Getting Back to Work after a Mental Health Absence
When you break a bone, are involved in some sort of accident or find yourself suffering with a physical illness it is often a lot easier for your colleagues to know what to say when you return from your extended absence. However, those of us who are returning back to work after mental health issues or due to a mental breakdown can find it a lot more difficult to settle back into our old routines, whilst those of us who are starting a new job after a period of mental illness can find the prospect almost impossible.
Getting back to “normal” life after suffering a mental health break down can be hugely beneficial towards your recovery. It provides a reason for many people to get out of bed and have a purpose, puts us back into a normal routine and often takes away a lot of financial pressure – especially after a period of sick pay or lowered income.
Speak to your Boss
Whilst your boss may be fully aware of why you took an extended absence, it can be extremely beneficial to have a one on one conversation with them to help them to understand more about your condition and to help reassure them that you’re ready to come back to work. Having that conversation and taking away the taboo can give your boss – if you want them to – the chance to explain to your team a little about what to expect when you return, as well how to help you when you do.
A huge stressor for many people at work is the pressure of reaching deadlines, sticking to budgets and generally putting out fires to make sure nothing goes wrong – no matter what career you’re in. Forward planning your week and scheduling time to fit everything in can not only help you to better manage your time, but take away the stress of doing something you forgot at the very last minute and help you find more time to focus on taking a little time for you. Before you go to sleep at night have your outfit or uniform already laid out, ensure there is milk in the fridge for your morning tea, charge your telephone and leave the house keys on a hook next to do the door to help prevent extra morning stress before you even leave the house.
Fitting in the gym alongside being a full-time employee, running a home, looking after children and generally living everyday life – especially when you’re getting back on your feet after a long period of time off – for most people is impossible but keeping active doesn’t need to take away from your time. Take the stairs instead of the lift, go for a 20-minute walk on your lunch break or try to cycle into work once a week – all of these activities will help encourage the release of “the happy hormone” endorphins, whilst 30 minutes of exercise just a few times a week is thought to be highly beneficial in both preventing and lessening the symptoms of depression.
Whilst a full-fat, double shot, vanilla-caramel coffee on the way to work in the morning can feel like the best start to the day both sugar and caffeine can have a detrimental effect on your mental health, especially for those in recovery. Mood swings and artificial highs and lows can make it impossible to manage your thoughts and emotions throughout the day – and leave you feeling slumped over the desk before it’s even time for lunch. Highly processed foods – such as pastries – are also thought to increase the symptoms of depression, so it’s often best to enjoy that warm sausage roll as a weekly treat, rather than a daily snack. Sticking to a well-balanced diet can be beneficial to both your physical and mental health – try to plan your meals in advance, bring lunches from home to avoid temptation and try to include your five fruits and vegetables a day to keep you on track.
As coffee helps us through the first few hours of the morning, many people – especially those suffering with depression and other mental health issues – often find themselves turning to alcohol or other drugs to help them unwind after a stressful day and send them to sleep on what would otherwise be another sleepless night. Whilst alcohol – like coffee – can feel like it helps in the beginning the after effects of a few beers after work can be more than just a sore head in the morning. Alcohol is a depressive and relying on it to unwind or send you to sleep not only can worsen the symptoms of depression, but send you down a path towards addiction.
Speak to your therapist
Your therapist can help you to create a plan to help get back into your old routine without causing your depression to re-develop or worsen once more. Maintaining regular therapy sessions can help you to learn to overcome smaller set-backs both in and out of work on a weekly or daily basis, whilst long-term therapy can help you to keep manage your symptoms over time and create a tailored wellness plan towards living a happier life again.
If you’re thinking about going back to work after an extended period off due to mental illness or a break down, speak to a professional about how to best manage your back to work process. Online therapy can be a great way to maintain regular sessions without disrupting your work schedule or day to day life. Visit us online to learn more about the different online therapies we offer, to assist with a number of different mental health issues.