Reclaim your life to help with job stress
Dear Mariann: What are some ways to deal with high-stress jobs?
Mariann’s response: My first suggestion would be to set boundaries or time limits for your workday. Are you staying late and bringing work home? Stop now. Burnout is not far behind if you continue. Have you sacrificed after-work or weekend activities that you once enjoyed? Try to reclaim at least some of your personal time or find hobbies that are compatible to your busy work schedule. Any type of exercise is a great de-stressor and can give you renewed energy and focus.
And finally, taking some time during your workday to de-stress is essential to be more effective for the remainder of the day. Instead of a high-calorie lunch, how about taking a walk or going outside, spending a few minutes practicing deep breathing or meditating on a nearby bench? Also taking this time to journal about the demands of your job might be helpful. In our computerized age, there is still something very therapeutic about putting thoughts on paper. Along with the journaling, making a list of priorities for the remainder of the work day is a great motivator when items are checked-off as to what you have accomplished and how you spent your on-the-job hours. Then before departing the work site at day’s end, make a list of next-day priorities. This will give you a better perspective as to managing upcoming tasks and what to expect, versus feeling overwhelmed and dreading the return to work.
My final suggestion is once monthly take a weekend trip, even if just for a day. See new sights, do something you haven’t tried previously. Reclaim your life, and your on-the-job stress will become more manageable.
Dear Mariann: Can mental illness be prevented and what are some of the warning signs of mental illness?
Mariann’s response: Preventable, maybe, but only in limited circumstances. Mental illness has a strong genetic component, especially for depression, bipolar and schizophrenia. Taking care of our “mental health” is equally as important as being vigilant about our physical health. If we ignore our mental well-being, we can become stressed, depressed, overweight from self-medicating with food or using other substances to “dull the pain.” American anti-depressant usage is astronomical in comparison to other developed countries. Instead of addressing problematic areas of our lives, often a pharmaceutical is prescribed to correct our perception of the situation and make it more tolerable. Anti-depressants and other psychotropic medications are definitely helpful, but using them as a quick fix to “get happy” is flawed thinking.
If you think that a loved one might be suffering from a mental illness, consulting a local counseling agency is a good first step. Is there a sudden change in their behavior such as not eating or sleeping? Are they isolating themselves or have they stopped doing activities they once enjoyed? Do they become angered easily or are they sad and tearful? All of these are classic signs of depression. If you are fearful that this person might end their life, taking them to the nearest emergency room for mental health assessment could be necessary, and life-saving.
Bipolar is another diagnosis that has recently received much publicity. Is your family member fluctuating from euphoria and limitless energy, going days without sleep, to being melancholy, lifeless and unable to get out of bed for extended time? These two drastic extremes are classic bipolar tendencies. This is where medication is necessary to return the person to a balance in mood, and must be taken daily, usually for the remainder of their life.
As mentioned above, if a loved one is “self-medicating” with excessive alcohol or drug usage, this could be masking an underlying mental health issue such as depression or a bipolar diagnosis. If the situation becomes too extreme, an intervention for this loved one by a mental health professional in tandem with concerned family members might be necessary to circumvent an increasingly problematic situation. If nothing else, talk to this person and express your concern. Admitting that you have a problem is the first step toward recovery, as recognized by any 12-Step recovery program. Attending the appropriate 12-Step program for that issue and realizing that others are dealing with the same problem, is a great unifier and a start toward the recovery process.
Mariann Main is a licensed counselor and a Delaware native. Her column appears weekly on Saturdays. To submit a question and have Mariann answer it anonymously, visit delgazette.com/life-questions-with-local-answers or send mail to the Delaware Gazette office, 40 N. Sandusky St., suite 203, Delaware, OH 43015.