Is Your Mental Health Affecting Your Work Life?
We all have times where we can’t focus, don’t feel motivated, or want to be alone. But when we’re dealing with chronic mental health concerns like depression or anxiety, these issues can linger and prevent us from being happy and succeeding in our careers.
Are you concerned that your psychological health is keeping you from feeling satisfied and productive at your job? You’re not alone. Here are a few common signs that you’re dealing with more than just an “off day.”
- You can’t focus…consistently
It’s normal to be unable to focus every once in a while. Maybe we’re remembering a great party we went to over the weekend, thinking about our latest crush, or dreaming about a vacation we’re hoping to book. No matter how dedicated to your job you are, distractions happen—and if we’re honest, sometimes that’s really enjoyable.
The problem arises when these distractions become all-consuming. Maybe you’re experiencing “thought looping,” which involves thinking through the same ideas over and over, like your mind is (you guessed it) on a loop. You could also be experiencing obsessive negative thoughts, like continuously worrying that you might do something horrible (even if you have no desire to) or that something is going to make you extremely sick.
Thought-looping and obsessive negative thoughts are both hallmarks of anxiety disorders, and they can make it nearly impossible to focus on our daily tasks. Understandably, this causes us increased difficulty in the workplace.
- You aren’t motivated, even about things you used to love
As with a lack of focus, lack of motivation is something we all experience on a spectrum. Yet when it begins to interfere with our functioning, a larger issue may be at hand.
For example, there’s a big difference between someone who hits the snooze a few extra times in the morning and someone who finds themselves unable to get out of bed at all. In the latter case, there’s good cause to suspect a depressive disorder is interfering with the individual’s feelings.
Why does depression, a mood disorder, affect a performance-related factor like motivation? When we’re suffering from a depressive disorder, we typically take less enjoyment in the things that used to bring us pleasure, like doing well on a project or interacting with our colleagues. We also tend to feel like we have less energy to dedicate to our jobs. The combined lack of enjoyment and lack of energy lead to low feelings of motivation—why should we get a task done if it won’t bring us happiness and will worsen our fatigue?
This and other symptoms of depressive disorders, like irritability, slowed thinking, and difficulty concentrating, make it a huge issue in the United States, where depression is ranked among the top three workplace problems for employment professionals. Unfortunately, its adverse effects on our careers may even result in increased feelings of depression, setting off a dangerous cycle.
- You avoid interacting with colleagues and your boss, even in casual conversation
For those of us with social anxiety, it can be challenging just to strike up conversations with new friends let alone our “superiors” in an office environment. Yet it’s important both for our success and our happiness that we invest in our office visibility.
If your supervisors don’t feel that they know you, they may not feel comfortable entrusting you with promotions and leadership opportunities. On a social level, if your coworkers never hear from you, they may assume you don’t want to join them at happy hour, or may not get a chance to tell you about the great coffee place down the street.
If this issues sound familiar and you suspect you might be coping with an anxiety or depressive disorder, don’t worry—there are many ways to treat these conditions and improve all aspects of your life, including your work performance. I’ll run through a few that I particularly recommend.
What Should You Do Next?
As you likely know, the most commonly-referred treatment for mental health issues is talk therapy, which I personally practice and endorse. However, many clinicians (like myself) supplement this work with brain-based therapies like EMDR and Neurofeedback. These therapies can help us get to the root of our problems more quickly, changing how we respond to certain stressors on a neural level.
Neurofeedback, for example, is a brain-training therapy where we encourage our brains to increase healthy activity and decrease unproductive behaviors. We do this by providing them with sensory feedback, like pleasing sounds, sensations, or images, as a reward for optimal behavior. An individual seeking treatment for depression, for example, may choose to reward their brain every time it engages in behavior that improves the neural pathways that boost their mood and relaxation. Much like a child learning to repeat a certain behavior in order to receive praise, our brains will learn to engage in the rewarded behaviors more frequently.
EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) is another modality I use with clients that can help them deal with symptoms related to anxiety and depression, particularly with trauma. The goal of this treatment is to access memories stored in the brain, desensitize negative beliefs related to those memories, and then integrate the memories with positive beliefs and feelings. Say someone experiences a trauma that causes them to be triggered by loud noises. They may experience hyperarousal whenever they hear a sudden, powerful sound, causing their hearts to race and their bodies to shake. Now let’s say that person also works on a construction site, where their sensitivity to noise is going to be an issue. That person may choose to begin EMDR treatments where they will work to disconnect their associations between loud noises and their trauma history, making their work environment more bearable.
Regardless of the method they choose, my clients and I have found that beginning therapeutic treatment for issues like anxiety and depression often leads to increased success and happiness in other areas of life, particularly their careers.
Have any questions about how your workplace experience and whether it might indicate a mental health concern? Feel free to email me at email@example.com. Both I and the whole team here at Viva are here to support you.