Mental Health / Self-Care

Here’s how I dealt with mental health issues at work

. 5 min read . Written by Prakruti Jhaveri
Here’s how I dealt with mental health issues at work

Disclaimer: This is an article written from personal experience, it does not endorse any specific method, tips or treatment. It is best to reach out to a professional for mental health disorders.

It’s a mundane Monday at work; you are probably creating your to-do list with your start-of-the-week song playing on the computer screen. Suddenly, you find a strange discomfort in your chest, which escalates to difficulty in breathing. While you are still trying to make sense of this, an impending sense of doom and dread fills you up.

Is this what a bout of anxiety and depression feels like? The answer is yes, in my case. I often found myself bursting out in tears in the office restroom or with shivering hands while I did a simple task of starting the computer. Next thing I knew, I was was diagnosed with latent anxiety followed by depression.

With the help of a compassionate therapist and a ton of online research, I’ve learned to accept my anxiety just as another illness.

Dealing with mental health on a personal basis was a mess already, but showing up at work and trying to be efficient along with professional and social interactions, seemed like a mammoth task. If you have felt the same way, here are a few things that helped ease my journey and deal with my mental heath at work. Hope it helps you as well.

Personal acceptance

A lot has been spoken about de-stigmatising mental health issues in popular culture and media. However, one of the biggest challenges can be accepting it ourselves. Ask yourself if you are really okay with having a mental health problem? Are you being mean to yourself simply for having an illness?

With the help of a compassionate therapist and a ton of online research, I’ve learned to accept my anxiety just as another illness, like PCOS or malaria. This was not easy, but the day I turned around and faced my mental health, I felt a lot calmer. I could go into work with almost 50 percent less fear than earlier. Also, remember, it’s not just you! One in five Indians may suffer from depression in their lifetime, that’s equivalent to 200 million people.

Keep calm and work on

How do you ensure that this doesn’t largely affect your work? There are plenty of techniques that your therapist and friends will share with you, but the truth is you need to find your rhythm.

Spend time to identify your triggers and calming aspects at work. Often, simple things like sitting down and taking a sip of water can help calm you down. For me, the following things work:

You cannot be fired or harassed for this; it is just like another chronic disease.

  • Making to-do lists: Witch each completed tasks, no matter how small, I felt positive and got the motivation to keep going.
  • Distracting myself: A change of place like going to a different floor, or getting up from your seat and walking over to your colleague’s desk, or watching a dog video on social media, can work as great distractions techniques to help you snap out of those dark thoughts.
  • Breathing: This was my mantra: take breaks, hydrate and breathe. Trust me, it really helped.
  • Find something to do: When my anxiety or depression was at its peak my hands would get shaky and I would start getting restless. During these times using my body or hands in some activity helped. I started with simply doing paper folds at work. I even tried yoga stretches, short walks around the cubicle and sometimes even a bit of dance or jump in the washroom (it’s weird but worth it).

Communicate with your boss and team

If you have depression and anxiety, it is vital that you tell your superior about it, so they know what to expect. However, it doesn’t come without its fears and risks. As you get ready to talk to your team, be prepared to face some adverse reactions or worse still, humour. While social media has spread awareness about mental health, some people still take these things lightly or disregard it entirely. Use the bit-by-bit approach if you are unsure about how they will react. Start with learning their thoughts on the matter, by working up the issue in general conversations, and then speak about your issues.

If you have a therapist or a doctor treating you, it helps to have a written note from him or her. This adds solid credibility to your situation especially if you have unfriendly colleagues.

Also, know that you should not be fired or harassed for this; it is just like another chronic disease. Seek HR support before disclosing your issue to the team, if you find them to be hostile. Don’t hesitate to speak to higher management if needed.

Talk to your team about emergencies

If you have been prescribed medication keep it handy, else keep a list of things or mantras that calm you down. I have written out exactly what needs to be done in case of an anxiety attack and all my friends, family and colleagues know about this list. For instance, physical contact and cold water calm me down, but often anxiety patients hate being touched. So, create a tailor-made list which acts as your emergency medication.

If you have hostile colleagues, inform the office boy or the HR person, you are sure to find someone in and around the office to help you in extreme situations.

Having lived through each of these steps, I know how difficult it can be to deal with even a small task like sending an email. However, I can promise you, fighting this is worth every second. I still suffer from anxiety, but I can safely say – I know how to manage it so as to keep my work out of it.

I urge you to seek help if you are suffering, but I do also hope my professional journey and learnings help you. All the best, stay strong and remember to breathe!

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