Coping with my Mental Health at Work: 3 Top Tips
Kathy shares her top tips for coping at work when you have long-term health conditions. It sort of involves spoons!
Now this is just my experience and I can’t speak for everyone but working with ME and bipolar disorder is difficult. There are many factors I need to take into account every day; keeping my exertion to a certain level, making sure I keep track of my mood so that I avoid any potential stress triggers …the list goes on.
So I’m going to go through my top three important things to think about when working, if you have a chronic illness.
1. Place of work is crucial
Now I have had three jobs since graduation. The first one, I was let go. I do not necessarily blame them- I was very ill and trying to cope by pushing myself to my limit and beyond, just to get by. I didn’t know what to ask for to get the help I needed. But on their part, they did not understand my illnesses or how they could support me .
My current job is wonderful. My colleagues have researched and understood my background and know what I’m attempting to deal with.
Your workplace is important. The way you are managed, how they listen, and how they try to understand your needs can make ALL the difference.
Of course, this depends on you feeling like you can be open and honest about your illness.
2. Find your limits
Now if you haven’t heard of ‘The Spoon Theory’, this will sound a bit odd. (It’s basically an analogy where spoons are used to measure how much energy someone has in a day… the more spoons, the more energy you have).
I can tell in the mornings normally how many spoons I have for the day.
At my old job I would work as hard as possible, which meant I had no spoons left to do much else. I’d go straight to bed after work and sleep for much of the weekend. What I do now is if I know I have fewer spoons, I work with that.
For instance I work from home. This way I don’t use up spoons getting ready to leave the house, driving, being around noises or bright lights (all things that wear me down).
Finding your limits is hard and it can change day-to-day but you have to try as it will make a huge difference to your life.
3. Use your annual leave
Sometimes you can get so wrapped up in work that you forget about breaks. Or maybe you use your annual leave to go on holiday and you get exhausted doing that! What I found most useful this year was using some of my leave to just rest. I slept and relaxed and I did minimal tasks, nothing stressful. This meant I was recharged when it was time to get back to work.
Note: if you have fully burnt yourself out and you are sick, take it as sick leave. These are very different things. I had to do it, there’s no shame in it. Trying to push through only made me worse, and of course my work suffered too.
You can find the original and slightly longer version of this post and other stories on Kathy's blog.
*Image by Shaun Wrightson, Copyright protected.