Dealing with mental health and business

Dealing with Mental Health in the Workplace

Mental health is a broad and vast topic. There are so many facets and branches of it, which can make it hard to understand. Even those who study psychology often don’t receive the training they need to identify mental health problems or understand how to apply their knowledge in workplace settings. Since that’s the case, it’s no wonder people have a hard time relating to and expressing concerns or feelings around mental health.

That’s why I’d like to introduce Keli. She has been diagnosed with severe OCD, moderate Social Anxiety Disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, seasonal affective disorder, situational depression, and ADHD. I met Keli in the dorms during our freshman year of college. Since then, Keli has gone down a few different paths including a study abroad to Ireland, transferring colleges twice, leaving the religion she was raised in, becoming a more involved activist, losing her older brother, and meeting the love of her life. I admire Keli for her spunk and bravery. Whenever we get together she always has something new going on, whether it’s a new job, volunteer opportunity, or event she’s attending.

Keli’s story is amazing to me because she’s been through so much in these few short years, and yet she continues to persevere and try to improve. That’s why I’ve asked her to answer some questions for us, because I feel that we can all learn from her experiences and thoughts. Keli is a very outspoken person and is not ashamed or afraid of talking about mental health. She has a dream of pursuing marketing in public service or the non-profit setting so that she can help affect change for causes she believes in.

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dealing with mental health in the workplace

Do you feel like your diagnoses influence the way you handle professional situations? If so, in what ways?

More so than I used to think. I never noticed a big effect on my work when I did odd jobs like retail, food service, and hospitality. But as I’ve been more actively pursuing marketing and gaining experience in that field, OCD and anxiety affect my work quite a bit. In terms of OCD my obsessive thought is often surrounding failure and judgment, and my compulsive behavior to neutralize those fears is avoidance. I’ve had issues with meeting deadlines and fulfilling expectations, let alone going above and beyond which is needed if you want to get further in your career. I also can feel overwhelmed with stressful situations sometimes, like if there’s too much stimuli at once or if I don’t know how to do something. It’s frustrating because I know how capable I am and that I’m a hard worker, but I’m not always able to put my best self forward.

Have these diagnoses kept you from getting/accepting certain jobs or keeping jobs?

Not until recently. I did just turn down a job that I knew would be too stressful while I’m simultaneously working through therapy and learning how to cope better with OCD and anxiety. I also quit my last job, which was remote and was mostly self managed. It was too difficult to do well and meet expectations since I literally had to do it all, and I never had physical contact with my office or managers, which is really important to me personally. Self management and discipline is difficult when there wasn’t strong accountability in place and like I mentioned, my stress coping mechanism is avoidance haha.

Do you feel like most people have an understanding of mental health conditions?

Definitely not. I feel that it’s slowly getting better, especially with more general conditions like anxiety and depression that affect a good percentage of the population. But the stereotypes and misconceptions with OCD are still alive and well. I even had to personally relearn things I thought I knew about having OCD!

What helps you deal with your mental health struggles?

Talking about it. This is where understanding comes in though. Society is still super uncomfortable with honesty and emotions in general. People don’t ask “how are you?” expecting you to answer honestly. I feel silenced, and that it’s not okay to talk about my reality unless it’s “normal” and “acceptable.” But the only way to help us heal is to let us talk about it, listen to us, and still treat us like normal human beings. Shame is not conducive to healing.

Do you feel like companies accommodate for mental health struggles? If not, what do you think they could do to be more accommodating?

Not really. It’s frustrating because I understand that you can’t just call out sick every time you have a panic attack. But mental health is an illness just like any physical ailment is. If I’m at home with the flu, my boss will forgive me for calling out of work. But mental health doesn’t have the same luxury. We’re expected to just deal with it, and this is exactly why homeless and unemployed populations have some of the highest rates of mental illness. I think the biggest thing is just trust. Trust us to know our limits and our bodies. Don’t just assume we’re exaggerating or making stuff up. It’s erasing, and that’s why our culture still has a hard time believing mental health is real.

Is there anything else you would like to add about mental health and professionalism?

I want people to understand that mental health does not equate to ability. NEVER assume that someone is unable to do their job or be successful just because they have a certain diagnosis. Being in a wheelchair doesn’t mean someone can’t be an amazing CEO or president. So don’t treat mental health any differently.

MAKAYLA

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Mental Health

Mental Health: The Controversy and It’s Importance

Mental health is an extremely hot topic among young people right now. In the past, mental health conditions were swept under the rug. Talking about emotions, feelings, and hardships was considered weak and frowned upon. These beliefs have largely bled over into modern ways if thinking. Although millennials are changing the way mental health is discussed among the masses, there are still areas that could evolve and serve people more effectively.

As millennials enter the workforce, we’re finding that the way businesses and corporations treat mental health could be improved. This article points out that “approximately 1 in 5 adults in the U.S.—43.8 million, or 18.5%—experiences mental illness in a given year.” Now, I didn’t dive into the research too much. I’m not sure if these numbers are including people who have diagnosed mental illnesses or those who just have symptoms of mental illness. Either way, that is an incredibly high percentage of the population.

So, I personally do not struggle with mental illness. But I think everyone has periods when they feel consistently anxious, sad, overwhelmed, or depressed even if they do not have a diagnosed disorder. That’s why this topic is so important. These feelings are universal to some degree and yet, no one talks about it. Except maybe on Twitter. I actually have a hard time reading about other people’s mental health struggles on social media. Part of that is because I’m not used to reading about mental health really at all besides textbooks. And part of it is wondering if people are being genuine or just wanting attention.

What is mental health?

Mental Health is “a person’s condition with regard to their psychological and emotional well-being.” This definition doesn’t need much further explanation, but I think having a clear definition helps the conversation. Your mental health, in my opinion, is just as important as your physical health. Mental and emotional ailments can lead to physical problems if left untreated and ignored. The mind and body cannot be separated, they work together to create a whole person. Since that’s the case, neglecting one will negatively affect the other.

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Mental health The Controversy and It's Importance

Why is mental health a controversial topic?

People get really heated about the topic of mental health. There are many reasons for that but I’m just going to mention two of the big points of controversy. 

Can’t physically see the ailment.

It takes a lot of love, trust, and understanding to believe someone when they say they can’t do something because of a mental illness. Unfortunately, the common response to someone saying they have a mental health problem is, “Well, you just need to be happier,” or “You’re being dramatic.” Sometimes that is the case (because the words “depressed” and “anxious” seem to have taken on a much lighter meaning these days), but real mental health problems are different. They can be extremely debilitating. 

If you have a broken foot, you can’t walk on it. No one questions that. You need rest and someone to help you clean the house and get the mail. There’s an X-ray proving that the bone in your leg looks different than it normally does. When you say, “Man, my leg really hurts,” everyone understands. Mental illness is not that clear cut. If you say, “I really can’t do this assignment today, I am extremely anxious,” that doesn’t fly, does it? Even as I’m tying that I’m secretly thinking, “Well, you can just push through it.” 

Perceived as weak or feminine.

Regular readers of this blog know that I am a Gerontology student, which means that I study aging. In my studies I’ve learned a lot about how mental health conditions impact aging. Did you know that depression is the number one mental health problem among older adults? This stems from the fact that we’re taught from a young age that our emotions and feelings make us weak. This social norm is perpetuated by both men and women.

If a young boy starts crying, an adult will tell him that “big boys don’t cry!” This idea flows into our adult lives and many people don’t learn to express their emotions and feelings in a healthy way. I think this effects men in really obvious ways, especially when it comes to relationships. I posted an article a few weeks ago about gender differences in communication and there were so many people that didn’t realize that some of their relationship problems stem from simple gender differences. 

Why is mental health important to talk about?

For the reasons listed above, I would like to bring more awareness to how millennials are handling mental health in a time when it is thought of as weak, feminine, complicated, and “just a trend.” For the next several weeks, I’m going to share stories, experiences, and thoughts from our peers about how mental health effects their careers, families, school work, etc. If you would like to participate and share your own stories, please feel free to shoot me an email at helloprofessionalgirl@gmail.com

You have a voice, you are important, and you can make a difference. Let’s all strive to listen a little harder to what others are telling us and strive to change for the better.

MAKAYLA

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3 Life Lessons to learn while you're young

3 Life Lessons to Learn While You’re Young

When you think about your life, are you satisfied with what you’re doing right now? Are you living your life in a way that makes you feel good when you sit and think about it? We so often get bogged down in the day-to-day that the things we say are important are no longer our priorities, even if we want them to be. As Millennials, we focus so much on earning money or pursuing a degree that we forget to enjoy the journey of reaching our goals. Morrie Schwartz, the wise mentor and former professor in Mitch Albom’s Tuesdays with Morrie, spent his time embracing the most important things in life.

Through this book, Morrie teaches us life’s greatest lessons. For those of you who haven’t read my about page, I’d like you to know that this book has a special place in my heart! I am a graduate student in the Gerontology Disciplinary Program right now, which means that I study aging. I absolutely love older adults and know that they have a wealth of knowledge that comes from many years of experience. In my opinion, the bond between Mitch and Morrie is admirable and I loved learning from their friendship.

Mitch was a lot like all of us at the beginning of this book. He had been bogged down for too long in life’s trenches and had forgotten the important things. He was a workaholic and his family life was in shambles. Mitch had also lost touch with his mentor until one day he saw Morrie on the news and decided it was time to reconnect with him. At this point, Morrie was diagnosed with ALS and was in the last months of his life. With that in mind, the two men decided to have one final class together, a class about how to life your best life.

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3 Life Lessons to learn while you're young

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I think it’s important that before I talk about the main themes I found in Morrie’s lessons that you get a sense of who he was. Morrie was a man that lived his life to the fullest. He served others as a professor and deeply cared about the well-being of his students. He forgave without question. One of his favorite things in this world was dancing, and he was incredibly grateful for everything he had. This was a man we can all learn from.

The Past

A large portion of Morrie’s teachings revolved around the idea of the past. The past is an illusive concept that looks different for everyone. However, we all have things in our past that we look back on with regret. Morrie suggests that we, “Accept the past as past, without denying it or discarding it.” I absolutely loved that piece of advice, because it gives us permission to move on without burying these feelings we have. We can’t change the past, but we can use it to create a better future by learning from it.

How we live day-to-day eventually creates a life of remorse or hope. Morrie teaches that “if you’ve found meaning in your life you don’t want to go back. You want to go forward. You want to see more, do more.” Are we living our lives in a way that makes us want to move forward in hope and joy? As young people, I think the best thing we can do to honor Morrie’s advice it try new things and experience as much as we can.

Our Society

One thing that makes me love Morrie is that he spent a lot of time around young people. He taught them for years at a university, and understands the struggles we go through and how our culture has changed. He acknowledges that “the culture we have does not make people feel good about themselves.” That’s so true, isn’t it? We are in a society that encourages people to beat other people for jobs, money, houses, relationships etc. Instead, it should be a society of building each other up and competing only against ourselves. We “have to be strong enough to say if the culture doesn’t work, don’t buy it.”

Many people in our society have a sense of entitlement. They think that because they go through all of the schooling and get the right internships that they are entitled to the perfect job with a high paying salary… But that’s not the case for everyone. And some people, like Morrie, will live their lives in the best way possible and end up with a disease that robs them of fulfilling the rest of their dreams. On this subject, Morrie says,  “I don’t allow myself any more self-pity than that. A little each morning, a few tears, and that’s all.” What would the world be like if we were all like Morrie? If we faced our fears, failures, misfortunes, and heartbreaks with the same grace that he did? It would be a much better place.

Love

Throughout the book, Morrie meets with countless people in his home. He is constantly talking with others, teaching and loving them. He always welcomed Mitch with open arms and loved their Tuesday lessons. Morrie truly believed that “the way you get meaning into your life is to devote yourself to loving others, devote yourself to your community around you, and devote yourself to creating something.” He lived that way, and certainly felt fulfilled.

There is a tendency to use work or school as excuses for putting off the things that really matter. We say things like, “I’ll spend more time with family when I get this promotion,” or “I’ll go back to painting once I have enough money.” The problem with this way of thinking is that you’re putting off the things you love for things that simply don’t matter as much. Morrie reminds us that “money is not a substitute for tenderness, and power is not a substitute for tenderness.”

If you’re looking for ways to be the best you, take Morrie’s advice. Learn from a life well lived and think about your past, our society, and love in a different light.

MAKAYLA

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How Understanding Gender Differences Aids Communication

How Understanding Gender Differences Aids Communication

In honor of Valentine’s Day, the personal development book I chose for February is Why Men Don’t Listen and Women Can’t Read Maps by Barbara and Allan Pease. One giant obstacle to communication is relating to one another and understanding someone else’s point of view. That can be magnified because of gender differences that aren’t often talked about or understood.

This subject can be controversial because our society wants to paint men and women as the same, even though there are unique differences. Men are not better than women; women are not better than men. But there are differences. And although this book wasn’t my style, it still had good information that can help us understand each other better.

We Are Unique

I would like to point out that every single person on this planet is different. The things I talk about below may seem limiting, but they talk about the majority of people in each gender. I completely understand that some women will not fit every female trait and some men will not fit every male trait, because we’re all individuals! Some people do not feel as if they fall into a male or female category, and there are people all over the spectrum. However, I think this post can still be applicable to anyone that doesn’t fall into these categories. It will still allow you to learn about the way people think, and maybe help you understand your own thought processes a little better.

That being said, welcome to the third month of personal and professional book discussions! In case you missed them, here are links to December and January‘s posts. December’s post was about 5 Ways to Ensure Success, and January’s post was about How to Take Advantage of Your Twenties.

How Understanding gender differences aids communication

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There were eleven headings in this book. The headings cover a broad variety of topics including communication, sex, biology, the workplace, etc. For our purposes, I would like to focus on the aspects that help us understand how to communicate effectively with the people around us.

Compartmentalizing VS Multitasking

Have you ever seen those graphics where the inside of a man’s brain is a bunch of boxes neatly labeled, and a woman’s brain is a tangled ball of yarn? According to research done by Barbara and Allan Pease, that graphic is incredibly accurate.

Men are more likely to be able to compartmentalize their thoughts, meaning that they can separate their thoughts into categories that don’t often mix. For example, if something goes wrong at work, a man can either go to the “angry box” or the “problem-solving box.” If they choose the problem-solving box they may feel anger about the situation later, but probably not at the same time.

Women, on the other hand, are quite different. Think back to that tangled ball of yarn. Women’s thoughts and feelings are all connected. Is something goes wrong at work, we are likely to feel man, annoyed, pressure to solve the problem, a little sad that the system isn’t working the way it should, which would remind us that the dishwasher at home is broken… You get the idea.

Since our brains are wired differently, it’s easier for men to perform a single task at a time and really focus on it. For women, we are masters at multitasking and get bored if we are told to focus on one thing. Understanding this difference is important, because it gets to the root of some persistent problems in many relationships and professional settings.

Indexing VS Talking

It’s common knowledge that most women talk more than men. But did you know there is actually science to back that up? Talking about problems, thoughts, and feelings is the best way for women to get them out of our heads. I think this is one of the reasons writing in a journal is so effective as well. It physically gets the thoughts out of your mind and allows you to think about other things!

Men are the opposite. They keep their thoughts, feelings, and problems in their mind and file them away. They are more likely to take time to sit on an issue and put them on hold to think clearly about them later. I’ve found this to be true in my marriage, and it drives me crazy (even though it’s probably a good thing)! I make decisions much faster than my husband does. The good thing about this is that it allows me to think more clearly about situations too by giving it time and making sure it’s not powered by the emotions of the moment.

There methods of dealing with problems causes tension between the genders, because they are essentially opposites. When women talk about all of their problems at the end of the day, they simply want to discharge, but men think the women are giving them a list of problems to solve. The best way to handle this situation is for the woman to say, “Hey, I would love to talk to you about my day. Don’t feel like I’m bombarding you with problems to solve, I just want you to know what’s going on in my head.”

Turn-Taking VS Engaged Interrupting

One thing I’ve learned from this book that I actively try to utilize in my life is how interrupting comes off to different genders. For women, we love to talk together and nod along with what someone is saying, and “Mhm!” and “Oh, right!” while they’re talking. It shows engagement, camaraderie, and builds rapport. Which I personally love!

The problem is when women try to apply this to talking to men. Men rarely interrupt each other and only do so when they perceive another man as being aggressive or competitive. So when women try to apply the way they speak to other women, it comes off as aggressive. And when men try to speak to women the way they speak to other men, they come off as disinterested and not engaged.

Finding a middle ground and understanding that there are key differences can help us learn to communicate better. It can also help us understand why people act the way they do. Try to give everyone the benefit of the doubt, no matter what situation you’re in.

Although these categories may seem limiting, they fit the majority of people! I encourage you to put them to the test. See if adopting these tactics help you communicate better with the people around you. AND, If you’re looking for more interesting personal and professional development books, here’s a list of books to read in 2018. I hope you’ll join me in reading one every month!

Have you found any helpful, effective ways to communicate with others? Share them in the comments. We would definitely benefit from your thoughts and experiences.

Makayla

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Books personal development

5 Ways to Ensure Success

There are so many ways to better yourself professionally and personally. Reading books written by successful, well-spoken people is certainly one of those ways!

To start off my new career, I decided to read the book How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie.

The book was incredibly rich with suggestions regarding how to be successful in relationships, business interactions, and everyday communications. At first, I was so nervous to read this book. It seemed daunting to potentially change the way I communicate with people. Also, reading something and realizing, “Man, I’m really not good at X, Y, or Z” is hard, and I wasn’t sure if I was prepared for that.

Even though I had those initial concerns, I am so glad I read this book! It was enlightening, and allowed me to set goals for myself that weren’t too daunting. If you want to ensure that you’re successful in your relationships, business interactions, and everyday communications, take a look at these five points:

Be enthusiastic.

If you want to be successful, you need to be able to win people over to your way of thinking. What better way to do that than sharing your excitement and passion? This requires no manipulation or coercion on your part, it just requires your dedication and confidence in your cause. Enthusiasm makes people pay attention. It motivates them to look into your product, business, or friendship and assume that it is worthwhile. Why else would you be so enthusiastic about it?

I think this point can be especially applicable to those of you trying to start businesses and blogs. My guess is that you’ve noticed how difficult it is to get reach the audience you want, and even when you do, how to keep them interested. You certainly need to do your part and offer a great product or service, but being enthusiastic will get your foot in the door until your product can speak for itself.

Listen and be interested.

I’ve found that the best mentors, friends, and colleagues have a knack for making us feel empowered after having a conversation with them. How do they do that? One thing they undoubtedly do is listen wholeheartedly and actually take interest in what you’re saying. I think we can all agree that when we’re listened to and empathized with we feel valued and important.

I realized the importance of this principle last week when buying a new car. The first dealership we went to had a great car that I was super interested in, but it was a little out of my price range. As I talked with the dealer, he was set on his original price and would not bend at all even though there was a dent in one of the doors and the interior hadn’t been detailed. The next dealer I went to spent time getting to know me and what I was looking for in a car. He suggested multiple cars in my price range and have me both advantages and disadvantages, including how it would be able to drive across the country. This was particularly important to me since I’ll be moving this summer.

Obviously I bought a car from the second dealer, because he listened and took interest in what was important to me.

Spaces

Be agreeable.

This is a tough one for me sometimes. Most of us, even if we’re generally kind people, have an unfortunate first instinct… Which is to be disagreeable and defensive. Since this is the case, we need to try our best to think before we speak. Mind-blowing, I know. This can be especially difficult when we have completely different views from the person we’re talking to. Here are a couple tips for staying agreeable

  1. Avoid criticism. This is the exact opposite of being agreeable! When trying to win someone over to your way of thinking, you want them to know that you value them and appreciate the work they do.
  2. Focus on the things you do agree on… and reinforce those points often. Even if you disagree on some points, bringing up the points on which you agree will help you come off as the reasonable person you are.
  3. Don’t be a downer. People want to be happy, so give them a pleasant conversation that leaves them in a better mood than you found them in.

Give Praise.

In addition to being enthusiastic, agreeable, interested, and a great listener, it’s important to give praise to others. Make sure when you give compliments that you’re being sincere. Sincere praise makes people feel valued and reinforces to them that their efforts are acknowledged and appreciated.

This is a great tip for being successful in any kind of communication, even in problematic situations. For example, if you have a family member or employee that consistently has behavior problem of performs poorly, it could be beneficial to praise the things you see them do well. This will give them a desire to improve, because they will see that they can! Praising them every step of the way, even with slight improvements, and remembering not to criticize will improve help you be a more successful communicator.

It’s about them.

This point seems to go without saying, but try not to make the conversation about you. Don’t brag about your accomplishments or vent about your problems. Everyone has accomplishments they want to talk about, and everyone has burdens… And their accomplishments and burdens are much more interesting to them than yours. This may sound harsh, but it’s so true! People will get bored with you very fast if you spend the whole conversation trying to make yourself seem important. Your job, instead, should be to make THEM feel important.

Let me know how these tips go for you! Try to set some specific goals and see if your success in relationships, business interactions, and everyday communications improve. Do you agree with these points? Let me know your thoughts in the comments.

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Makayla

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