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 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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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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The Importance of Lifelong Learning

The term “Girl Boss” is fairly new. From what I can tell, there are mixed feelings about the term. On one hand, female entrepreneurs use it to empower themselves and each other to hustle harder and reach tough goals. There’s a Girl Boss hashtag on Instagram and Twitter if you want to check out some of the things young women share and accomplish. The other view is that the term is degrading to women because instead of being a “Girl Boss,” you could just be a boss. For example, you wouldn’t call a female doctor a “Girl Doctor” or a female lawyer a “Girl Lawyer,” because it doesn’t portray the same amount of respect. If you’d like to learn more about this point of view, check out this post by Rachel Hollis.

Knowing that this term was slightly controversial, I decided to pick a podcast this week that gave us an idea of what a Girl Boss was, without necessarily using that term.  I ended up choosing the Being Boss podcast by Emily Thompson and Kathleen Shannon. These two are good friends that come from different online businesses. They started this podcast together to help young women form a mindset and lifestyle that fits their entrepreneurial spirit. Their website is an excellent place to find helpful information as well.

There were quite a few things I enjoyed about this podcast, but what I enjoyed the most is how knowledgeable Emily and Kathleen are. They encourage young women to go after their goals and work hard to reach them. And make good decisions. Just because they found success one way, that doesn’t mean we all need to do the exact same things they did. Everyone has their own path to success and their own story to share.

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The Importance of Lifelong Learning

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Lifelong Learning

After listening to fifteen episodes of this podcast, there was one theme in particular I wanted to focus on. As a gerontology student, the importance of lifelong learning is constantly taught. Lifelong learning is essentially voluntarily seeking opportunities to learn throughout your life. This is a deliberate act and does not have to be a formal class or setting. It can be researching how to design a website on Google or learning to swim by practicing skills you learn from YouTube videos. I would definitely consider the hosts of Being Boss lifelong learners, because they spend their time learning from books.

These two women read so many books. So many. In the first few episodes, they recommended a bunch of really great books for us to read. I’ve complied a list of a few of them below:

#Girlboss

This book is written by Sophia Amorus, a #Girlboss who gets what she wants. Her book tells her own unique story that focuses on learning from your own mistakes and the mistakes of others. When writing this post, I came across quite a few quotes from Amorus that were hilarious and blunt.

Yes Please

I personally love the TV show Parks and Recreation. Amy Poehler is hilarious and quirky in the best way possible. Her book is a mix of advice (some helpful and some not to helpful, from that I can tell) about a bunch of different topic, spanning from personal stories to parenthood.

The Four Agreements

The author Don Miguel Ruiz uses this book to offer a way for us to transform our lives to experience freedom, true happiness, and love. The book is based on ancient Toltec wisdom. Another focus of the book is revealing the source of self-limiting beliefs. Beliefs that destroy happiness and lead to suffering. 

Is Everyone Hanging Out with Me?

Along with Parks and Recreation, The Office is AMAZING. Did you know that Mindy Kaling actually helped write material for The Office episodes? If her book is even half as funny as that show, I’m buying it right now. Mindy has worn many hats, and has a lot of life experience for being so young. And in this book she shares all her wisdom.

Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook

This is a different kind of book than the other books mentioned so far. I would recommend this book to bloggers and other online professionals. It’s all about how to tell your unique story on social media. You want social media success with killer content and a cohesive brand? This book is for you.

Daring Greatly

This book is all about gaining confidence from your vulnerability. By learning to share your weaknesses, they actually become strengths. That can be hard to do in this world that respects perfection, especially since that’s what we see on social media daily. This book can teach us how to own our imperfections. 

Rework

This is another great book for creative entrepreneurs. How many of you think, “If only I had more money, I’d start my business.” Jason Fried, the author of Rework, makes us think about that differently through his book that uses tactics that aren’t often used. For example, throwing planning out the window and getting rid of schedules.

Lifelong learning is incredibly important. Books are a really great alternative to expensive classes or courses if you want to learn about really anything! I also love podcasts and TED Talks. How do you all continue learning even after your years at university are long gone?

MAKAYLA

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