Managing Your Mental Health on the Job

Today I did not go to my job. Shook up I was because of the subway shooting in Brooklyn on the N train. I have lived in Brooklyn for 23 years. Luckily, I was not on that train in the morning.

As it is I only ride the subway when I’m forced to and have no other option. My goal when I retire is to take cabs everywhere. If you’re a tourist and can afford to visit New York City I recommend you save money to take taxis around this town.

How does this factor into managing your mental health on the job? After arriving home last night I decided to stay home today.

As I’m typing this my cell phone beeped with an alert asking for information about the suspect. This indicates that the law enforcement individuals involved have pinpointed who they think it was that opened fire inside the second car of the N train. The shooter is no longer only “a person of interest.”

Why have I become agitated over this shooting? Most likely because of the level of cold calculated attention-to-detail that the alleged shooter used to carry out the crime.

Calling up your supervisor and telling them you can’t come to work isn’t something I take lightly. What is the right way to take time off?

First: I would not broadcast to and tell your coworkers a week before that you’re calling in sick on the following Thursday. Keep this to yourself.

Maybe what flipped this switch in my head was that coworkers have no qualms about taking what’s called a “mental health day” and calling in sick to do so.

This is the root of why I stayed home today. Before I hadn’t taken a mental health day ever. After getting shook up over yesterday’s shooting I decided it was time to take a mental health day when I needed to.

My experience having a union job is that I accrue one sick day every month. Right now, I have 50 sick days stored up in my time bank.

Since a lot of us don’t have a union job (and even for those of us who do) I advocate for becoming a worker’s right Activist. You can like I do petition for paid time off.

I’m trying to get management to give all staff who have worked here for 15 years a one-month paid sabbatical. So that we can use the time for whatever we want to do.

I’m also urging that all staff be given 4 extra time-off days per year coded as “mental health days” in addition to our regular sick time.

Plus: give us hardship pay as essential workers who showed up to our jobs throughout the pandemic.

In a future blog entry here, I would like to have a peer friend be a guest blogger. My goal is to have her talk about ways to manage symptoms you might have while at work.

Sadly, in most corporate and other office jobs you aren’t given a lot of paid sick days you can take off. Fast-food and other minimum wage earners get no paid sick time at all. Forcing them to show up in ill health to their job. Just so they can get paid.

In the 1990s I talked with the boss of a company. Thinking I might go work there.

On the telephone he told me: “It’s okay to call in sick once. If you call in sick two or three times that’s not okay.”

Huh? We are human beings. We are not machines. Our bodies are not robots. We’re not Roombas designed to figure out where to go to clean a floor. And some of us haven’t cleaned our floors in years.

Expecting that employees show up to work when we’re sick is the way to spread illness to other coworkers. It’s the guaranteed way to risk making ourselves chronically ill as well.

Joe Manchin (a Democrat) and others (Republicans like Nicole Malliotakis who I call Nicole CacaCola) are against giving American workers paid sick leave.

Manchin used the “Welfare Queen” trope to claim people who took time off would be going on a Carnival Cruise. It was reported that most of his constituents live in poverty.

What? I’m sitting at my desk typing this. After I’m done here, I will be going in bed and resting until noon. Then I’ll have breakfast. I won’t be going outside. I won’t be having fun.

My stance is that we should listen to our bodies. If our body is telling us to rest, we should rest. If our body has energy, that’s when we should take on the world.

5 Remedies for Burnout

Burnout can happen on the best of jobs. Better economic compensation goes only so far to help us. According to the authors of Happy Money.

In this blog entry I’ll talk about the measures I took to alleviate burnout. In the coming blog entries, I will talk about managing your mental health on the job.

#1 – Adopting an anti-consumerism ethic.

People who engage in consumerism are less happy and have more financial stress. Often a person is miserable chained to a desk because they’re funding a lifestyle buying material things.

#2 – Focusing on experiences.

The kinds of experiences we have make people happy. These can be free or low-cost activities.

The Brooklyn Museum where I live in New York City has a reduced admission fee for individuals with disabilities.

I attended the Christian Dior and Any Warhol exhibits for $16 each. Nine dollars cheaper than the regular $25 fee.

#3 – Fulfilling what gives your life meaning.

What instantly perked me up was uploading the Working Assets career guide manuscript to the publisher. My goal is to have the book go on sale in July. With a pre-order date of May 9.

#4 – Funding your retirement.

To quote Nietzsche: “He who has a why can bear any how.”

This nailed the ultimate ability I had to accept that my day job had become a daily grind.

If you’re not constantly buying things, you ideally would be funding a retirement account or two. The quicker you can retire the easier it could be to work at a job that you no longer like.

#5 – Listening to music.

A study revealed the benefits of listening to music.

What I did to overcome the “one day like any other” feeling didn’t require a lot of money. It didn’t require one dime. The activity was free. Who doesn’t like free?

See the link at the bottom of this blog entry to Audacy.com.

On Audacy I listen to music channels. My favorite is Scott Lowe on the Go’s Post-Modern Music Box. Followed by New Arrivals.

It gets me going to listen to the cheerful alternative music. The Music Box features 1980s and 1990s popular alternative songs. New Arrivals features today’s alternative music.

In my apartment the sound is often going from nine in the morning to nine at night. You might be lucky to be able to listen to music at your job. That’s even better.

Listen to Audacy here.

Getting Out of Bed – Christina’s Story

The conundrum is how to find a purpose for getting out of bed when you are depressed.

Sometimes you don’t have the energy to move your body off the mattress and press your feet to the floor.

What can be done to feel better?

Some of us will need to take an anti-depressant. Others can make lifestyle changes.

After reading the disability memoir The Pretty One I took to heart how the author disparaged that able-bodied Americans rush-rush-rush around filling their days with nonstop activity.

From then on, I decided that it was okay to rest in bed for two hours on a Sunday afternoon.

The irony is that often we fill our lives with busywork that deters us from doing what’s truly meaningful. When the space of time in our days is filled up like a bursting closet something has to give.

Limiting the tasks, we take on is one way to feel better about getting out of bed. Knowing our daily calendars are jam-packed could disempower us.

Finding a purpose for getting out of bed can be made easier when we recognize that it’s okay to limit our choices as to what we want to do and can do on any given day.

My tactic is to decide when I wake up what my one “job” is for that day. I talk about the tasks I do even when at home as being “jobs.”

Sometimes it’s at the end of the day that you realize what your one “job” was that you fulfilled.

Not knowing what you want to do that day or with your life can be made easier.

Who says you have to be the same person or do the same things for the rest of your life?

Figuring out what you want to do today or in the coming weeks can be as simple as talking to a therapist. Brainstorming ideas with them or with a friend or family member.

Keep an open mind and be curious about what’s possible. That’s the first step: realizing that what pops into your head shouldn’t be ruled out before you think about it.

In a coming blog entry, I will talk about how doing “volunteer work” gave me a purpose for getting out of bed at a time when I no longer liked my job.

Finding Gratitude in the Daily Grind

I’m here to say that there’s no shame in being happy to be alive. This is an okay feeling when you’ve either survived the worst or are still struggling in other regards.

Finding gratitude in the daily grind is possible. This is a cognitive reframing approach to changing your perception of what’s going on in your life.

In a book I just read titled Unraveled: The Life and Death of a Garment the author Maxine Bedat exposed the brute monotony of sweatshop labor.

Each woman (a woman!) sits at a machine in a row of something like 60 machines. One woman sews the hem. The other woman sews the leg. Another sews the waistband. And down the line it goes.

The term “deaths of despair” was coined to describe how individuals are taking their own lives. When their work is not meaningful and purpose-driven.

Creating “jobs of joy” should be the goal for ourselves and others.

So how can you and I make our work livable if we don’t always like our jobs?

Take up a hobby. Cook. Paint. Skate. Blog. Shoot photos.

A happy medium exists between “warehouse worker” and “CEO” in terms of the kinds of jobs out there. Finding these jobs will be the topic of other blog entries.

In each day that we get up and go to a job or not go to a job we can find pockets of time to do what makes us feel fulfilled.

It could be as simple as watching YouTube videos on your cell phone on your afternoon break.

Or going outside to a coffeehouse to buy a hot chocolate and confetti cookie.

In my life the route to on-the-job happiness started when I asked a former supervisor to send me to the workshops so that I could be trained to give customers resume and career help.

After this I took on the role of mentoring teen interns.

The point is when you can carve out new things to do that keep you fulfilled at work that makes all the difference.

The rise in Amazon fulfillment center jobs that wreck a worker’s mental and physical health is a runaway trend that should be halted before “deaths of despair” increase any higher.

In a coming blog entry I will talk about the root of labor injustice: the neoliberal economic policies that elected leaders advanced and continue to back.

Time to Start Spring Cleaning

The first-ever article I had published in a newspaper column was titled Time to Start Spring Cleaning.

In January 1990 I proposed doing spring cleaning at the start of the new year to get rid of your mental clutter as well clothes and other items.

In this first week of February, I filled four donation bags to have the Salvation Army truck driver pick up in the spring.

Letting go of what no longer serves us in our lives is the gateway to setting our intention for what we want to achieve in the coming year.

What I discarded in terms of clothes was telling: a lot of gray and brown items. Realizing that those dark drab colors only served to make me feel tired and depressed.

Bring on magenta! Hello yellow! Blast off in blue!

Injecting color into my wardrobe was one method to give me the energy to go after my goals with gusto.

You might look stunning and feel great wearing gray and brown.

Figuring out what to trash and what to keep is a personal decision. This will require taking an honest look at what you’ve bought–and the myths you’ve bought into–over the years.

Letting go of weedy overgrown thoughts. Changing negative perceptions about what you can do.

Replacing the old and outdated. Getting into a new frame of mind. Seeing clearly that you have options.

This I’ve found for me starts with cleaning out my closet and drawers. A clothing purge is the first step I take to improve my thinking. This enables me to feel that I can achieve what I set out to do in the coming months.

In the next blog entry, I will talk about finding things to be grateful for even when your job might be challenging.

On the cusp of my birthday, I’ve figured out ways to have fun on my job and outside my job.

I’ll talk about this in more detail as regards measures to improve our mental health. What I firmly believe is that you don’t need to buy and own a ton of stuff to feel happy.

The opposite I’ve learned is true: having an overstuffed closet of clothes can make you feel depressed and overwhelmed.

Enjoying life is as simple as the connections we make with other people. It doesn’t cost a ton of money to talk on the telephone or meet on a park bench.

Barriers to Employment

One in 5 Americans has a disability from what I’ve read in a book and online.

In the RespectAbility internet article one woman wasn’t getting job offers. She disclosed on interviews that she had a disability. After not getting job offers, she stopped disclosing to hiring managers.

Having an invisible disability is no better. Given the choice to “pass for normal” would you want to? A friend pointed out that a lot of peers don’t want to hide in a closet for the rest of their lives like gay people who pretended they were straight.

“This is part of who I am” is the war cry of many people living with disabilities.

The term used is ableism to refer to how outsiders view a disability as a liability that is aberrant.

Unlike a lot of disability rights activists, I’m okay with being called “courageous” and “inspirational” in the face of adversity. This won’t win me any fans.

To people who use wheelchairs, for instance, rolling around is a normal part of their lives.

What do I think?

The interview is a sales pitch for how you can solve an employer’s need with your service. You want to “close the sale” and get a Yes in the form of a job offer.

As a candidate across the desk, you wouldn’t dwell on deficits and drawbacks.

Sadly, this is how having a disability is perceived: as a limitation on what a person can do.

I have a Visionary archetype. As a Visionary, I had the audacity to think a person with a mental illness could hold a job. In spring 2022 my goal is to publish the book Working Assets: A Career Guide for Peers – Finding and Succeeding at a Job When You Live with a Mental Ilness.

How to risk identifying as a having a disability:

If you’re compelled to be honest you must frame having a disability as giving you the mindset, creative problem-solving skills, and competitive edge to get results for the company. Try quoting the following statistics to make this case:

            A 2018 Accenture study revealed that firms with the best practices in hiring individuals with disabilities saw:

  • Twenty-eight percent higher revenue
  • Double the net income
  • Thirty percent higher profit margins

On average over a four-year period.

I talked about this Accenture study in a prior blog entry.

The fact is that a businessperson might be thinking about the increased health insurance costs that a staff member with a disability could incur.

How to prove you’re a capable and competent worker to a hiring manager in a half-hour interview?

It’s obvious to those of us living with a hardship that “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”

A lot of us have grit, strength, and resilience in the face of adversity. How could we not perform better than lazy coworkers or rude coworkers or entitled coworkers?

This is obvious to me. On one interview I went on over 11 years ago the HR person asked me: What hardship did you experience that made you who you are today?”

Sorry, talking about having had a breakdown when I was 22 wasn’t the answer I gave. I talked about what it was like when I was 22 and my grandfather was in a coma hooked up to a respirator in the ICU.

Having a mental health issue or diagnosis is [intractably] not seen as a selling point.

Not that any illness should be more acceptable than another. Every illness should be seen as an ordinary part of the life of a person living with a disability.

Folks: I don’t live in hiding. Google me and the truth is out there: in my memoir Left of the Dial, in my blogs, and on my website.

In the coming blog entry, I’m going to review the book Disability Visibility. Twenty-first century voices talking about living with a disability.

Crowdfunding

Crowdfunding is another way to drum up cash to start a business or fund a project.

The 3 main crowdfunding sources are GoFundMe, Kickstarter, and IndieGoGo.

Kickstarter is for creative projects. GoFundMe can be for human interest projects like supporting a family whose house has burned down in a fire. IndieGoGo is where you can find the latest in cutting-edge tech projects.

See GoFundMe here. See Kickstarter here. See IndieGoGo here.

For all of these funding platforms you must start strong on the first day your project goes live on the website for funding.

See each source’s terms and conditions. You might have to raise all of the money you seek or you won’t get any of the money given to you.

You can go on YouTube to watch videos about how to execute a successful crowdfunding campaign.

With Kickstarter you offer your funders something in return for their money. Like a copy of your book when it is published.

Other Side Hustle Approaches

Individuals with disabilities often do well starting their own business, according to the authors of The Next Millionaire Next Door.

For residents of Brooklyn in New York City the Brooklyn Public Library hosts a yearly PowerUp business plan competition.

Locals can create a business plan and pitch it to a panel of judges. The best business idea wins seed money so that the person can start up the business.

See the Brooklyn Public Library website for details.

See if your local library system has a Business and Career Center like the Brooklyn library does.

Often there you can get information about starting a business. The Business and Career Center will also host virtual workshops today and in-person workshops once the pandemic ends.

In the coming blog entry I will talk about crowdfunding to generate money for your business or other plan that requires capital.

Side Hustle Muscle

From January 2007 to September 2015–close to 9 years–I had a second job as the Health Guide at a mental health website. I wrote news articles about hot topics in recovery and answered questions in the Q&A forum. At that time I was in the vanguard writing about things no one else thought to write about. Just like I’m doing today.

I recommend getting a second job or having a side income stream. Rather than selling your soul to earn the big bucks at a job you hate or that doesn’t fit your personality.

Below this blog entry I’ll offer links to websites that can help you create a side hustle.

You can read the Kimberly Palmer book The Economy of You where she talks about going into business for yourself part-time in addition to a day job or full-time if you’re able.

See also the Chris Guillebeau book: Side Hustle: From Idea to Income in 27 Days.

Buy the Patrick G. Riley guide: The One-Page Business Proposal. I own this book and have used it myself. One page is all you need to pitch your service.

In coming blog entries I’ll talk about other ways to earn extra money.

Here I’ll end with one caveat for creative folk:

You often won’t get paid to write an article for a website. HealthCentral paid me when I was the Health Guide. I call the use of free mental labor an “intellectual sweatshop.”

Here’s a list of websites that can help you:

Writers Editors and other Creatives can search for work at MediaBistro.

Entrepreneurs of all stripes can find help at the Small Business Administraion.

SCORE or the Service Corps of Retired Executives I have used years ago with video chat help.

Shopify is a way to sell your product(s).

Guru is the place to find and hire freelancers. I found my local web designer here.

On Not Being That Coworker

You know the one: who makes your life miserable on the job.

A coworker could be dastardly. That’s no excuse for joining them in a race to the bottom.

Taking the high road as the expression goes is what’s called for. Asserting yourself when it’s clear you’re being taken advantage of on the job.

The case is clear: you don’t want to be that coworker that causes trouble for no reason at all.

Scenario #1 for example: You have seniority in choosing vacation time. A coworker comes to you and asks you to allow them to take off in June so they can visit their elderly parent in Sweden.

What you don’t do is schedule your vacation in the exact week the coworker wants to visit their parent.

Scenario #2: You see that someone has changed your weekly schedule without your permission or knowledge. The person might have told you that you couldn’t have off that Monday because the firm was short-staffed. You’re told you can no longer have off on Monday. This person then schedules themselves off on Monday.

What you do is act assertive and talk to them. Instead of firing off an angry email to them or going ballistic toward them.

Why would this person not say upfront that they needed the day off and could you switch with them? Who knows?

Scenario #3: Someone is stealing your food from the refrigerator at work. What you don’t do is print up a flier that you tape to the refrigerator stating: “No Stealing Food.” This would likely be a real deterrent like the electronic noise in Rite Aid that goes off when you reach for the deodorant behind a clear panel.

Instead: You can ask your supervisor to send an email to staff asking them to bring their own food. Or have a salad for lunch. Chances are no one else wants to eat a salad.

True story: At one job I bought a glass to use in the workplace kitchen to drink water at lunch. It looked like a regular whiskey glass. Curiously it went missing shortly after I started using it at lunch.

What you can do: keep the glass at your desk until lunchtime. In shared kitchen space it might not be clear whose glass is whose.

The wind-up: act ethical and above-board in how you interact with coworkers.

The truth is I don’t think most coworkers or supervisors intend to harm you or are acting with malice. They are simply self-centered and acting in their own interests.

Which is something you should consider doing on your job: figuring out whether the same person is repeatedly acting dastardly toward you. Not allowing this behavior to continue. Speaking up for yourself assertively and confidently.

This points to a real irony: that self-disclosure on the job about your bipolar or schizophrenia often only backfires. Interacting with coworkers for eight hours a day you are already a huddle of personalities that can be too close for comfort even without throwing a mental illness into the mix.

I will talk more again about self-disclosure in the workplace. This is definitely a case of “Do as I say not as I’ve done.” A victim of accidental disclosure–and then my honesty about publishing my memoir Left of the Dial had a happy ending.