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How to manage work with a mental health condition

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Written by Joanne Murray | Updated 02 October 2019
Next Review 25 September 2020

Managing a mental health condition at work can be really challenging. We can feel we have to ‘perform' at work, not just in terms of our productivity but by hiding our feelings and putting on a professional ‘face'. It's hard to show our vulnerable side and even more so if you're a manager. Work may also be the underlying cause of mental health problems including depression and anxiety. Holding down a job while dealing with tiredness and the physical toll of mental health conditions can become a vicious cycle. So what can you do to help make things easier?

Talk to someone

Opening up to a work colleague and someone you consider a friend can help alleviate your feelings and normalise conversations about mental health. They may have a different perspective or advice about how to cope with problems that you hadn't considered before. Be clear if you want your chat to remain strictly confidential and continue to open up to them about how you are feeling.

Take breaks as self care

Make sure you take your full lunch hour and take frequent breaks from your screen or immediate working environment. Book meetings and organise tasks so that they don't interfere with this protected time and be clear to others that this time is important to you.

Ask for support

Don't suffer in silence if you struggling with your work and finding it hard to cope. If you have a good relationship with your line manager, tell them that you need support and think in advance about some interventions that might help you. This could be relaxing deadlines, reducing your workload, reduced hours or relinquishing some responsibilities. Think about the things you feel comfortable with. If you prefer, talk to HR and raise your concerns. Many companies offer occupational health support and they may offer to fund some short-term therapy via findatherapist.co.uk.

Say no

Don't be afraid to set your boundaries and say no when demands are unrealistic or unreasonable. Offer a solution or compromise but avoid promising or agreeing to do something which will increase unnecessary pressure on yourself. A good line manager will help and support you to maintain a healthy workload.

Switch off

We all find it hard to switch off and this can be even harder if work is the source of your unhappiness, it can sometimes feel like there is no escape. Maintain a good work/life balance by not checking or responding to emails outside work. Plan your week ahead pencilling a variety of activities from going to the gym, seeing friends or just going for a walk in the evening. Having things to focus on and look forward to will provide some motivation and help take your mind off work.

Make an appointment with your GP

If your mental health is making day to day life difficult and feelings of low self esteem or being down continue to persist, go and see your GP. There is a range of support they may advise from medication to taking a longer-term break from work.

The opinions in this article are those of the author and not findatherapist.co.uk.