Warning signs at work

At work, it is so easy to stay in your own bubble or to stay close in a tight ‘work squad’ and forget about other people. Do you ever take time to think about the people around you?

That person you think is being a ‘bitch’ or that person who’s always negative or quiet might be going through something whether in their personal or professional life. It doesn’t hurt and it doesn’t cost you anything to ask that person if they’re ok or if they might want to join you for lunch sometime. People always think what if and think they could have done more when it is too late. If you see signs that someone isn’t doing well, don’t stand back and wonder, step in and ask. A common sign would be a change in behaviour or someone becoming standoffish. Another common sign could be someone who is usually loud or constantly talking as that could be a coping mechanism; a way of taking their mind of what is happening in their life. People who suffer from mental health or have difficulties may keep things hidden especially at work. If you are someone who is not comfortable approaching someone that you don’t know, you can send them information via email of any mental health awareness news, posts or events that are coming up at work.

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Distance yourself from bad vibes

Sometimes with mental health we tend to distance ourselves from people; usually the ones who care about us the most. We’re too fixated on our worries, stress and negativity to think about whether the people we do keep around are the problem.

I’ll happily admit I’ve cut close friends out of my life purely because I recognised they were no good. Friendships & relationships needs to work both ways. If you’re with someone who doesn’t ask how you are doing, calls just to check up on you or only talks about themselves, you need to question what’s the purpose of this. Depending on where you’re from, taking me (a British) for example, we don’t always like confrontation, dealing with frustrating situations or not being liked however, if you have someone in your life who isn’t bringing food to the table, simply send them away from your house (not literally but I think you get the point). I’ve had friends, even an ex who were so wrapped up in their own world and superficial behaviour that they didn’t realise I too was generally going through situations in which I needed support. When we are depressed or anxious we don’t want people to worry or feel sorry for us so we don’t make a big deal or say ‘look guys I’m depressed’ but someone real and meaningful in your life should be able to see a shift in your behaviour or even in your expressions, lifestyle and appearance.  Due to this, if you see a friend that is usually dressed to the nines and suddenly stops caring about their hair, or getting dressed up for a night out, just sit that person down and have a 1 to 1; see if they open up to you and trying to have a heart to heart.  

In whatsapp group chats there is usually one person in the group you’re closest too, or the loud one, the one with all the banter, the one with the gossip, the one who replies every 5-7 working days, the meme one and the one who reads but ‘forgets’ to reply. It’s very easy to act okay and to have a good time together but there’s no harm in opening a direct conversation with someone in the group if you pick up on something they said within the conversation that didn’t sit well with you. Sometimes people in group conversations can be indirect or like me quite passive aggressive. Check on your strong friend.

The thing with certain friends, especially the loud or the gossip is that you may question their intentions. The gossip could easily spread your business and the loud could easily make the situation about them. If there’s someone in your circle you don’t trust or can’t rely on, cut them out. If there sometimes there, sometimes not- cut them out. If you feel you’ve out grown the friendship- that’s right, you cut them out. Sounds harsh and rude but honestly, it’s a breath of fresh air to get rid of bad vibes. I’ve known people for many years and have outgrown friendships and acknowledge I’m better off without them. If I can’t confide in you and rely on you to help me get out my bad mood or to at least support me as a distraction then there’s really no time to entertain this. Sometimes it’s the people you’ve known for less time that become really good friends and its usually down to maturity and the stage in life you’re at.

Its not always friends that could be a problem. In the black community, especially within older generations (our parents, grandparents, more on) they don’t acknowledge mental illness as a thing. You must get up and continue with life, no point crying over spilled milk. The older generation believe we’re just lightweights and that they’ve been to hell and back so whatever we are going through isn’t that bad. Truth of the matter is, this world hasn’t become easier, everyday they’re constantly struggles. Culture sometimes stands in the way of treatment. In addition, seeking professional help, statically its hard to find a black professional in this field or if you do go to a Caucasian professional, would they truly understand your issues? It really depends on their experience.  I don’t think my professional understood that you can’t always just walk into a black household, sit down and openly talk about your feelings. In addition to family, your partner could have an impact.  Not everyone will have the most supportive, affectionate or understanding. How they help you deal with your mental health will determine whether they deserve a place in your life; unfortunately, you may love someone but its not always enough. Toxic behaviours and love could be one of the reasons you are feeling worried or stressed or depressed in the first place. If this is the case there are multiple reasons why you may not want to let go: fear of being alone, thinking you’ve found the one, thinking this is what you deserve, embarrassment or ending a relationship, the list goes on. However, when it comes to doing what is best for you, you need to be selfish and what’s best only  for you. Bearing this in mind, picture your life without the emotional and mental affect of this person. Think about the benefits of losing that negativity. You won’t automatically start feeling better, but you develop as a person and get to a stage in life were you will wonder why you put up with them in the first place. If you have to tell someone in your life to take a step back or to leave you for good, do you and maybe with maturity and time they will understand why.

Is this the road to recovery?

When I met with the professional, from beginning to end I was encouraged to think about recovery (clinical recovery). I did not agree with this at all but I carried on with what was required of me to complete the sessions. Clinical recovery is what professionals see as the end goal, it’s them acknowledging that they’ve helped you with your mental illness and think you are healed enough to continue in the real world without their assistance anymore. Over a year later I decided to do volunteer work within mental health; we discussed recovery and as a group of people who have all experienced some type of mental health issue, we overall agreed recovery does not exist.

There’s clinical recovery but there’s also personal recovery which is defined as building a happy and healthy life around mental health. That is doable but I say recovery doesn’t exist as I would define that as development. Not everyone goes back to being the person they once were and not everyone wants to be the person they once were. Due to bad memories or a negative outlook on life, why would someone want to go back to that headspace? Professionals never look at our goals simply as us wanting to be happy and healthy- that is it. We go to therapy, try new things, try to get out of negative environments in order to become a ‘new person’, the person we wanted to be the whole time. If someone suffers from anxiety and doesn’t like to leave their house, with help from my service, family, friends, anything that helps them change when they begin to make progress, this is not recovery. If anything I would consider it as a rebirth. The old, negative, stay at home you dies and the new, trying, motivated, getting out the house you begins to live and has a different perspective on life.

Recovery could be perceived for someone who has had a tragic experience, suffers from low moods and slowly but surely recovers back to their old self, however, after a tragic experience no one is truly the same and ‘back to normal’. When volunteering we were made to look at the Recovery Tree and think about all the elements in life that could help us improve. This is looking at strength, peer support, dreams, choices and many more.  Then we looked at relationships, hobbies, all the things we do and don’t do or would like to do. For example, I may like culture and history but not go to Museums like I would like to do. That is a relationship and social tasks I could work on in order to build on myself (confidence, anxiety, stress). The Recovery Tree is more of a development cycle.

In conclusion, don’t think of recovery as the end goal, think about what you want to achieve as the main goal. My personal opinion is we shouldn’t use the word recovery. It’s not a thing. In conversation, you wouldn’t say “Tom was depressed but he has recovered now”. I’m most likely to say “Tom was depressed but he’s out and about, looking better, eating better and I’m happy for him”. That’s not recovery, that’s healing and making way for a change…development.

Work-Related Stress

“If it wasn’t for my team I don’t know how I’d survive”.

That’s a saying I’ve heard from so many around me and I’ve said too many times myself.

Whether you are part-time, 9-5 or a manager of your own company, we’ve all experiences work stress at some point but the question is, how has it affected you?

When I am worked to the bone I keep going for months then all of a sudden I’d wake up one day and say “I can’t today”. I’d lay in bed for 40mins thinking about how drained am I. My body shuts down; I get flu-like symptoms and the thought of getting up and going to work makes me sick. After 2 days I’ll feel back to my usual self and re-energised. This happens once or twice a year due to the busy environments I’ve worked in. I am not alone. I’ve known people to gain acne, rashes, sleepless nights and much more due to the pressures of working life. On top of work stress, we sometimes feel judged for taking annual leave or taking a sick day; adding more stress to the situation. Work-related stress creeps up on us in different ways, however, it’s about how we deal with it.

I was stressing over a role and industry I had no interest in. The stress of my manager, other employees and the daily tasks overall was unbearable. On top of that, I was putting pressure on myself to move jobs and begin my desired career. Due to putting up with this stress for so long I decided to stop working completely, for a month; enough was enough. Bearing in mind I’ve been in constant work since I was 17 and now I’m 25, it was hard to switch off and just do nothing. I got into part-time work that allowed me to pick my hours and I took up volunteer work. I stopped applying for jobs and looking at job sites. From this break I can honestly say I’ve never felt better; I became more focused on me and my health. Yes, I was anxious to wake up every morning without a job but I was also relieved and excited because I was open to opportunity and change.

Recommendations:

  • Try to leave work at work- As soon as you leave work, focus on you. If there’s work you have not completed, don’t dwell on it; work is not the end all. Go home, run a bubble bath, connect with friends/family/partner(s) and deal with it tomorrow.
  • Fight for your annual leave- Sometimes it’s a struggle to get the days you want or you are unable to take annual leave due to a busy period at work however don’t let this stop you. Read through your contact, speak to HR if needed and make sure you make use of what work offers and make sure you know your rights in terms of annual leave and working hours.
  • Unwind- Don’t be someone who gets into the pattern of work and sleep. Being outdoors whether you are casually walking around town or cycling around the park has huge mental health benefits. If being outdoors is not your thing…do what you love. If you love spending your weekend playing video games, watching movies, cooking; make sure you put time aside for this.
  • Talk about it- Sometimes we love a good rant. I literally feel a weight lifted off my shoulders when I rant. I strongly advise you don’t rant to your manager or anyone you work with but, talk to your friends/family/partner(s) and let off some steam. Never bottle up your feelings otherwise you may turn into a walking timebomb at work. If the situation at work is bad and you want advice, talk to HR or occupational health, they are there for a reason.

Work is a replaceable element, always put your health first!