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A Job Can Make Or Break Your Mental Health – Here’s Why

In our adult years, we spend the majority of our time at work, thinking about work or doing work-related things, which is exactly why we need to have a conversation about employee mental health.

The right jobs can make us feel fulfilled, useful and connected to the wider world, but the wrong ones can grind us down until we’re feeling majorly depressed and anxious. Why is that?

Let’s discuss the positive relationship between work and mental health and how a job or workplace can end up causing more harm than good.

Getting a job is actually one of the best things we can do for our mental health

It might seem hard to believe, but having a job is worth much more than the paycheck you receive.

Did you know?

  • Being unemployed increases one’s risk for obesity and depression
  • People who work regularly have a longer life expectancy
  • People who work tend to recover from illness quicker, and have lower risk for chronic illness or incapacity
  • Unemployed people end up taking more medication and going to the doctor more often

There are a few reasons why work is so beneficial to our overall health. First of all, having a job is a major self-esteem booster. Even if you’re not pursuing a specific career, going to work helps provide a strong sense of purpose and the feeling of being needed. Also, earning your own financial independence means more freedom and it’s a wonderful source of pride.

In addition to the self-esteem benefits, work also helps with:

  • Routine building

Keeping regular hours is important for everyone, but especially those who are in recovery from addiction or mental illness. Unemployment can lead to odd sleeping schedules, irregular and unhealthy eating behaviors and a widespread apathy, which prevents us from seizing the day. Getting a job can force you to stick to a schedule, which will help you organize your life and stay on track with self-care.

  • Creating a sense of community

Unemployment usually means spending a lot of time at home by yourself or with the handful of people you live with. While quiet time is a good thing, it’s important to remember that as human beings, we need a lot more social contact than that to truly thrive. So, getting a job is good for mental health because it will require communication with fellow workers, and (depending on the specific job) clients and customers. This provides a stronger sense of connection and belonging in the greater world.

  • Using time constructively

It’s not uncommon for unemployed people to feel bored and directionless, which leads to depression, anxiety, relapse and other issues. Putting it plainly, having nothing to do all day is sad. That’s why having a job and using our time to accomplish something constructive is so important. Working is much more fulfilling and rewarding than just whiling away the hours.

Holding a steady job is supposed to be a good thing, but what if the job we have is destroying our mental health?

Sometimes, a job can turn toxic. Instead of promoting wellbeing, it ends up causing all sorts of mental health issues. Why is that?

Typically, it’s either a problem with the job or with the workplace.  You might be struggling individually because the job itself is problematic or a bad match for your personality or workplace mental health in general may suffer because the company is dysfunctional and poorly managed.

Difficult jobs

Not all work is created the same. While its true that we as humans benefit from work, it’s not true that every type of work is good for employee mental health.

Hard jobs that can negatively affect mental health involve:

  • Danger/health risks
  • Gruelling hours
  • Isolation
  • Exposure to traumatic events
  • Repetitiveness
  • Unsanitary or toxic conditions
  • High pressure/major responsibilities
  • Dishonest business practices

Some jobs are easy but boring and others are hard but much more rewarding, interesting or better paid. Every type of work comes with tradeoffs and we have to decide for ourselves what we want to pursue with those tradeoffs in mind. A job that is taxing, but rewarding may be better than the secure, but uninspiring job. However, that greatly depends on one’s personality and current situation.

Dysfunctional workplaces

The job itself is good and it’s perfectly suited to my personality… so why do I come home every day feeling horrible? Well, that’s because a poorly managed workplace can mess up an otherwise fantastic job.

If the atmosphere at work is grim, disorganized, frustrating or confusing, these workplace interventions might be able to turn things around.

Employers should implement these mental health interventions, and employees should advocate for them.

  • Open up a safe space to talk about mental health issues
    • Employees should be able to give feedback about things that are affecting their wellbeing and job satisfaction.
    • Employers or supervisors should actually integrate the suggestions they recieve.
    • There should be regular meetings and check-ins with individual employees
  • Provide mental health resources
    • Do your research on what types of mental health services are available, based on your location and insurance plan. If your company cannot cover or provide services on its own, employers should give recommendations for accessible, appropriate care.
  • Allow more freedom of choice
    • Giving employees more decision making power will make them feel more connected to the company, and more valuable.
  • Be more flexible
    • Offering reasonable accommodations for employees mental health needs can go a long way. Employers should consider allowing more work-at-home days, more convenient hours, or lighter workloads.

There’s nothing wrong with a good day’s work. It keeps us active, gives us a sense of belonging, and its great for our mental health. That’s why those of us recovering from addiction or mental illness should consider going back to work as soon as we are able.

Thinking of hiring a career coach to help you find a job you love and that allows for better work-life balance? Browse our directory of career coaches and get a FREE consultation or request a personalized coach recommendation!

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About the Author Smith Willas

I am a blogger, freelance writer with an online marketing agency in Florida and also have management degree in Supply Chain & Operations Management and Marketing. I have over 8 years of experience in developing marketing strategies and guiding business development. My areas of interest are how to target audience & improve engagement, Digital Marketing, mobile tech, and world news.

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