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How to Excel at Work with a Mental Health Condition

Once a social taboo, mental health and mental health conditions were concealed by employees for fear of rejection, discrimination, and unequal treatment from work. 

Nowadays, mental health promotion has been highlighted by companies in their culture, seeing its impact on one’s productivity, motivation, and retention. Along with social media and awareness programs, employees are conditioned that a mental condition is acceptable and manageable and can contribute to excellent work performance. 

I. Definition of Mental Health

Mental Health includes all the emotional, psychological, and social aspects of our well-being. It influences one’s reaction to stress, relationships, socialization, decision-making, work habits, and self-perception.  

The impact of mental health and mental conditions is vital in companies since these significantly affect employee performance, retention, absenteeism, and motivation.    

II. Impact of Work on Mental Health

Work has a vital role in an employee’s mental status. Employment harnesses social identity, financial security, a sense of purpose, social contact, routine, and economic security, which provide positive work direction. Work provides an avenue for promoting mental health and support, aiding in the employee’s recovery. Employees find meaningful contributions to community life and may even excel in work above their health conditions

III. Ways on How to Excel at Work Even with Mental Health Condition

1. Acknowledge the existence of your condition

First, the employee must acknowledge and accept the existence of his/her mental condition. Embracing the challenges, treatment, consequences, and social perception gives the employee self-confidence to handle social and job demands and relationships. 

2. Perform exercise pre-work

According to Coulson et al., exercise contributes significantly to overall wellness and productivity. Exercise releases endorphins that provide mental alertness, positive mood, positive well-being, and improved brain function, promoting time management, and better work under pressure

Exercise can be included in daily activities like walking to work, riding a bike to work, and standing 15 to 20 minutes before work. 

3. Don’t forget to ask help as needed

Inability to understand instructions or do a task can be cumbersome for an employee with a mental condition. It is never wrong to ask assistance sometimes. One should acknowledge this struggle and ask colleagues to get the job done and promote mutual learning from the assistance. 

4. Do breathing and stretching exercises

Performing breathing and stretching exercises relieves tension and stress, promotes relaxation, and develops positive well-being for the employee. 

One can perform gradual deep breathing, simulated balloon blowing, belly breathing, or diaphragmatic breathing with leg or arm stretching while at work to relieve stress. 

5. Write down what you feel

Writing is an excellent outlet for thoughts and emotions. Employees can bring a pocket notebook and pen in his/her bag or pocket and jot down ideas and feelings one has, especially towards work. Writing enables the release of unconscious mental stress, which can be detrimental to one’s mental status. Eventually, he/she will get used to writing thoughts on paper and will feel better. Writing about negative thoughts and even positive ones can also boost positive self-esteem

6. Negotiate with your employer about reasonable work adjustments

Research shows that productive, healthy, secured workplaces provide workplace support and adjustments to meet individual employee’s needs. 

In times of conflict felt at work, employees can open up with their employers regarding their mental condition and, in turn, negotiate for reasonable work arrangements.

Work adjustments can be made as follows:

7. Set realistic work expectations and goals

For one with a mental health condition, identifying realistic and achievable work expectations and goals minimizes work stress, decreases mental burden, and directs work focus. One can set work schedules and tasks feasible within the day and avoid overtime and frequent work changes, as coordinated with the employer. 

8. Develop friendships

A LinkedIn conducted study on work relationships found out that 46% of professionals worldwide believe that work friends boost overall happiness.  

Having a friend either outside or inside the workplace decreases isolation and judgment, enables better coping, keeps one grounded, and enhances focus. It cultivates creativity and productivity, positive work perceptions, and more vigorous work motivations.

9. Obtain advice from external support groups

When one’s mental health goes overboard, one can seek external help from organizations that cater to mental health, like employee assistance programs. These programs provide health advice and support to mentally challenged workers and refer them to other mental health agencies.

10. Attend seminars that boost self-esteem

Low self-esteem can reduce one’s quality of life and further contribute to mental health issues. 

The employee can attend in-house seminars and workshops that address mental health and self-esteem. Inner mental positivity creates outer work productivity. 

Conclusion

Mental health conditions have become a significant concern for employees as it contributes to the employee’s productivity, motivation, and retention. One can still excel at work even with mental health conditions. Addressing mental health can be mutually benefiting employers and employees as it can create improved work performance and quality, along with greater chance of recovery. 

References:

Sarfo, Kojo (2020). ‘How to Excel Professionally with a Mental Health Condition.’ Retrieved on November 20, 2020. From  https://www.kojosarfo.com/how-to-excel-professionally-with-a-mental-health-condition/

International Labor Organization (2000). ‘Mental Health and Work: Impact, Issues, and Good Practices’. WHO: Geneva.. Retrieved on November 20, 2020. From https://www.who.int/mental_health/media/en/712.pdf

Ponte, Katherine (2019). ‘People with Mental Illness Can Work’. Retrieved on November 20, 2020, from

https://www.nami.org/Blogs/NAMI-Blog/October-2019/People-with-Mental-Illness-Can-Work

Human Rights.Gov (n.d.). ‘2010 Workers with Mental Illness: a Practical Guide for Managers’ Retrieved on November 20, 2020. From https://humanrights.gov.au/our-work/3-managing-mental-illness-workplace

Mental Health.Gov (n.d.). ‘What is Mental Health?’.  Retrieved on November 20, 2020. From   https://www.mentalhealth.gov/basics/what-is-mental-health

Philippi and Kennigs (2014). ‘The neuropsychology of Self-reflection in Psychiatric Illness’. Journal of Psychiatric Research, March 2014. Retrieved on November 20, 2020. From  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC402As2422/.  doi: 10.1016/j.jpsychires.2014.03.004

Mental Health.Org (n.d.). ‘How to Look After your Mental Health Using Exercise’. Retrieved on November 20, 2020. From https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/publications/how-to-using-exercise#:~:text=Physical%20activity%20has%20a%20huge,can%20reduce%20stress%20and%20anxiety

Health Direct.gov (n.d.) ‘Exercise and Mental Health.’  Retrieved on November 20, 2020. From

https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/exercise-and-mental-health

Australia and New Zealand Mental Health Association (2019.) ‘How Deep Breath Can Be Helpful for Mental Health’. Retrieved on November 20, 2020. Fromhttps://anzmh.asn.au/mental-health/deep-breath-helpful-mental-health/

NHS (n.d.). ‘Raising Low Self-esteem’. Retrieved on November 20, 2020. From https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/stress-anxiety-depression/raising-low-self-esteem/

Hillen, Mary (2019). ‘Great Expectations at Work Causing Stress and Rise in Mental Ill Health. Retrieved on November 20, 2020. From https://workplaceinsight.net/great-expectations-at-work-causing-stress-and-rise-in-mental-ill-health/

T. Rajgopal (2010). ‘Mental Well-being at the Workplace’. Indian Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, June, 2016. Retrieved on November 20, 2020. From https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3062016/.  doi: 10.4103/0019-5278.75691

Wood, Johnny (2019). ‘Why it’s Good to Turn your Colleagues into Friends’. Retrieved on November 20, 2020. From https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2019/11/friends-relationships-work-productivity-career/

Venzin, Elizabeth (2018). ‘How Does Low Self-esteem Negatively Affect You’. Retrieved on November 20, 2020. From https://psychcentral.com/blog/how-does-low-self-esteem-negatively-affect-you/

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