Unlike many physical illnesses or disabilities, having a mental illness isn’t always visible to the people you work with. This can be a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it means you might not face as much open discrimination as someone with a more visible condition. On the other hand, when your mental illness makes doing your work difficult, to outsiders it can look as if you’re just not doing your job well, which also makes it hard to get the support you need.
Three simple strategies that may help balance personal needs with those of my employers:
• Save the repetitive, tedious work for your down days.
Some jobs may require both creative and mechanical or tedious work that you can split up and work on when you’re best able to do it. If your workweek includes brainstorming pitches for a meeting and manually entering data into a spreadsheet, try to get the more creative part of the job done when you’re having a good mental health day, and save the tedious stuff for when you’re having a harder time.
• Take care of your home life.
You can’t control everything that happens at work. You have a lot more control at home. If you need space to cry, scream or break down, give it to yourself when you’re off the clock. Take care of the basic routines like food, hygiene and chores that give you a sense of stability.
• Avoid trying to keep up with your co-workers.
It’s easy to get swept up in a corporate culture that prioritizes a certain kind of performative work. If your co-workers can sit down for four straight hours and pump out work, don’t try to force yourself to do the same. If you need frequent breaks to keep your stress levels down, that’s how you work. As long as you’re able to do the job to your own (and your boss’s) satisfaction, how you get there shouldn’t be as big a factor.
There is no clear “right” way to do things. Sometimes what works is communicating with your boss about the specific steps you can take together to make a productive work environment for you. And sometimes it means giving yourself space to cry into your lunch for no good reason and coming back to your work when you’re ready. Both are valid and necessary.
For further support & advice contact EAP Assist.