I think it goes without saying that your mental health is an important factor in living a happy, successful life. And yet, one in five adults experience mental illness each year in this country. According to the U.S. National Comorbidity Survey, about 18% of those who are employed experienced mental health problems in the last month. Why is this?
I can tell you that society doesn’t help. The pressure to sacrifice well-being for success stems from the new idea of the “American dream.” Americans are working longer hours than any other country in the world despite the fact that our wages have barely budged in the last few decades. This cycle of overwork is powered by a culture that teaches us to value making huge sacrifices to achieve big goals. In the workplace, we’re often forced to choose between a promotion and quality time with family, or between sleep and getting more work done. This added pressure can lead to burnout and can be increasingly difficult for people living with mental health issues.
What if I told you that your mental health should—and will—always come first? Keep reading to see what I mean.
Your mental health affects your everyday life.
When you’re feeling down, how do you treat other people? How does your mood affect your ability to complete assignments? Yes, it’s true. According to the CDC, depression interferes with a person’s ability to complete physical job tasks about 20% of the time and reduces cognitive performance about 35% of the time. This means that your mental health is an unwavering factor in your everyday life—even if you don’t want it to be. Your job could be the perfect one, but it won’t matter if you’re not taking care of your mental needs. Your happiness starts with you.
Your brain doesn’t have a 9-5 job.
Your brain is a muscle just like any other in your body. It needs to be worked out, fed, and rested for optimum performance. This includes taking mental health days, spending time with your loved ones, or taking up new hobbies that genuinely make you happy. If you don’t take time to nurture your mind or give it the care it needs, then your mind will do it for you (and usually at a time that you least expect it). I’ve seen colleagues burst into tears during meetings or even go into full panic attacks after being given their first assignment for the day. This doesn’t mean they’re crazy; this means they’re burned out.
Your brain doesn’t have a 9-5 job, meaning many of your mental health problems will not sync up with your office hours. Being proactive when it comes to your mental health can save you loads of time and trouble in the long run. At the very least, it’ll save you an awkward conversation with your boss.
Your job does not define you, but your mind does.
Jobs come and go. In fact, about a third of working Americans aren’t satisfied with their current jobs and plan to make a change in the next couple of years. Despite this statistic, we often equate our jobs to our identity, which is no wonder why we fail to find mental stability in our work. We should be defining ourselves by our minds (i.e. our thoughts and our ideas). Taking ownership of your mental health not only makes life easier for you, but it also gives you the opportunity to determine what values are most important to you and how you want to leave your mark on the world. Actually, there is evidence that supports the link between mental health, morality and ethical decision-making (a longer conversation for another day). Start redefining what it is that makes you, you.
The truth is your mental health will always come first, whether you want it to or not. Start now by listening to yourself. Spend time alone, go hang with friends, talk to a therapist, or read a book. Whatever you do, make your mental health a priority. What are some ways you stay on top of your mental health issues? Leave a reply below!
*This post was also featured on ChelseaKrost.com.