Managing mental health while working at a 9-5 is insanely hard. To preface this article I want to clarify something.
This article will primarily address semi-professional and professional positions. Many of the solutions found here will not necessarily apply to those working in the retail or service industry due to difficulty in schedule and lack of insurance or payment.
I’m super sympathetic to that situation, so if you or someone you know is working in one of these positions and managing their mental health, please share or post any tips you have in the comments or via e-mail/DM!
Managing mental health while working a 9 to 5 is challenging, but doable. Everyone’s situation and opportunity are different but the below tips are things that both my wife and I take advantage of, and should be accessible to most workers in a semi-professional or professional position.
Be upfront and candid with your employer when you’re hired.
When looking for and interviewing for a new job, there is a ton of nervousness and questions running through your mind. First and foremost is often, “How will I be able to maintain my treatment and therapy schedules with this job?”. The answer to this for me and many others is simple, insist that you maintain it.
When I was interviewing for my current job, I was very clear, both before and after the offer. I had a weekly appointment with my therapist at the same time and in the same place. I would need accommodations from work in order to make this appointment each week. All I needed was the ability to flex my time and make it up later in the day. By being straightforward and upfront with your employer from the get-go, you are able to ask for, and receive, what you need.
Most employers will be more than happy to work with you, especially as a weekly therapy appointment, or an extra long lunch twice a month are easy accommodations to make. However, if you’re employer isn’t willing to work with you, that’s where point 2 comes in.
Know Your Rights
The second thing you need to do, especially if your place of employment is being less than accommodating, is to know your rights. Some of the most common mental health conditions are a major depressive disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, or PTSD. These are all conditions that can qualify you for FMLA (Family Medical Leave of Absence) treatment.
FMLA is a type of leave mandated by the US federal government that ensures that if you or a family member suffers from either a short or long term disability (and don’t be fooled, Mental Health Conditions are disabilities worthy of treatment) that you can receive up to 12 weeks of leave from work each year without having to worry about your job.
While health protections in the US are scarce, FMLA is a great tool that you should take full advantage of at all times. Mental health conditions often require days off from work or time missed for therapy, resting, general recuperation and more.
When your doctor signs off on your FMLA paperwork and describes the accommodations that you need, you are able to take all the time you need without fear of any repercussions from your employer.
To take advantage of FMLA benefits, please consult with your HR representative or manager.
Take Time For Yourself
As someone who struggles with a combination of chronic self-esteem issues, a need to please everyone around me, and an insatiable drive to overwork myself, taking time for myself and my needs is very difficult.
I struggle with 3 main mental health conditions, Major Depressive Disorder, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, and PTSD. All 3 of these combined with the stresses of a job, marriage, and friendships are a big drain on my mental energy and ability to function over time.
Similar to a computer your brain’s cache fills up over time and runs slower. The stresses of everyday living plus any mental health condition you have, and the strain of treatment and growth wear down everyone. So a key part of managing your condition is to take time for yourself.
This means setting aside time, at least once a month, where you do nothing but rest and do something that brings you joy. I recommend taking the day off work to do it. Often our weekends are filled with obligations and social pressures that, despite bringing joy and happiness to our lives, drain our limited mental energy and prevent our minds from recuperating.
Take a day off work. Do not schedule appointments or errands. Don’t clean your house or apartment.
Just. Focus. On. You.
Sleep in, or get up early, whatever feels natural. Sit in your PJs or dress up. Give your mind and body the rest it needs. Watch a movie, read a book, have lunch with a friend. Do whatever relaxes you and makes you happy, but do not think about work, bills, responsibilities, etc. All of that will be there the next day, but by giving yourself the time to rest, you will be better able to handle all of these things in an effective way.
Managing mental health is a daily task that never ends, and that’s ok. Managing your mental health while working a 9 to 5 is a task on a completely different level and the methods in this article are neither all-inclusive nor even the best ways from some people.
Based on my experience, these are the 3 best ways to begin managing your mental health, but there are several more. Do what works for you in the most healthy and effective way possible, and whatever you do, don’t judge yourself. Everyone struggles and everyone does the best with the skills and knowledge you have at the time.
Caleb is a Storyteller, Marketing Expert, Business Owner, Husband, and Streamer. He has a B.A in English and Creative Writing from Augustana University in South Dakota, has successfully graduated from DBT Skills group and has become a Twitch Affiliate. After being diagnosed with genetic cancer at age 10 he ventured down a path of substance abuse, depression, anxiety, PTSD, and a myriad of surgeries, that culminated in brain surgery and full mental breakdown in September of 2015. This led to his journey in self-discovery, DBT, solidifying his love for his wife, and growing into a better man and husband than he thought was possible.