For the past decade, we’ve been taught to follow our passions when it comes to our careers. But that has left many of us burned out, broke, or both. And that cycle can be particularly punishing for those suffering from mental illness. That’s why we pulled together 39 of the best pieces of advice we’ve heard. It is possible not just to manage your mental illness at work, but to grow professionally while doing it.

Advice on Dealing with Mental Health in the Workplace

  1. Start a network effect. We’ve all heard advice about how helpful making connections can be for your career, but what’s often left out of the conversation is the power of bonding over emotions and struggles, not just roles and skills. Research has shown this kind of networking promotes happiness—intuitively, it makes sense: Being yourself and sharing who you are makes you feel less isolated. And, being open starts a domino effect where others do the same. #emotionalnetworking
  2. Know you’re not alone. A full 20 percent of us are struggling with some form of mental illness…right now. And, most of us won’t ask for help because we’re embarrassed or ashamed. #inthistogether
  3. Spend more time on what’s real. Imagine if the amount of energy you spent working on the façade actually went into the work. If you can be yourself, you’ll actually get more done. The byproduct is you’ll be more likely to be measured on your achievements. #keepitreal
  4. Show off your shortcomings. Rather than trying to hide something, whether it’s a fear of elevators or anxiety over public speaking, talking about it with colleagues makes you human, and potentially offers a bonding experience. When you overcome some of the day-to-day challenges, it also lets your team and your managers know what a victory it is for you. This can be an inspiration or even a point of admiration. #showoffshortcomings
  5. Just be human. Professionalism doesn’t equal robot. Show your human side at work by making small adjustments to your interactions like sharing a bit about yourself personally and encouraging others to do the same. #notarobot
  6. Understand the costs. Making mental health a focus at work isn’t just about feelings, there are hard costs associated with it. Over 200 million workdays lost due to mental health conditions each year. This translates to $16.8 billion in lost productivity every year. #mentalhealthhelpsthebottomline
  7. Tap your strengths. Making use of your skills at work fosters a sense of self-efficacy, which increases your confidence and self-esteem—two important factors in stabilizing mental health. #skillup
  8. Pay it forward. “I do a thing called Office Hours, where any member of our team can schedule an hour with me to talk about, really whatever. Feelings, anything. And we have Slack conversations about finding a therapist; there’s just an open conversation that’s never stigmatizing. There are still a lot of people that choose to be very private, and that’s great. It’s just a matter of giving people permission to feel, both officially and unofficially.” Jen Gotch, Founder and Chief Creative Officer, Ban.do. #opentheconvo
  9. Keep work working. Seventy five percent of Gen Zers report that they have left a job for mental health reasons according to a study by Mind Share Partners, and it’s clear that addressing stigma is critical for both the workforce resilience and economic stability. For companies to do well, they need continuity and engagement. #mentalhealthdays
  10. Acknowledge the anxiety. Here’s a sobering fact: About 61% of us say we’re highly stressed on the job and extremely fatigued because of it, according to a 2019 StressPulseSM survey. And, millennials were three times more likely to experience symptoms of anxiety than baby boomers. Gen Z-ers were four times more likely to experience symptoms of anxiety than baby boomers. #jobstressisreal
  11. Unplug. A 2018 report in the journal Academy of Management found that the expectation that you’ll be available via email during non-work hours is detrimental to your health and well-being and the health and well-being of your family. #unplug
  12. Establish work boundaries. Start small by delegating a task to someone else and/or practicing assertive delay, which means instead of saying ‘yes’ right away, say you need some time to think about it. Another idea: Take your full lunch break away from your desk. #workboundaries
  13. Give and receive positive feedback. This can be super-simple: a quick email saying thank you or noticing a job well done is all it takes. And here’s what’s really cool—giving praise makes you feel as good as receiving it. Another plus is that passing along positive reinforcement is contagious.
  14. Find connections. Women who have a best friend at work are more than twice as likely to be engaged and happy in the workplace than those who don’t, according to a Gallup Poll. #workbff
  15. Check your resources. Even though people want mental health benefits, the utilization rates of are as low as 4.5 percent. This sends the wrong message to HR. The more these programs and perks are used, the more likely they’ll be seen as important and grow. #useyourbenefits
  16. Know it’s not about job title. Fact: The C-suite is just as likely to be affected by mental health issues as the entry level and individual contributors. #executivesnotimmune
  17. Question the stats: The often cited 1 in 5 statistic of mental illness in the workplace only counts diagnosable The true size of the issue is much larger. #notjustadiagnosis
  18. If you feel something; say something. According to MindShare Partners, almost 60 percent of people never talked to anyone at work about their mental health in the last year. Most mental health experiences went unvoiced and unheard, especially to the most influential change agents within the company. #speakup
  19. Know your blind spots. “I made it a priority to build a work culture that doesn’t reflect and magnify the least constructive of my own personality traits.,” Global entrepreneur, Peter Holgate wrote in Fast Company. #blindspotahead
  20. Watch your language. Instead of saying things like addict or junkie, opt for “they have a substance-use disorder.” Words really do matter. #wordsmatter
  21. Take the lead. Don’t wait for someone else to start an initiative. Send monthly wellness emails to your team or tightknit group of co-workers with relevant resources, words of encouragement, and recent mental health news. #youdoit
  22. Block out the negativity. “The world is full of cynics and you have to tune them out. Because if not, they become a cancer in your mind, in your thinking, and you begin thinking that you can’t or that life is negative.” –Tim Cook, Apple CEO said in a speech when receiving an honorary degree from The University of Glasgow. #staypositive
  23. Be aware of depression and anxiety warning signs. Pay attention to things like unplanned sick days and frequent requests for time off, challenges meeting deadlines, poor work quality, overly emotional responses, and noticeable increase in coffee, food, or alcohol consumption. #lookoutforothers
  24. Try a lunch and learn. Ask you HR team to have someone to come in to host a mental health workshops, or wellness event. #keeplearning
  25. Have a bright idea. Switch your lightbulbs from blue to yellow. #nobluebulbs
  26. Don’t try to keep up with your coworkers. Negative self-comparison is a mental health booby trap. Once you get sucked in, it’s a hard habit to break. #stopcomparingyourself
  27. Redefine health. “I think one of the greatest lines is—mental health is health,” he said. “That’s a simple but powerful statement.” –Chuck Robbins, CEO Cisco. #mentalhealthishealth
  28. Bank on yourself. Think of your emotional health as a long-term investment. Put a little in every day, whether it’s a gratitude journal, meditation, or spending the time to research the best health care pros so you can get the support you need. #investinyou
  29. Think like Ray Dalio. The billionaire hedge fund manager and co-chief investment officer of Bridgewater believes a person’s main obstacle to improvement is his own ego. At his firm, constant criticism is so normal that the critiques aren’t even taken personally. The result, at least according to Dalio, is that no one holds back a good idea for fear of being wrong. His method may be a little extreme, but looking at work issues analytically, instead of personally is a start. #checkyourego
  30. Be like Bill Gates. The Microsoft cofounder reads for an hour every night. Research has shown that reading helps mental health and develops empathy. #readabook
  31. Turn down the noise. Boil things down and work on the stuff that really counts. That kind of focus and not letting in all the peripheral distractions is especially useful when you have a condition where you struggle with being easily overwhelmed. #narrowyourfocus
  32. Keep things simple. For some reason, we humans love to complicate things. Confucius had it right when he said, “Life is simple, but we insist on making it complicated.” Part of it, especially for high achievers, is that simple might feel easy or lazy. Don’t get caught in this trap. There will be plenty of things that are intricate, so don’t waste time making the straightforward ones complicated and expending all of your energy when you don’t really need to. #simplify
  33. Don’t let depression derail your success. Feeling overwhelmed can contribute to anxiety and depression. Make a to-do list to stay on track. Bonus: The act of checking things off gives you a sense of accomplishment. #noderails
  34. Drink water. It’s really that simple. People with anxiety and depression often neglect basic self-care activities. Staying hydrated at work can go a long way toward staying focused. #gotwater
  35. Set micro goals. Setting manageable goals can help break down big tasks into smaller ones so the work doesn’t feel so daunting. #slaymicrogoals
  36. Get personal. Adding things like photos, a personalized mug, or quirky stapler to a workspace can help you stay calm when things get stressful. #personalizeyourspace
  37. Know your rights. The Americans With Disabilities Act says that your employer cannot discriminate against you because of your condition. Full stop. Okay, employers do have the right not to employ someone who can’t do the job, but they’re not allowed to use the fact that you have a mental illness alone as a reason. #knowyourmentalhealthrights
  38. Conserve your brain power. Save the repetitive, tedious work for your down days. Try to get the more creative part of the job done when you’re having a good mental health day. #dontwasteagoodday
  39. Talk to your boss. If your work has started to suffer, letting a supervisor know what’s going on may help you explain the situation. Having the conversation may feel anxiety-producing but try to just think of t like reporting a physical health problem. Stick to the facts and how your mental health is impacting your work and productivity. #tellyourboss
Last Updated: Aug 13, 2020