It's no secret that I, like many other black millennials, struggle with mental health. I have dealt with anxiety and depression for years. It never (drastically) affected my school work, however it really affected me when I started my career. I had a job I didn't enjoy, under a manager I didn't enjoy, in a place I didn't enjoy. At my lowest, I thought some of the worst things that I don't dare repeat or write out. Thankfully, I was able to get help and get well. I did so by following some of the steps outlined below.
Check your benefits
Depending on your job, you might be able to request an accommodation for your condition. If your health is preventing you from working at full capacity, then you should reach out to HR to explore this option. For example, if you suffer from ADD and have trouble working for long periods of time, you might be eligible for an accommodation that would allow you to take more frequent breaks every couple of hours. In my experience, your employer will require a letter from a physician explaining your condition and the accommodations requested. Keep in mind that the federal government considers mental health to be a disability. Legally, your employer is not able to discriminate against youfor disclosing your mental health status or the need for an accommodation. Do not be afraid to contact HR to request modifications to your job duties and work environment.
Get some help
It's extremely difficult to tackle mental health disorders without professional help. This can be from a licensed therapist and/or a psychiatrist. Look for a therapist who practices Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, not just venting sessions.
Likewise, you should explore finding a good psychiatrist to follow your treatment. A good psychiatrist will not only find the right medication, but also have therapy sessions and diagnose other underlying conditions that you might not know about. Personally, I struggled until I found both a therapist and psychiatrist. I see my psychiatrist weekly and my therapist bi-weekly (it was weekly at one point).
It was really important for me to find a therapist who could relate to me. My first therapist once questioned my thoughts about the lack of diversity and advancement for black people in the workplace. I knew then that I needed to see someone who could understand the nuances of black womanhood, in and out of corporate America. Yet I ruled off therapy anyway. I figured I didn't need it if that was what it was going to be like. It was not until my depression and anxiety got really bad a few months later that I decided to take action.
Thankfully, I found a great therapist at a practice tailored toward people like me.There are a lot of therapists who focus on underrepresented groups such as people of color, LGBTQIA, etc. If you claim one or more of those identities, I suggest you find a specialized therapist like I did. It made my experience and treatment process so much more effective. When it came to choosing a psychiatrist, I went with a recommendation a friend had given me. My psychiatrist was excellent at diagnosing and treating my disorders; he gave me the correct medicine with the right dosage and I had very minimal side effects. Ask people you trust for recommendations on therapists and psychiatrists. You can also ask your primary care doctor for a psychiatrist recommendation.
Practice self-care daily
Practicing self-care on a daily basis is something that my therapist taught me. No, you don't have to get a fancy massage or treat yourself to a steak dinner every night. Who has the money for that anyway? You can incorporate small things that you look forward to into your daily routine. For example, taking 30 minutes of your day to read your favorite book of poems or unplugging every night at a certain time. The point of self-care is to look forward to something delightful, not for it to feel like a chore. You can check out more ideas about practicing self-care here.
Try alternative methods
Disclaimer: trying alternative methods is not meant to replace any of the above, it is simply meant to supplement. Got that? Supplement, not replace. Now that we got that out of the way, there are a plethora of alternative therapeutic actions that you can take to supplement (in case you missed it) your mental health routines.
This includes but is not limited to: yoga, exercise, exploring creativity (art, music, dance, etc.), and floating. You've probably heard of all of those except maybe floating. It's when you lay in a big bathtub or tank full of warm water and salt. For an hour. With nothing but your thoughts. It allows for a lot of introspection and meditation like you've never experienced before. There is no feeling like the high that you feel after completing a float session. I first tried floating at Bloom Wellness in Ann Arbor, MI. It's a truly magical experience and I recommend that everyone try it.
If you go to therapy, you will probably be able to identify the cause of your disorder(s). It could be a relationship, family, job, financial situation, etc. You will either have to find coping mechanisms or remove the trigger from your life. If it's your job, we've already discussed pursuing an accommodation.
What if that doesn't work? What do you do then? In my situation, my job was making me stressed and unhappy. I did all of the above and I was still unhappy. I felt better emotionally and mentally, but I still could not even pretend to like my job. So I decided to leave. It was not an easy decision. I still have doubts. However, I decided that I value my mental health and happiness over a job, person or situation. That sounds a bit idealistic, but it's my truth. This decision isn't one that everyone will be able to make. I do not expect a person with expenses and children to just quit their job.
Nonetheless, I do encourage people to prioritize their happiness and mental health. You don't necessarily need to stop working the moment you start feeling anxious or depressed or experience mania at work, but you can begin to look for other positions inside and outside of your company that will be less triggering for you. Your happiness matters. Your mental health matters. You matter.I hope this helps provide some advice about dealing with mental health at work. Please comment and share about your experience with mental health disorders and coping with them in the workplace.