MAY IS MENTAL HEALTH MONTH: Tips On How To "Work" Through Work
Hello, my name is Haydee and I have mental illness. I’m also blessed with the gift of being a badass wife, an awesome sister/daughter, an amazing Tita (Aunt) and a fantastic friend. And I just re-started the t-shirt line dedicated to/inspired by my culture that I founded while in college; and I churn out this blog to write as many stories as possible to remind myself and others to hug the hell out of our 40s (or whatever age they’re currently residing in).
I also have a full-time job and have had to figure out ways to steadily navigate my health trajectory while fully employed. In other words, I’ve had to find ways not to lose my shit at work, especially during tough episodes. The tips I’m listing below came from years of learning from lessons and mistakes equally, getting advice (and finally heeding them), and seeing what works for me. Some are pretty simplistic, while others might take some gumption and planning on your part. At any rate, I felt it was imperative to share them – especially at the start of National Mental Health Awareness Month.
Tips to make it work at work with MI:
· Put up inspirational quotes and photos of loved ones up in your office. There’s nothing like looking into my niece and nephew’s faces to capture a smile from me during not-so-fabulous days. Inspirational quotes, meanwhile, also give me a boost. Some might find them cheesy, but the cheesier the better. If you’re not into quotes or photos, display anything that makes you feel happy and relaxed around your work area – maybe a Dodgers foam hand or a potted plant. It’s different for everyone.
· Get some some sun/light during the day. Get your arse off that desk and try to take a walk outside (if geographically possible) to get some sun/light. At the very least, take a break and get up from your desk; say hi to officemates or take a breather by yourself. Even five minutes can make a difference.
· Find an/or become your own advocate. I’ve learned to become my own advocate in many instances regarding my mental health/care, including my legal rights because even though I’m fortunate to be surrounded by loved ones who are knowledgeable about this issue and would advocate for me, at the end of the day my care is up to me. With that said…
· Talk to HR. This could be hard for some folks to do but I made the decision long ago to be open with HR about (any changes with) my mental health if they arise. Just as I would advise them about a physical illness I may have, let’s say getting seizures; I realized it was important to be honest about this invisible ailment. This particular tip is not something everyone is keen to follow since there’s still an unfair stigma against mental illness in the workplace, but I have found it helpful for me thus far.
· Find a trusted co-worker you can laugh with, hopefully open up to, and who will let you know when they notice that you “seem out of it”. This has always served me well and I’ve been lucky enough to have met really good people who have/had my best interest at heart. Again, this is not something available to everyone, nor are people comfortable “finding” (or vetting) someone they can trust, especially regarding their health, at work. Totally understandable.
· Get someone on speed dial if you decide the last suggestion is not for you. If you can’t find someone at work you’re comfortable talking to when things are about to burst inside you, at least have one or two people ready to call outside of work you can confide in. This could be your therapist, sister, cousin, Mom, healer, butcher, whoever you trust with “you”.
· Find a private spot for moments you need to be alone. This is pretty self-explanatory. Shit, I think everyone can relate to wanting this. We all need to be in our own space sometimes. Finding and having a safe spot to clear my head during off-colored days were and has been helpful.
· Finally, I give myself a break when I need it – even a day off if/and when necessary. Ultimately, I know being healthy is the most important thing in my life and taking a needed respite is something that I shouldn’t have to feel guilty or convince myself about.
Again, May is Mental Health Month. If you or a loved one need more information regarding Mental Illness/Health, please visit NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness), which has so many resources and chapters around the country.
It also goes without saying that if you’re suffering from mental illness please remember you are not alone, nor should you ever feel ashamed (at work or otherwise).
#onedayatatime #stigmafree #mentalhealthawareness #thisisme