Taking a break from work for your mental health can be necessary. After all, what are you without your mind?
The harder part is coming back to work after a mental health crisis.
Once you do find yourself ready to work again, there are steps you can take to make the transition easier and help maintain your mental health. Here are some tips from mental health experts and advocates:
1) Seek out help from professionals and stick with them to maintain good mental health.
You may be tempted to do it all on your own, but having the knowledge and support from mental health professionals, such as a psychologist and psychiatrist, may be necessary for you to continue functioning at a level where you can go to work.
For example, Gabrielle Loehr, the founder and CEO of Mindful Living Today, takes medication and works with a life coach. She makes sure to do this as part of the process of taking care of herself, and it has helped her break out of a mental health crisis.
2) Focus on the positive.
It can be helpful to think about future goals and think less about what happened in the past. Loehr works with a psychiatrist and life coach to focus on where she is trying to go in life, versus focusing on the hurtful situations she has gone through.
As a result, one of the goals of her coaching company is to help spread kindness and provide actual solutions to help prevent people with mental health issues from suffering as much and as long as she did in her past.
3) Take care of yourself.
There are multiple ways to accomplish this. It’s just a matter of realizing that you are not selfish for taking care of yourself, Loehr said. However, women tend to put others first and skimp on self-care.
Some options for self-care include getting enough sleep, eating nutritious foods such as high-quality protein and vegetables, exercising on a regular basis, and keeping in contact with friends and family.
4) Keep your mental health and crisis issues private at work.
Although co-workers may ask questions after your return, it’s your right to keep all details private, according to Candice Conroy, a mental health therapist at Let’s Talk! Counseling and Services.
It’s important to keep healthy boundaries. That includes deciding how and when to share information about yourself with others, especially when it involves a crisis experience.
5) Start the work process gradually.
Stress and pressure may have been triggers for your previous mental health crisis, so ease back into work this time, said Conroy. You can do this by setting reasonable limits at work between you and your boss.
6) Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
Conroy pointed out that crisis situations tend to happen when a person feels overwhelmed, alone, helpless and powerless. Reach out to friends, family or even a support group to share how you’re feeling.
7) Maintain a healthy work-life balance.
If your main priority is work, you may spend long hours working. It can take over your thoughts to the point where your mental health is put on the back burner, Conroy said.
Make sure to make “me” time and prevent a work-life imbalance, which could set off a new mental health crisis.
8) Don’t get off your medication just because you’re feeling better.
If you’re taking medication to help keep your mental health in balance, it’s tempting to go off medication once you’re feeling fine.
However, it’s necessary to talk to a mental health professional prior to making any sudden changes to medication, Conroy said.
Bad symptoms can come back quickly if you stop taking medication, which can be overwhelming, and sometimes lead to another crisis.
9) Use your time wisely for treatment.
Although you may be feeling guilty about the time you’re taking off, use those emotions as motivation to work with a mental health professional to get better, said Natasha Tracy, a mental health writer and speaker.
Tracy knows from experience. She took time off at a job with a stressful work environment due to suffering from a bad episode of bipolar disorder, and was able to return to work after about six weeks.
10) Don’t be afraid to take time off when you need to in the future.
Keep in mind that taking time off work to battle with a mental illness is no different from taking time off to recover from a condition that affects other parts of the body, Tracy said. Taking a break from work doesn’t mean that you’re weak or a bad employee.
Reviewed May 30, 2016
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith
Loehr, Gabrielle. Email interview. May 19, 2016.
Conroy, Candice. Email interview. May 19, 2016.
Tracy, Natasha. Email interview. May 26, 2016.