Mental health impacts every area of life. If you’re struggling with depression, anxiety, or any other mental health issue, your career is also apt to suffer. According to the CDC, poor mental health can negatively impact an employee’s professional performance. But then, you hardly need the nation’s chief public health agency to tell you that. It’s not difficult to see how mental health struggles could impair engagement, productivity, communication with coworkers, and daily functioning.
Too many people think the words “career” and “stress” are inherently synonymous, but that shouldn’t be the case. Avoiding excessive stress and other mental health challenges while excelling at your job is possible. This article reveals five strategies for deftly balancing your mental health and career.
1. Recognize When It’s Time to Seek Help
Untreated mental health disorders can damage your self-esteem, relationships, and ability to fulfill professional responsibilities. When you have constant feelings of hopelessness or sadness that interfere with your ability to function, you may have a depressive disorder. Depression is unlikely to go away without intervention. If you think you have this common condition or any other mental health disorder, consider checking into a mental health rehab facility.
You wouldn’t hesitate to go to the ER if you had a physical health emergency. Similarly, you shouldn’t be reluctant to seek professional help when dealing with a mental health emergency. Depending on the severity of your symptoms, you may just need outpatient rehab for a while. Or you may require inpatient rehab if you’re experiencing suicidal thoughts. Once you begin receiving professional care, you’ll probably feel a great sense of relief.
2. Set Boundaries
As a dedicated professional, you may find yourself adopting the attitude that you can do anything. It’s great to be driven, but not when this trait leads you to take on more than you can realistically handle. Setting boundaries at work isn’t a sign of weakness. It’s an indication that you’re responsible enough to recognize your capabilities and limitations. It’s also an important way to balance your mental health and career.
To set boundaries, start by establishing firm work hours and not focusing on professional responsibilities outside of those hours. Feeling pressured to work around the clock can be a major contributor to poor mental health. You should also learn how to say “no” when you’re asked to take on more than you can handle. You can do this in a professional way by explaining how your current workload precludes taking on more work at this time. If it’s your boss who’s overloading you, request that you sit down together to prioritize your deliverables.
3. Get Enough Sleep
Sleep and mental health go hand in hand. Up to 80% of psychiatric patients experience chronic sleep problems. Issues with sleep are commonly associated with depression, anxiety, and other mental health disorders. According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, sleep deprivation also leads to poor productivity in the workplace.
Adults should aim to get between seven and eight hours of sleep each night. To help boost sleep quality and quantity, maintain a regular sleep schedule. Avoid electronics for at least two hours before bed and increase your exposure to sunlight during the day. If you think an underlying health issue such as sleep apnea is interfering with your sleep quality, schedule a sleep study.
4. Schedule Time for Professional and Personal Development
If you want to thrive professionally and personally, you need to invest in yourself. Schedule professional and personal development outside of work so you can focus on building yourself up without distractions. For professional development, consider setting a weekly goal to improve your professional skills. This could be as simple as reading a self-help book for 15 minutes per day. Or you might take an online course to master an unfamiliar technology.
For your personal development, consider pursuing a hobby you’ve always been interested in but never had time to learn. Alternatively, you may need to take time to honestly analyze your personal relationships and create action steps to strengthen them. Personal development can also be fun and relaxed, like taking a vacation or engaging with people from different cultures. Anything that enables you to stretch and grow can be considered personal development.
5. Do a Cellphone Detox
Are you the type of person who can’t stand to spend five minutes without your cellphone? If so, you could be damaging your mental health more than you know. This is especially true if you’re in the habit of checking work emails at all hours of the day and night. The average smartphone user clicks, taps, or swipes their phone over 2,500 times per day. It’s clear that cellphones and other electronics can quickly become an obsession.
Excessive cellphone use may become a form of “avoidance coping” — that is, diverting attention to avoid dealing with stressful situations. Social media scrolling can also cause feelings of inadequacy when your life isn’t as glamorous as your friends’ social media feeds.
If your cellphone is making you depressed, it’s time to take a break from it. Start by limiting your cellphone usage in the morning, then slowly increase your time away from it throughout the day. Over time, you’ll likely notice your mental health and work performance improve without the added distraction.
Maintaining a good balance between your mental health and your career is worth every effort you make. Burning the candle at both ends may work for a while, but it will eventually cause burnout. Use the tips outlined here to make sure you’re prioritizing your mental health while pursuing your career goals.