An 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. www.careerpsychometrics.com
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.