How Your Job Can Affect Your Mental Health And What You Can Do About It

mental health, depression and employmentAn article was published in the Caledonian Mercury yesterday  - Long-term mental health problems ‘could be spotted three years in advance’

The article highlights research that points to a link between people who start to take above average sick days off work, and those who go on to develop serious mental health issues.  I found the article really thought provoking as it raises one of the issues I feel quite strongly about – the impact employment has on our mental health.

Can working in the wrong job lead to mental health issues or mental illness?

If people start to take regular sick days from work, and there is no other apparent trigger such as genuine personal trauma or too much pressure and stress in the workplace, then could it be possible that they are unfulfilled in their work?  And if they continue to work in what they may regard as a “soul destroying” job, is it feasible to predict that this is likely to lead to depression or more severe mental health issues in the long term? I would say – absolutely YES!

The need to live a life of purpose, that’s in harmony with your passions and skills

Society is an ever-evolving entity.  In today’s age, more and more people are searching for a life of purpose.  We spend the majority of our time at work, and some of us, want that time to have more meaning than simply paying the bills.  Over the last few decades, we’ve moved from a society focused on survival, to a society that indulges in excess material possessions.  I see an increasing indication that we are now moving beyond capitalism and materialism, to a society that acknowledges the fact that we don’t obtain security or meaning from material possessions, and I believe the increase in mental health issues is a SYMPTOM of this transition (and  pardon the new age term), awakening.  It stands to reason that once our financial needs are met we look to satisfy ourselves on another level, a level of meaning and purpose – the next level on an evolutionary scale.

My journey to find purpose through my work and create a lifestyle that suits me, has been fundamental to my recovery from mental illness.  I touched on it briefly in my previous post – How Self Employment Could Improve Your Mental Health.  I know that I’m not suited to a 9-5 routine in an office, working on projects, which to me seem meaningless in the grand scheme of things.  I also believe that if I were to enter that arena again, my mental health would suffer.  That’s not to say there is anything wrong with those jobs, nor with the people who perform them and are happy in their role.  It’s just that that kind of job is not right for me.  Never has been, never will be!  Realising that, and figuring out what IS right for me, has been an essential element in nurturing my mental and emotional health.

Change is the watchword of progression. When we tire of well-worn ways, we seek for new. This restless craving in the souls of men spurs them to climb, and to seek the mountain view. ~Ella Wheeler Wilcox~

How can you tell if your job is having a negative impact on your mental health?

If you feel unhappy, but you cannot pin point exactly what the cause is, maybe it’s worth assessing your career to see whether it fits with your skills, passions and personality.  Psychometric testing is an excellent starting point.  There are loads available on the internet; just a search on Google will reveal a multitude of sites offering psychometric tests.  I know the people behind one such site, and whilst I haven’t actually tried their tests out myself yet, I can recommend them in terms of authenticity and integrity on a personal level – which I imagine runs through to their products.

You may discover that actually you do love your job, but there are aspects that are having a negative impact on you, such as your relationship with work colleagues, or the expectations and pressures that are placed upon you.  If this is the case you’ll need to address your concerns with the relevant people and work towards finding a solution.

So, maybe you’re in the wrong job – but how do you make the switch?

What if you have responsibilities and bills to pay?  What if you can’t figure out how to make the switch between what you do for a living now – and what you would like to do?  What if, you can’t figure out exactly what it is you would like to do?  These are common challenges people face when realising they are unsatisfied in their work, and these frustrations alone can lead individuals to feel even more discontent, frustrated and even depressed.

The important thing to remember at this stage is that you don’t have to make a dramatic change in order to see the benefit.  Small steps in the right direction can help you to create your ultimate vision and help you to feel as though you’re moving in the right direction.

Start by looking at the things you enjoy doing, the things you feel passionate about, the things you are naturally driven to do.  Spend your spare time immersed in these activities or subjects and consider opportunities for making money.  Find people who are making money already in your chosen area.  What do they do?  How did they get there?  Maybe you need to study something, or learn some new skills.  Explore and play with your ideas.  See how they make you feel and what direction they take you in.  Don’t worry if you can’t see the entire picture just yet.  You don’t need to quit your job and immerse yourself into your passion straight away.  Work on your skills, passions and vision, step by step, until you see a plan taking shape, and you’re confident you can fund the switch to your new chosen career.

Sometimes we could all do with some support

Another way to figure out what you want to do for a living, and how to make the transition from what you do now to what you want to do, is to employ a life coach that specialises in careers and change.   Do some research into life/career coaches in your area and chat to a few to figure out if you feel they can help.  If you need some help finding the right coach for you, I’ve worked with a number of people over the years and may be able to help you track down the right person for the job.  Contact me via email if you would like me to help you separate the wheat from the chaff in the career-coaching world.

Have you experienced mental health issues from being in the wrong job?  How did you deal with it?  What thoughts do you have on employment and mental health?  If you have any experience or insights you’d like to share please comment below.

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10 Responses to How Your Job Can Affect Your Mental Health And What You Can Do About It
  1. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Julie Gibbons, Paul C Duncan , Paul C Duncan , Tina Gibbons, Tina Gibbons and others. Tina Gibbons said: New Blog Post: How Your Job Can Affect Your Mental Health And What You Can Do About It #mentalhealth #employment #mhuk [...]

  2. Gill Potter
    August 19, 2010 | 5:43 pm

    Thanks Tina, I like what you write and agree work and health-both mental and physical- are intimately connected. Often though lack of confidence when people have mental health issues and/or low self esteem can get in the way of moving to something better. And stress related to much change can be difficult to navigate.That’s where support and encouragement from others-friends,family and colleagues all make the difference. Otherwise isolation and a vicious circle can ensue.

  3. Tina Gibbons
    August 19, 2010 | 9:17 pm

    Thanks for your thoughts Gill – and for raising the points regarding self esteem and the stress involved in change.. they’re both obstacles and challenges I’ve faced as I’ve made the changes… I think the internet can play a huge part in offering support and encouragement, because sometimes it can be lacking with friends and family. It’s not that they don’t care, but depending upon your environment, they may not see the same picture – and not understand the changes you want to take. Unfortunately – sometimes I think – they can encourage you to stay in a situation you are unhappy with – but not through lack of caring – or wrong intentions…
    Counselling can be very powerful and effective in these circumstances too – and helping people to realise their potential…

    Thanks for your comments Gill xx

  4. Martin the career aptitude guy
    August 21, 2010 | 7:32 pm

    Great article, which I am just about to share with my contacts. It’s so important that people work in harmony with their personality type. This shouldn’t be a luxury (though it is still treated this way), it should be the minimum standard we and our employers strive for.

  5. Tina Gibbons
    August 22, 2010 | 9:00 am

    Hi Martin

    Thanks for your comments and for sharing. Yes working in harmony with our personality types as a minimum standard – I like that :-) Such an approach would really encourage win, win scenarios all round, it makes perfect sense really… As a society we spend so much energy and time trying to carve square pegs to fit into round holes and vice versa.. what could we achieve if we looked towards creating opportunities we all slot into easily and beautifully?!! It’s exciting to consider the possibilities such an outlook could deliver…

  6. Sarah
    August 22, 2010 | 12:24 pm

    This is SUCH an important topic, and it’s so nice to see it being approached in a mature and well articulated way.

    Speaking as someone who is in the middle of such a transition, I began by doing as you said and investigating my own requirements for employment and job satisfaction, and it threw my dissatifactions with my past employment into sharp relief. I could suddenly see why I hadn’t been happy and what had driven me to feel that way, when at the time all I had felt was an overwhelming sense of greyness.

    I’m now looking to do something that matches my personal values and needs. I don’t know what it is yet, but after reading your article, I feel more hopeful that something out there exists either for me to join or to create.

    Oh and Martin … the idea of the minimum standard: absolutely wonderful.

  7. Tina Gibbons
    August 24, 2010 | 12:42 am

    Hi Sarah

    Thanks for your comments and positive feedback on the article…

    I so often wonder how many people are diagnosed with a mental illness because they are unknowingly living a life they are unsuited to. Career and work is one aspect – and there are so many more pieces to the puzzle…

    I’m so glad that my article offered you hope… and I hope you find your own direction in the not too distant future… stay in touch..

  8. stephen
    October 8, 2012 | 6:59 am

    I have worked with people with learning disabilities for 12 years in various settings. At present I am in a very small service supporting on young man with limited communication. I’m finding the job isolating and as I suffer from depression I am finding this is worsening. I would compare the feeling to cabin fever. The shifts are long and a bit empty. What do you suggest I do ? My manager hasn’t been very supportive

  9. Tina Gibbons
    October 8, 2012 | 8:03 pm

    Hi Stephen

    I’m sorry to read that you feel your depression is getting worse due to the isolation you feel at work. I’m afraid I can’t offer any direct advice, as my role is more of a sign posting service. I think a life coach, career coach, or counsellor would be able to support you and help you to find proactive ways of taking control of the situation. Their support could help you to find different ways of communicating your needs to your manager, or helping you to view things differently so that you feel less isolated or less affected by being isolated, or help you consider ways to change your job. None of them will advise you what to do, but help you to find solutions.

    You may find the following articles useful:

    If you’d like to find a counsellor or coach, try The Mind Sanctuary Directory

    I hope that helps… Good Luck!

  10. Tina Gibbons
    October 8, 2012 | 8:06 pm

    Sorry Stephen – I just realised the links to the articles didn’t work properly.

    How to Survive and Thrive in a Job You Hate

    Choosing or Changing Your Career Can Be Simple and Fun

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