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Balancing Work & Mental Health

By: Leah Hovey

open concept office space

Our careers are what guide us, provide for us, and help us grow. There are people who neglect their family for their careers, those whose careers define them, and those who leave everything they know behind in order to pursue their careers. We are expected to put a lot of effort into our jobs, and this can include sacrificing our mental health in order to excel. It may seem obvious that our mental health comes first and money is not everything... so why do we consistently push ourselves to the point of exhaustion or a breakdown for our jobs? It is easy to tell our friends to "take a mental health day" but why is it so hard to actually do that for ourselves?

The answer to this lies in the need for approval within the workplace as well as the personal expectations we put upon ourselves. It is challenging to think about yourself when you are in the middle of a busy season at work or even just trying to score a promotion. Mental health starts to be pushed further down on the list of concerns, and this is why many reach a point where work becomes too much. We all reach this point, whether it be because of conflict with co-workers, conflict with employers, or the workload involved within your job. It is a point where your body may start to show the symptoms of over-exhaustion, and you may start to become more emotionally invested in your job than necessary. This is when you need to take a step back, realize you are only a human being, and think realistically. Taking a day off or separating yourself from your job will not cause a company collapse nor cause an employer to penalize you.

Richard Carlson, Ph.D., is an author and psychiatrist who specializes in helping those who are suffering from severe stress, anxiety, and other psychiatric disorders. His book, “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff at Work,” is a bestseller that tackles the day-to-day conflict of the workplace. With tips, tricks, and advice, he helps readers who are struggling to manage their obligations at work and even their self-care. This book provides daily tips we all can use to help us with this balance. Some key components to a less-stressful work environment I found extremely helpful include:

  • Becoming less controlling

  • Creating a bridge between your spirituality and your work

  • Examining your rituals and habits (and be willing to change some of them)

  • Accepting the fact that there is going to always be someone who is mad at you

  • Forgiving yourself (you are human)

  • Remembering that small stuff happens (& it is okay)

Using these tips as well as remembering to take a break when your mind needs it can change how you feel within your career. Your job, as much as it may contribute to who you are, should not completely define you. You are not just an employee; you are a human being who needs to take care of themselves too.

For more information on Richard Carlson’s bestselling book, visit his website.


Carlson, R. (2014). Don’t sweat the small stuff at work: Simple ways to minimize stress and conflict while bringing out the best in yourself and others. New York: Hatchet.

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