5 signs your mental health is suffering at work, and what to do about it

17 August 2021

Mental Health Pen

Mental health is vitally important to long term career success and personal well being. You should never ignore your mental health and understand that it is ok to talk about, if you are comfortable doing so. According to the Royal College of Psychiatrists nearly 1 in 7 people experience mental health problems in the workplace so you shouldn’t feel alone if you are suffering and should recognize the validity of what you may be feeling.

Leaving your job can be a scary prospect but if you feel that nothing can or is being done to rectify how you feel then it may be time to move on.

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Unsure if it’s time to leave? Here are the most common symptoms of job related mental health strain:

Cognitive Dysfunction

You won’t be thinking straight, literally. A stressful work situation can adversely affect your cognitive abilities according to psychologist, Dr Yvonne Thomas. This can lead to increased distractibility, decreased concentration, more mistakes, errors and make you likely to miss things.

Exhaustion

You may become edgy or irritable as a result of feeling burned out or overwhelmed. This can bleed over into your personal life, straining relationships with family and pushing away friends. You can also lose your motivation to enjoy your hobbies or activities outside of work. Despite feelings of general fatigue you may also struggle to sleep, a self perpetuating recipe for fatigue and chronic stress.

Chronic stress

Chronic stress can have a host of mental, physical and personal side effects. You may be unable to focus, things may seem foggy and hard to remember. Finishing activities or tasks can become challenging and your motivation will decrease despite the stress of deadlines to adhere to. General fatigue can set in, both mind and body, leading to you neglecting basic needs such as exercise, personal hygiene and even eating. Contradictorily you may also suffer from impulses that cause you to over eat, drink or spend excessively. Rapid weight gain or weight loss is therefore also common.

Long-term stress can also wreak havoc on your immune system, especially if you are struggling to sleep. Suzanne Segerstrom, PhD of the University of Kentucky and Gregory Miller, PhD of the University of British Columbia reviewed nearly 300 studies on the subject concluding that stress of any significant duration causes all aspects of immunity to decline.

Anxiety

The very thought of work fills you with dread. Perhaps your values do not align with the company’s or you feel ignored or pigeonholed. It’s easy to feel listless if you don’t feel like what you do matters, or lacks purpose. If you don’t leave work feeling demoralized rather than accomplished, it will negatively affect your mental health and can cause anxiety.

Anxiety can often slow down digestion, leading to constipation, bloating and pain. Conversely it sometimes speeds it up leading to diarrhoea and an uncomfortable familiarity with the nearest loo. If you suffer from stomach ulcers or IBS anxiety can worsen your condition.

Ignored in the workplace

How is your workplace treating you? Work may or may not be the source of your decrease in mental wellbeing, but how they respond to your suffering is important. If you have work related concerns that you have raised and that have been ignored time and time again, then it is time to move on.

If you have many or all of the symptoms listed and your work situation cannot be changed, cut your losses and expand your horizons. You have to recognize that you are not the crazy one, prioritise your declining mental and physical health; you only get one body so look after it!

You want to find a working environment you can blend into seamlessly, where you feel at home instead of like an alien. Engage with a wide variety of potential organisations, making sure you nail down their values and company culture before you make any decisions. If you can find that, you can get back on the road to health, happiness and success.

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