happening by taking control through the ideas suggested above.
One last thing that can help you gain perspective on your work and how it can involve excellent mental health is paying attention to the big three that positively impact many parts of life: sleep, diet, and exercise. Sleep helps you to wake up with better energy so you can embrace a better mindset for your day ahead. A good diet is a diet that boosts your energy, lessens that bloated feeling, and feeds your body the nutrients it needs to operate with the intensity you need it to for the day. Exercise feels great, whether you love intense fitness or doing something low-impact like walking or bike riding. These three things make a positive difference.
When you suffer from the impact of not being well mentally, you will get various responses from others. Some may say that you have to work through it. Others may brush it off. Some people will be very compassionate toward you. What matters most is how you respond to your situation, more so than how others have responded. You are the start of your solution, and nobody understands what you are going through better than you. By being forthright about what is taking place, you can look at ways to best restore your mental health.
Natasha Bowman, JD, is President of Performance ReNEW, The Bowman Foundation for Workplace Equity and Mental Wellness co-founder, and a LinkedIn Top Voice for Mental Health. She travels the company using her lived experience with bipolar disorder, HR expertise, and known workplace culture strategist to guide organizations in cultivating cultures of mental wellness. Book Natasha today for your workplace wellness strategic initiatives and speaking engagements by contacting [email protected]