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 and Professionalism

Mental Health and Professionalism: An Interview

When I’m at work, I want to be perceived in a certain way. I want to be confident, competent, likable, and cooperative. Which is attainable most of the time, but there are times when I don’t feel like I can keep it together. Many people feel this way in high-stress situations. People depend on you to learn quickly perform well under all types of circumstances. But sometimes those circumstances are not the ideal environment for those struggling with their mental health.

For the past two weeks, I have shared stories, experiences, and thoughts from our peers about how mental health effects their careers, families, school work, etc. Last week’s interview was on Mental Health and Spirituality with Jessica. If you would like to participate and share your own stories, please feel free to shoot me an email at helloprofessionalgirl@gmail.com. I think it’s incredibly important that we take the time to really listen and learn from others about these vulnerable topics. It’s the only way to change the current narrative.

I am so excited to introduce Hayley this week! Hayley is my best friend from back home in Illinois. We met when I was in junior high school and for years she’s been my “brain” and my “filter” in all kinds of situations. I love her and her husband to bits and can’t wait for you guys to hear more about this topic from her perspective. In addition to her educational and occupational background, Hayley is also a dog mom to Bandit, a plant lover (especially succulents), and a former band geek. She also has a blog that you can check out here.

Hayley, What is your educational and occupational background?

I have a Bachelor of Science in Psychology and am working on a Master of Arts in Industrial Organizational Psychology and Masters in Business Administration. Currently I am a recruitment coordinator for a large company in the Chicagoland area. Previously, I was a server/bartender at various restaurants in the Chicago area as well as my hometown.

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Mental Health and Professionalism

 

Have you ever thought about mental health and how it relates to professionalism?

Until now I had not. I know that with certain mental health issues it can be hard to hold down a job. Most of my knowledge is very basic and just talks about the symptoms and very basic information about those issues, not much on living with them or how it might affect one’s career.

Do you think adequate mental health awareness/training is given in the workplace?

I think that, in general, mental health is not something that is given enough awareness or training. Those of us who have a degree in psychology or who have friends/family who have mental health problems are definitely more aware of how those issues affect people. I don’t remember if we had any training on working with individuals who suffer from mental health issues, but if we did I don’t believe that it happens often enough. I think that if we were to have more training in the workplace about these sort of things, people would be less likely to use terms like anxiety, depression or schizophrenia so flippantly.

Do you think your educational background gives you a better understanding of mental health?

Yes, in some ways I believe it does. I took many classes during my undergraduate career that gave brief insights into many mental health issues. However, I will say that my knowledge is very basic as I chose to go into a different subfield of psychology and have not gone into deeper studies of those mental health issues.

Do you use the knowledge of mental health you have learned from classes, in the workplace?

Most of the time I am working with the same people every day and those who are not my coworkers I either speak with over the phone or via email. Also, many who have mental health issues do not disclose that they have one due to the stigma surrounding them. However, I would like to think that if needed I could use some of the knowledge from my classes in the workplace.

MAKAYLA

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mental health interview

Mental Health and Spirituality: An Interview

Whether you feel that your mental health is in check or if you often struggle with it, it’s a reality of life. Every single person you know has thoughts about mental health. However, it’s true that some people admittedly have fewer thoughts about it, or may not even be able to recognize that they’re thinking about mental health. We’re taught from a young age that expressing our thoughts and feelings is taboo and that we should “push through” mental hardships.

Since this is the case, it’s honestly no surprise that as a society we don’t talk about mental health that often. But I want to change that. Luckily, I’m not the only one that feels that way! Over the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing interviews with other millennials that want to talk about this important topic. As I mentioned last week, it’s incredibly important to learn from each other. This week we’ll be hearing from Jessica about mental health, worrying, anxiety, and spirituality.

Jessica has a bachelors degree in intercultural studies, with minors in children’s ministry and social work. She has a full time job working as a Mentoring Coordinator for a non-profit Christian ministry in Indianapolis. She is also working towards her pastoral license. I met Jessica in Illinois while we were bridesmaids for a mutual friend, and let me just say, Jessica is awesome. She is unbelievably kind and fun to be around. The difficulties she’s been through have made her into a stronger person who strives to be the best she can be. With that said, let’s see what she has to say on this topic:

Have you ever struggled with mental health?

For me it’s hard to admit that I ever struggled with a mental health issue. I have come to realize that it really isn’t a bad thing. I have experience with both depression and anxiety, but I didn’t realize either of these were mental health issues. It was just another thing everyone deals with. My anxiety has gotten really bad since my mother passed away. I worry about EVERYTHING. I replay and plan out situations in my head and talk myself out of doing things in fear of what outcome could come true.

My tendency to replay situations depends on if I’m stressed and anxious. It’s not good because it causes me to worry more and have more fear. I worry what others think about me, worry about the problems that other people face, and I worry about myself. When I share these feelings I think some people may look at me differently, but I don’t ever think it’s negatively. I think it’s in a way of understanding who I am and what I have been through.

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mental health and spirituality

Do your mental health struggles ever affect your actions at work?

I do think at times that my work is affected by the mental health struggles that I deal with. I work with families in tough situations and in a cycle of poverty. Sometimes I take on their situations which causes me anxiety. I think I also have anxiety at work because of my struggle and desire to be needed, and I fear that if I don’t do a good job or mess up my boss won’t trust me or continue to give me responsibilities. I think my depression pops up here and there especially when a student I’m working with talks about a loss of a parent. My depression and anxiety tend to take over in those situations.

Do you feel like you can share these struggles with others? Why or why not?

I tend not to share my struggles because I don’t want sympathy or for others to view me differently. My close friends and coworkers know about these struggles though. I think as a pastor you’re supposed to be strong you aren’t supposed to have weakness, but I think sharing about it at times shows that no one is perfect. Sometimes life throws things at us, such as uncontrollable situations. But in those situations you could choose to just accept it and be down and weary and angry, or find hope and light in those times and not let them define you.

What resources do you use to cope with these feelings, if any?

I talk to my close friends and I practice self-care by doing things I love and enjoy (i.e., working out and running). My core support system is God and with that I have friends that surround me and lift me up. I also have a book that has helped a lot as well. It’s Called Calm My Anxious Heart. Spending time listening to podcasts, reading the bible, praying, and writing in my journal is helpful as well.

I have realized that even though I have dealt with this worry, fear, and anxiety, that the Lord is bigger than those things. I just need to give Him control of those situations and I shouldn’t worry about things because God already knows what’s going to happen and it’s all part of his plan.

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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