I originally wrote this as a blog submission for NAMI several months ago. They asked for studies to support, but since I don’t do much research I had a difficult time finding them. Work is hectic right now and this is a reminder for me and others to slow down and take care of you first…
During the past ten years, I’ve had a few episodes at work (including going into psychosis). I live with Bipolar Type II and I’ve been amazed by how it has been received in my workplace—they fully support me during my times of need. Along with medications and therapy, I’ve incorporated the following five tips to help me manage my mental health condition at work:
The majority of my work is done on the computer. If I sit too long staring at a screen, I start to feel a little wired, but fatigued at the same time. Whenever I start to feel this way, I get up and walk around, get a drink or a healthy snack, or have a quick chat with a co-worker. Getting a little exercise during the day can also help. We have a small gym in my office, and I like to walk on the treadmill during lunch breaks. This helps break up my day and give me a boost of energy. If you do not have exercise equipment at work, try walking outside or climbing the stairs.
When I’m feeling overwhelmed, I focus on my breath. I do Dr. Andrew Weil’s 4-7-8 exercise for relaxation. Inhale through your nose for four counts, hold it for seven counts and then exhale through your mouth while pressing your tongue against the back your front teeth for a count of eight. This helps to calm and center me. I’ve also found that listening to music while I work helps me relax and focus.
Making sure my blood sugar is balanced helps me balance my energy as well as my mood. I eat small meals every 2-3 hours and drink plenty of water. Try eating some snacks like hard boiled eggs and fruit or Greek yogurt and nuts. Steer clear of sugar and caffeine. Too much coffee or sweets can cause blood sugar to plummet.
Ask for accommodations if you need them. When I am struggling with sleep, I ask for adjustments to my schedule. My manager allows me to come in late and make up my hours. When my sleep is really off, I ask to work from home. I was even permitted to work from home for three months after an episode.
Know Your Limits
I’ve found that my health plummets when I push myself too hard. One time, I went to work when I hadn’t slept in days and when I was adjusting to new medication and could barely stay awake. Now when my symptoms become too much to handle, I take it easy and take time off work. It has taken me a while to get to this point, but I know now that work is not worth risking my stability.