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Working with a mental illness or condition can be hard, but it also can bring a lot of benefits that improve your daily life.  

Benefits such as: 

  • Providing a helpful structure and clear routine for your day  
  • Creating a way to socialise, meet new people, and broaden your social network 
  • Helping you develop your skills and learn new things 
  • Finding something you’re really good at  
  • Giving you a great sense of purpose  

However, while working has benefits, you still need to ensure you’re looking after yourself. Here are some practical tips for coping at work working with a mental illness or condition.  

1. Communicate with your workplace 

While you don’t have to share anything you don’t feel comfortable with, it can greatly help your manager or HR team better support you if they know what’s going on.  

Decide what you do feel comfortable sharing – you don’t have to get into specifics, you could just say that you manage a mental illness that impacts your performance sometimes – and chat to your manager or team leader, HR contact, or anyone you trust.

By communicating with your workplace, you can work together to ensure work doesn’t become overwhelming.  

Remember that while it can be tempting to just take personal days and keep your condition to yourself, it’s better long-term for your health and success at work if someone in your team can support you. 

2. Speak up if your workload gets too much 

Everyone gets stressed at work, but it’s about how we manage that stress to ensure it doesn’t overwhelm us. If your workload is overwhelming you and you’re unable to keep up, speak to your manager or team leader.

If you don’t feel comfortable, chat with a trusted co-worker to see if they can help you. There are always multiple ways to get the job done. 

3. Try different work arrangements

Depending on your role and workplace, discuss with your manager different arrangements that may help you cope better. Such as: 

  • Working from home (if that’s possible)  
  • Slightly different hours (rather than 9am-5pm, maybe you can work 8am-4pm) 
  • Taking lunch breaks at a time that best suits you   
  • Not having to attend meetings that overwhelm you  

Flexible working arrangements can take a lot of stress, anxiety and angst away.  

4. Utilise any Employee Assistance Programs (EAP) or services available  

Many workplaces offer Employee Assistance Programs or other services.

Find out through your manager or HR team what’s on offer and, if they are available, utilise them. 

EAP is confidential and can be a great support at work.  

5. Take breaks 

When you’re busy it can be tempting to work through lunch and tea breaks – but it’s very important to take breaks.

Breaks give our minds and bodies rest, help us to reset, as well as improve attention and stress levels.

(Taking a break outside in the fresh air is even better!)  

6. Don’t push yourself

When you start to feel overwhelmed, stop and address the concern.

Don’t push yourself or wait until you’re at a breaking point. Speak to someone you trust, and don’t go past your limit. (Remember that you’re the only one who knows what that limit is.) 

7. Have a plan

Creating your own personal plan for what you’ll do when you’re struggling at work or if your mental illness flares up can be a great personal resource.

Write it down and put it somewhere safe but easy to locate.

You can refer to it and find solace in knowing you have a plan to manage the situation.