Mental Health

Returning to Work After a Mental Health Break

Returning to Work After a Mental Health Break | Libero Magazine
When dealing with mental health issues, things can sometimes get bad enough you need to take an extended leave from the workplace. Having to leave work can be a blow in itself, but can sometimes be necessary in order to get your mental health stronger, and allow you to function.

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When dealing with mental health issues, things can sometimes get bad enough you need to take an extended leave from the workplace. Having to leave work can be a blow in itself, but can sometimes be necessary in order to get your mental health stronger, and allow you to function.

The return to work can be even harder, particularly if it means beginning the job hunt again, instead of returning to a former job. It often comes laden with anxiety — sometimes, it is the fear of running into people who know why you disappeared for a while or explaining what happened, and others it’s simply wondering whether you’re prepared to deal with people again.

Beyond the anxiety issues, there is the issue of making the switch from a less structured day-to-day schedule to a more structured one once again.

Both to help keep a mental balance, and because of the necessities of a schedule when working. Often, taking time away from the workforce for any reason, whether mental health or physical health issues, means your time has been spent with a strong focus on resting, relaxing and self-care. This often means ‘structure’ can go out the window.

And while there is likely a part of you welcomes the chance to return to work. and finds excitement in the new beginning, dealing with the ‘bad’ sides is important to help in making a smoother transition.

As with most situations, there are a number of steps you can take to make sure you are ready to make a triumphant return, while not putting yourself at risk of your mental health coming undone again.

1) Begin creating daily schedules.

Once you’ve made the decision it’s time to return to work — or to start looking for work — start creating a regular schedule to stick to. Things which can help get you back on a ‘working’ clock start with setting a specific time for bed and for getting up in the morning. If you know you’re going to be working in a place that requires an early start, roll the clock back a bit each day until you can get up more easily at the time you need.

It also means doing things like making sure when you get up, you get showered and dressed for the day, even if you’re not going anywhere. If you can get into these habits early, it makes the transition much easier.

2) Get your story straight.

Depending on the reason you had to step back for a while, you may not be ready for the world to know why you took some time off. You’re not required to tell anyone the reasons you weren’t working for a while, but it also doesn’t mean you have to find a story to tell them on the spot.

If you know there’s a chance you’ll run into these questions, make sure you figure out in advance how you want to respond. Whether it’s simply “I had some health concerns that had to be addressed,” or “I needed to figure some things out,” make sure it’s something you’re comfortable sharing and can default to if you begin to feel panicked for a response.

3) Make a Plan.

It doesn’t need to be a five year or a ten year plan, but sit down and figure out a short term plan, which identifies where you want to be in six months, or even a year.

Do you want to start out with a part-time job to get comfortable and then get into a full-time job? Do you need a career change? Are you wanting to go back to school?

Think about what you want to get out of the near future and where you want to go. While it may not be concrete and filled with specific stepping stones. Getting an idea of a plan will help you to be more focused on getting there when you return to work, rather than on whether you can handle returning to work.

4) Don’t be afraid to ask for breathing time.

While your new employer doesn’t need to know the details of why you took some time away from the workforce, you can let them know returning to work is going to be difficult, and ask if you get overwhelmed, if you are allowed to take some time to breathe.

Identify there is some anxiety, and let them know you may need time to get composed again.

As long as you don’t abuse it, most employers are willing to give you those moments when needed. Use those moments to remind yourself there’s nothing wrong with being overwhelmed, and you’ve made a big step. You can do this.

5) Know your limits and boundaries.

For example, if you know working in a place with a high volume of people is going to be too difficult and cause a lot of anxiety, try not to look for work at say a fast food restaurant.

While it’s true sometimes the options for work are slim, it’s important to make sure you don’t put yourself in a position which could compromise your mental health and lead you back to the reason you had to take a break in the first place.

6) Get excited.

If you’re ready to return to work, it means you’ve already overcome a huge battle.

Get excited about moving forward; it’s something to be proud of!

Most importantly, when preparing to return to work, don’t be afraid to take advantage of resources, whether it’s tips from mental health agencies, seeing a therapist regularly or getting extra help from your family.

The more support you surround yourself with, the smaller the mountain will seem.

When you can find support, set up stability in life, and find ways to prepare, although things will still be difficult, you will be setting yourself up to succeed.

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Tabitha has a degree in journalism, is an avid blogger, and is passionate about mental health awareness, faith, and feminism. She is a happily married, a mother of three furbabies, and a survivor of/warrior against BiPolar II Disorder, anxiety, and PCOS. She is a hardcore geek, Disnerd, and loves listening to music, writing and creating things. She hopes to be a voice of hope, showing others their illnesses do not define them.

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