My mental health coping skills (and a story!)

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I read a post that James, the creator of this blog, wrote a few days ago. He listed out his top coping skills and how they’ve helped him navigate through various challenges. Today, I will be listing my top coping skills; but first, a background story.

Prologue

Two weeks ago, I was excited for the upcoming Memorial Day holiday. I was only supposed to work a half day that Friday before leaving for the three day weekend. Fifteen minutes before I was supposed to leave, the HR person called me into her office. She began by explaining that the agency was continuing to experience some financial issues and that a decision was made to eliminate my position as a result. I was laid off with two weeks severance pay.

My top coping skills

  1. Giving myself time to process before reacting: As I listened to the HR person explain the lay off, I’m pretty sure my brain went into auto pilot. I was somehow able to communicate as if the sudden loss of income wasn’t an issue. I packed up my office and texted my wife the simple message, “I just got laid off.” I knew right away that I needed to allow myself to enjoy the long weekend as planned before beginning the job search. Living with an anxiety disorder, my tendency is to react rather than respond; however, this usually leads to me making impulsive decisions, becoming very anxious, and/or experiencing increased panic attacks. Allowing time for it to sink in was best.
  2. Positive self-talk/ reframing: I also sent an email to my licensure supervisor (a person who oversees my clinical work until I get my full counseling license) notifying her of the lay off. When she asked, “what happened?” I was able to state the facts while also becoming aware of the positives of the situation. First, I hated my job and dreaded going to work every day. Recently, I’ve been having more panic attacks than usual and there is no doubt that my job was a primary trigger. I reframed this lay off as an opportunity to find something better. I reminded myself of my strengths and talents. This gave me the confidence that I would need to go out and find a better job. Also, two weeks of severance pay? What I heard was, “two weeks paid vacation!”
  3. Music: Music has always been a coping skill for me even before I knew what a coping skill was. It’s a chance to listen to someone else’s story, to relate, and to turn your mind off for a while. My go-to album as I drove home from the office that day was The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill.
  4. Binge watching TV: Being that I was temporarily unemployed, I had a lot more time at my disposal. While I don’t recommend making binge watching a lifestyle, there are times when it’s therapeutic. Like music, diving into someone else’s story is a way to take your mind off of your situation, to laugh, and to pass some time. Ugly Betty is my go-to TV show for any occasion.
  5. Exercise: I’ve written in the past about how exercise is a great mental health coping skill. In fact, as I write this, I’m on a stationary bike at the gym. Exercise makes me feel energized and confident.
  6. Sleep: Sleep is something I have been trying to make a priority in recent months. I’ve noticed that my anxiety and mood are best managed when I’m operating on at least 8 hours of sleep.
  7. Blogging: One of the things that I disliked about my job is that I was underutilized. I’m trained in mental health but would often be left with a lot of idle time. That is actually why I started my blog, Perfectly Imperfect. It was a way for me to interact with the mental health community. In the idle time at work, I was able to write several posts that not only gave me something to do, they made my idle time more meaningful. Being able to talk about things that I’m passionate about has been very therapeutic for me. In the past two weeks, I’ve used some time to interact with the WordPress community, to share ideas, and to get new ideas. It’s been great.

Epilogue

Obviously coping skills alone didn’t make my problem of new-found unemployment go away. After allowing myself the three day weekend to chill and to process the situation, I hit the ground running on Tuesday. I applied to a ton of mental health positions on Indeed. Fortunately for me, being a black male in the mental health profession is helpful trait in securing employment (There are very few mail POC clinicians and therapists where I live). Within 24 hours of starting my job search, I was on my way to an interview. I got several interviews last week and this week. When it was all said and done, I accepted a clinical director position that conveniently starts right as my two weeks of severance pay runs out. Oh yeah, and the job pays $10k more annually than my last job! I knew from the beginning that the lay off was an opportunity for me to find something better. I am grateful that I was able to find a job so quickly without any financial disruption, as I know this isn’t the norm.

Conclusion

As always, thanks for reading! This is the first time that I’ve shared about the lay off situation in writing and it was helpful to both process the past two weeks while sharing the coping skills that have been most helpful to me. Feel free to comment below.

Photo credit: Zyon, my dog. He’s enjoyed having me home during the day, as he’s usually alone while my wife and I are at work.

Easier said than done? Work-life balance

I want to begin by thanking those who participated in the poll that I posted last week. I got a lot of great insight on topics y’all would like to see in the coming weeks. 19.15% of y’all voted for “work-life balance,” which I will be discussing today.

What is work-life balance?

There’s no doubt that work-life balance has an influence on our mental health. For those who suffer from mental health disorders, having work-life balance is even more crucial. Work-life balance is defined as having the time to perform employment, family, social, and community tasks in a manner that results in some sort of equilibrium.

Whether your “work” is school, maintaining a household, or holding down a 9-5 job, you need time outside of your work to recharge, to engage with hobbies and passions, and to socialize with non-work people. Being able to have a personal life while fulfilling the work/school/etc. duties is the tricky part and will vary from person-to-person.

In this post, I won’t go into detail about what can happen when you aren’t mindful of work-life balance but you can read a post I wrote on the topic of burnout. 

How can I improve my work-life balance?

You can begin by asking yourself: “What different roles do I have outside of work?” Are you a parent, friend, spouse, sibling, church member, volunteer, etc.? How are you tending to your various roles? Do you know how to delegate your time?

It is likely that we all found some areas for improvement as we pondered the above questions. With that being said, here are some ideas to help improve your work-life balance now:

  1. Make changes: If possible, adjust work hours to be more conducive to your other life roles. Eat better, exercise more, sleep more, and develop your coping skills for when work is more demanding (unbalance from time-to-time is inevitable). These changes and self-care tasks will help you to be better prepared for juggling multiple responsibilities and roles in your life.
  2. Unplug: The devices we surround ourselves with make it difficult to disconnect from work once we’ve punched out for the day. I suggest limiting or eliminating work-based email and work-related phone communications when you’re outside of work hours. Research supports that tending to things like work emails when you’re off the clock increases the chance of burnout. I personally choose not have work email on my phone. I also give coworkers and clients a google voice number that is different than my personal number. This allows me to unplug and follow up on calls and texts when I am in the office.
  3. Take breaks: I’ve noticed that a lot of people don’t take a lunch break on a regular basis. I even read that many people fail to use their allotted vacation time. These activities are crucial to preventing burnout. Breaks help you to recharge during the day before returning to work. It will likely make you more productive when you return if you allow yourself to step out of work mode. When taking a break, it is important to get out of your work setting if possible and do something to relax; ie, watch youtube, read a book, listen to music. Avoid spending the whole time on social media, as it tends to drain more than rejuvenate. Schedule vacations once or twice a year (or more!) and don’t bring work on those vacations. The world will not end if you can’t be reached and you will be better off after stepping away for a bit.
  4. List your non-negotiables: What are the non-work things that you refuse to miss? List them out and make sure you schedule it around your work obligations. For me, my weekly non-negotiables are writing at least one mental health blog, going to the gym at least 5 days, getting at least 8 hours of sleep nightly, and having a designated date night with my wife.

Conclusion

Having a work-life balance is easier said than done. We live in a competitive world and often fear we won’t be able to keep up unless we sacrifice. It all comes down to where your priorities are and what you’re willing to do to make them happen. I hope that this has been helpful. Feel free to comment with your thoughts on work-life balance.

You can find me at perfectlyimperfect92.wordpress.com

As always, thanks for reading!

Sources:

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/presence-mind/201509/hows-your-work-life-balance

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/in-love-and-war/201510/10-ways-increase-work-life-balance

Photo by Tirachard Kumtanom on Pexels.com

What 3 topics do you most want to see discussed on The Bipolar Writer?

Hi everyone!

I’m Johnzelle and I’m going to be contributing to The Bipolar Writer blog from time-to-time. Since I want to produce content that is most relevant to you readers, I need your help! Complete the poll below by Saturday. Feel free to add your own topic in the “other” section! I’ll use the results to guide my post content in the near future.

Thanks! I look forward to interacting with you all.

You can find me at perfectlyimperfect92.wordpress.com