Carrying Too Much? Headed For A Crisis?

Let’s suppose three conditions exist:

  1.  You’ve got problems.
  2.  Your employer tells you to leave your personal problems at home.
  3.  Your other half tells you to leave your work problems at work.

So you’re not to unburden yourself at home or the workplace. But the message society is broadcasting in 2019 is that talking about your problems, stresses and general mental health challenges is highly encouraged. So who will listen to you if the people in your daily life with whom you have the most contact apparently won’t?

This is the situation many people find themselves in, and with no one they know prepared to listen to them – really listen to them – most people end up carrying an increasingly large load each and every day. Every so often, that load becomes unbearable and then something happens where you shut down completely and take an extended medical leave of absence after experiencing a mental health crisis.

If you saw someone carrying a heavy load, you’d offer to help. The same person carrying too many problems on the other hand is harder for us to see.

If and when you do break down the Management team where you work might say they saw it coming. Well, if they saw this coming, what did they do to reach out and try to head it off before it developed into a full-blown crisis? Was there any offer of counselling? Did they sit down and try to get at your work-related or personal concerns as they impacted on your work production?

Now some employers do have Employee Assistance Programs (EAP). These provide employees with access to confidential counselling services. For those that access this help, it’s a good opportunity to talk openly about the pressure you’re under in both your personal and professional life. You’re given a number of sessions to participate in; and you set the frequency of those talks. It’s just the two of you; you and your Counsellor.

WHAT you talk about is pretty open. Don’t expect however that this Counsellor will hear you out and then tell you what to do to fix your life. That might be nice to envision for some, but in reality, they listen, offer support and yes do make some suggestions on various strategies you might find helpful. They will share community resources if and when appropriate for you to take advantage of, but what they won’t do is lay out a plan for you to follow that solves all your issues. That after all, would be their plan for you, not your plan for you.

Okay so this sounds good if you work for an employer with this counselling service to access. But, for the many who don’t have such services paid for to access as part of their benefit plan, what’s a person to do?

Well, you can opt to pay for counselling services out of your wages. While you might feel this is money you can’t afford, consider that your own mental health is at stake and perhaps you can’t afford NOT to get the help you’re after. If you have a complete break down and have to quit or get fired, you still have all your issues to deal with – plus loss of income and loss of employment.

I think it’s fair to say there are a lot of people these days who are carrying worry, grief, anxiety, depression, bitterness, fear, hopelessness, low self-worth, phobias and pressure with them 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Some have learned to hide it so well, you and I would be completely shocked if they ever shared what they carry. We’d likely say, “What?! You? No way. I don’t believe it. I’d never have guessed. But you don’t show any signs of that!”

Now we all experience stress and worry; it’s not confined to a few. For the majority of us, these worries and pressures are things we can work through using the skills we’ve acquired and practiced while resolving other challenges and similar situations in our past. As we work through problems and worries, we gain confidence in our ability to work things out, we might have learned to see the bigger picture; to know with great confidence that these problems will eventually pass and life will go on. This perspective and these growing skills help us manage the problems as they arise.

However, equally true is the fact that many people don’t have the knowledge of resources to draw on, they don’t have good role models in their lives helping them learn the skills to resolve problems. They may therefore fail to resolve their problems on a regular basis and all these failures just compound their problems because they repeat the same behaviours which result in the same problems arising. Tragic, sad and a vicious circle.

You may opt to talk things out with a trusted friend. Good for you if you have a friend you can in fact trust, and if that friend listens without jumping to the temptation to tell you what to do. Saying, “here’s what I’d do if I were you…” isn’t really helpful but it sure sounds like what you want to hear.

So how do you access counselling? Ask your employer if there’s help. Ask anyone who works in a community agency for a phone number of such services or use the internet to look up counselling services in your area.

To your good mental health.

Bullying In The Workplace

Do you have a person in your workplace that you dread running into during the day? Do you find yourself looking over your shoulder, taking precaution to walk around with other staff, getting sick to your stomach just walking to your car at the end of the day; and all because you’re living in fear of a fellow employee? Sounds like you might be having an issue with a bully.
Some people tend to thrive on exploiting the vulnerable, and those exploited don’t always have to be the stereotypical nerdy girl or guy picked on by some muscular good-looking ex-football star. The real world is much more complex than that. And it’s sad really when you think about it; somebody gaining satisfaction from the power they have over someone else. There isn’t sufficient space in this blog, nor do I have all the answers that might explain what’s going on in the head of a bully, but I want to focus on what you might do if you find yourself the victim of this anyhow.
And this situation has to soon be remedied or you’re going to have some long-term anxiety issues. Some victims have been known to quit their jobs outright just to eliminate the power of the bully over them in the workplace, and if the community where they live is small, some pick up and move to other neighbourhoods or even other towns. This doesn’t really address the issue or change the behaviour of the bully, but it does offer the victim an immediate solution, even if it does create other issues like finding a new job, bearing the financial cost of a move or being isolated from family and friends who may live in the old neighbourhood.
Imagine if this were our child in primary school. As parents, we’d probably have a talk with our youngster when they came home and tell them a variety of things. We might suggest they stand up for themselves, tell the bully to stop, and we might put in a phone call to the school Principal, or make an appointment in person to advocate for our child and get the authorities to intervene. Maybe things would improve, and maybe they wouldn’t. If this was in high school where kids tend to see each other outside of the school itself, we might even hope the school transfers the bully to another school, or get our teen to another school.
But when the problem is more personal; we’re the one being bullied and we’re an adult, we don’t tend to follow our own advice. The idea of confronting a bully that you may have to work with all day long is sickening. It requires assertiveness, courage and that may be something we don’t feel we have. And while you may think about going to your boss, what if the boss shrugs it off, tells us to deal with it our self, or even doesn’t see there’s any problem at all? Then what?
Thankfully, there is more acceptance in 2014 than in years past for coming forward with these kinds of issues in the workplace. Many employers have policies set in place to deal with workplace harassment, some have employee counselling programs in-house, or will cover the cost of external counselling services. To get these solutions in place however, you have to alert your organization that you are experiencing a problem. Rather than see this as aggravating the problem with the bully or stirring up a hornet’s nest, see this as being a proactive step to resolve your issue.
Other options include asking your boss to set up a meeting with the employee, yourself and a third-party. Yes, you will probably be ill just thinking about that scenario, but it may be preferable to doing nothing and allowing the situation to continue. Your focus isn’t on getting them into trouble, it’s about maintaining or regaining your mental health and working free from harassing behaviour. Some bullies don’t even see there is an issue. How can they not? Well it’s true. When they do know they are being a bully, they alter their own behaviour and really do try to change how they may have been interacting with you.
In other situations you may be able to apply for a transfer to another office or workstation, where you don’t run into each other, and this preserves your job. If this is an option, you may not even need to raise the issue with anyone at all.
If you feel that you are a victim, good advice is not to join the bully and start beating yourself up too. What do I mean by that? You know, feeling miserable because you tell yourself you should do something or say something and yet you don’t so you get mad at yourself. Beating yourself up over your reluctance or inability to take action only adds to the problem. Bullying is wrong and should not be tolerated. One way or the other, you must take action and sooner is better than later.
Anyone can be a victim of bullying. You would be surprised how many well-adjusted confident people have someone in their lives at present or in the past, whom they have found themselves bullied by. Hard to imagine maybe, but ask them and you’ll find it’s often true. Bullying is not just your problem, it’s everybody’s business.