#MHAW16 - How not to be Overwhelmed by Work

From printable leaflet via the Mental Health Foundation

My mental health journey started with my transition from University and into the working world. I went from drawing more and more inward while I was unemployed to finding a job, feeling that high of accomplishment, and quickly becoming overwhelmed. Not that I hadn't worked before, but just that there was always the constant of school to ground me in something comfortable, and to satisfy the part of me that needs validation. Suddenly everything was different, I had nothing to weigh my self-worth on except this job I didn't even like, and it felt like all the things I loved before then were eluding me and would do so forever.

I felt like I had nothing to relieve the pressure from me, so I cracked. And while that low point helped me progress, not everyone might be so lucky. There are quite a few things I know and have now which stop me being overwhelmed by my working life, some of which may be complete common sense to you. Still, I had no idea then and maybe some of you have no idea now.

(Note: of course, the number one solution is to find a job you love, but of course this just isn't an option for everyone. Not only that, but even the work you love can get stressful!)

1. Keep people around you that love you

from printable leaflet via the Mental Health Foundation
I went out less and less as time went on because I always felt drained. I would flake out on going to meet friends or make up excuses because I had this constant feeling of exhaustion and just wanted to be in bed by myself, or with my partner at the time. Of course he supported me, he was the person that suggested to me that I might need to see a doctor about my anxiety, but shutting myself off from all the other people around me in an attempt to "rest" only made my life more stressful. I was always at work or thinkig about work, so I never really got to relax but having friends to vent to and look forward to seeing and to support you is a great way to actually give you more strength and energy.

Also, having people around you is great but if those people are adding to your negative feelings more than they are helping you move in a positive direction...consider letting those people out of your life. Know the difference between people that tell you things you don't want to hear but need to, and people who tell you things you don't want OR need to hear. Get rid of the latter.

2. Prepare for work the night before

Part of the reason I would get so stressed even before I started my shift was that I was rushing to find my uniform, get my lunch together, make breakfast, shower, do my hair, and get all my things together in the morning before work. That as well as keeping an eye on the time so I'm not late for my bus and all the while milling over all the things I'm probably going to have to do at work and desperately not wanting to go in. If I wake up with my anxiety at a 2, it's already at a 5 by this point. Add morning public transport to the mix and I'm already over halfway to breaking point by the time I step through the doors. Take some of the pressure off by getting as much as you can ready to go the night before, so you can wake up and move at a less frantic pace.


3. Eat Breakfast

cereal
'cereal'  by plkakaka via Flickr
My initial way to combat this was to remove whole chunks from my morning routine, one of those chunks being havig breakfast. Poor idea, because all it does is make me super hungry so I eat even more later, making it harder for me to lose weight, or it makes me hungry and tired and irritable. So while I have a small amount of time added to my morning this is counteracted by added stress from not eating properly.

4. Get up Early

After a while I was barely a person when I got up for work. I would peel myself out of bed at the lastest time possible, shower for as long as I could manage, wouldn't eat, would barely do anything to my face or hair, and just about managed to exist before I got home and crashed again. Doesn't that sound miserable? That's because it was, and honestly the way I've fixed it is by waking up even earlier and going to bed earlier too. Now I have time in the morning to get everything done at the pace I would like, leaving me space to get into to work with a minimal amount of anxiety so I don't immediately feel burned out.


5. Have a hobby

Elijah
'Elijah' by Clemente De Muro via Flickr
Even during university I had started to slowly trim away at all the things I did for fun. First year I was constantly writing poetry, I went to open mics, I started a band, I was trying to make music and craft stories and a whole bunch of creative things. As I focused more on school those things fell away, or other commitments made it more difficult for me to hold onto them. By the time I really needed those outlets as a way to relieve stress and find validation and joy in something else I was afraid of them. I had been away for too long or I wasn't good enough, mostly I just convinced myself that there was no time for me to engage in anything fun. However, the more you egage in things outside of work that inspire or excite you the more energy you actually have to go in and get work done. Inactivity is a sure fire way to prolong depressive episodes and make you even more exhausted.


6. Stay active

Kickboxing Class
'kickboxing class' from MartialArtsNomad.com via Flickr

Working out, opting to walk to work or walk home rather than getting public transport if possible. All of these are good ways to get your blood flowing, get your mind awake, and fight off that stagnant, claustrophobic, depressive feeling. Classes or taking up a sport can also be a way to mix five and six into one active package. Take up kickboxing so you can literally kick depression's ass!

7. Don't agree to do everything

Now this I still often struggle with myself: the fear of saying no. For me, and many others like me, the fear of the potential reprocussions of saying no to a task you're given at work can be monumental. Even if it's something we aren't necessarily comfortable or confident in, or something we have no time to do. Know that often times it's much easier to express your discomfort and see if another solution can take place, and even if that results in a negative outcome it's still not the end of the world. You do not have to do anything that you aren't comfortable with or you don't think you can execute without more training. Everything will be okay, and you will feel lighter because you stood your ground.


8. Find a productive Mindfulness Bell

I talk about these a lot, I know, but it's only because I have found them so infinitely useful. They could be absolutely any action, and you decide to associate it being mindful. Ideally something that causes you to move in a certain way or say a certain phrase so you can associate those things with thinking about the present and being aware of evrything around you in that moment. Before I even knew what mindfulness bells were, I was able to will myself into making the act of jobsearching a relaxing exercise. I would think of it as a way to escape my situation at the time, and from that perspective it was something necessary and exciting so I was able to approach it with far more enthusiasm. Give it a go, see which action you can turn into a trigger for calm. Maybe even mix it with one of the earlier steps for two de-stressers in one!

Hopefully there was some advice in this applicable to you, and if not definitely let me know why! I always love feedback on my blog so I can improve it and create a much more useful environment for you and me also. I hope you're having a wonderful Mental Health Awareness Week, and please don't overwork yourselves.


Mindfulness

Jacqueline Atta-Hayford